screen candidates

When it comes to interviewing, there are a lot of strange ideas out there.  Some people believe they can predict a candidate’s success by asking oddball questions.  For example, a candidate might get asked what their favorite Disney princess is.  (For the record, mine is definitely Belle. )  According to Glassdoor, there are a variety of these oddball questions that employers ask to screen candidates.  The problem is that these questions aren’t great for predicting candidate success, cultural fit, or anything else.  Frequently, they lead to impression bias instead.  So what’s a hiring manager to do?  Ask better questions to screen candidates.  It’s time to ditch the questions that mean nothing and focus on the ones that mean something to your team and your business.

Screen Candidates Better

Maybe it was a bored hiring manager who decided to try out some pop psychology in their interviews.  Or maybe it was a trend setter in the office, but many companies have embraced odd questions and brain teasers in interviews.  Do these really help anyone screen candidates well? Does it make a difference what I ate for breakfast that morning or what kind of music I enjoy? You don’t have to play games to find out if the candidate you’re interviewing will fit into your team.  Try these questions instead:

Tell me about a stressful situation at work and how you handled it. 

This question is a great one to screen candidates because it sheds some light on the candidate’s working style and attitude.  Some people aren’t good at handling stress.  If you’re in a very deadline driven environment, this kind of question is critical to your ability to find an employee who will fit into that kind of environment. Listen carefully for clues to how the candidate handled the situation.  This can provide clues to attitude, ability to work with a team, and conflict resolution skills.  Don’t be afraid to dig deeper into the situation to screen candidates for your open position.

How do you prefer to work?

You don’t have to play games to find out if your candidate is a team player.  This question is great to screen candidates because it shows you how they prefer to work.  If the job requires long hours, deadlines and a fast pace, it’s beneficial to mention that up front.  Ask a candidate if this is something that they would be comfortable with.  Don’t be afraid to drill down into a candidate’s work style.  The more you can find out about their preferred work methods, the better a sense you will have of their fit for the position.

How willing are you to help with duties outside of your job description?

Many businesses require flexible employees.  If you don’t ask these kinds of questions, you won’t get a sense for how a candidate may fit into your work environment.  Assuming your company isn’t trying to load three positions into one, this kind of question can help you screen candidates for their ability to take on new challenges, learn new things, and work on a team.  These are all important things you should know about your potential future employee.  Job descriptions change over time and a good employee can adapt and change with them.  In fact, Robert Half cites 41% of job descriptions aren’t accurate as jobs evolve over time.  As you screen candidates, listen carefully for hints that they embrace change and enjoy new challenges.

What about the job made you want to apply?

When you screen candidates, it’s helpful to find out how much they know about the company, the team, and the job itself.  Fortune always favors the prepared and this question helps you to separate the candidates who are solely applying to everything from the candidates who seem to genuinely want to be a part of your company.  It’s likely your company wants to attract someone who really wants to be there and is interested in making a long term investment in their career versus someone who’s only there to collect their paycheck.  This question also helps you to figure out what’s resonating with candidates and what isn’t.

What are you passionate about?

Passion is an important quality in high performing employees.  They all have something that they’re passionate about- whether it’s caring for others, rescuing injured animals, camping, hiking, or pilates.  Every engaged employee cares about something, and it often is reflected in their work.  You may find that as you screen candidates, you uncover a passion that helps your business immensely.

It’s time to ditch the quirky questions that don’t provide answers, the puzzles, the brain teasers, the games.  Unless you’ve got unlimited hours to waste and a desire to torture candidates, they won’t be the most effective in your search for a new employee.  Uncover the information you really want in interviews with these straight forward questions.  Listen carefully for answers that indicate the qualities you’re really looking for: passion, drive, ability to work with others, you name it.