Interview Questions Candidates Want You to Ask

We talk a lot about questions hiring managers and recruiters should ask, but we never talk about the questions that the job candidates actually want to be asked. If you want to find the best people for your open positions, try some of these questions:

“What makes you angry?” It made me think about how I apply my personal values in a work situation.

“Have you remained close with any former colleagues from past jobs?” It made me reflect on how shallow my work relationships have been.

“What’s the difference between a ’rounding error’ and a cost overrun?” The man who was going to hire me had used the dismissive phrase ’rounding error’ at least twice in his conversations with me, so when his manager asked this, I realized he wanted to know if I would challenge my boss.

“How would your integrate HR throughout our Company?” I was floored by it because this showed how the company I was considering viewed the value of HR. I like questions that press in on people.

“Who would you have saved first if your last company premises caught a fire?” It got me thinking. A lot. It made me think beyond conventional work relationships and pushed me to think about who were my friends at the last workplace. Brilliant question!

“What do you think would be your biggest challenge in this role? How would you struggle most to get up to speed?”

“What makes you think you can do this job?” The job was a pool manager for four pools in Baltimore, every one of which was closed by the health department the previous summer.

“Here are the problems with this job,” and then she listed several serious issues, “do you think you could work with that?” I loved this question because I knew my boss was going to be straight forward and I knew the challenges coming into it. I took that job and stayed there for 9 years, so clearly, being honest didn’t scare me away. I was grateful to not be shocked when I started.

Note that these questions aren’t easy and they aren’t pulled off a list. They aren’t something you can prepare for by Googling. They are often position specific. Your job candidates want to be challenged. A tough interview is more likely to result in a better job.

When you’re interviewing, it’s not like shopping for the best bargain off the shelf’; it’s like a date where you are each getting to know each other. You want to know what makes your candidates tick and how they would act in the job. They want to be in a position that fits them.

Note: This originally ran in 2016. It’s time for an update. What are the best questions you’ve been asked in a job interview? Tell me in the comments.

This post originally appeared at Inc.

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9 thoughts on “Interview Questions Candidates Want You to Ask

  1. If companies are going to insist you follow unreasonable beliefs such as “wokism,” I want them to say so in the interview if not earlier, as in the initial ad. I would much rather be weeded out early from that type of company.

  2. If I were asked some of these questions, I would not accept the position of offered. Though there are 1 or 2 that do make sense.

    “What makes you angry?” – Stupid questions like this one.

  3. “When you need help, who do you ask?” is a great question in both directions. Asking me as a candidate, I can talk about how I developed team relationships; asking an employer, I can find out how they train people.

  4. I would like organizations to ask more “how would you handle” questions instead of “how did you handle” questions. For instance, I work for an organization where I am not needed to be strategic. However, I am capable of being strategic. I do not have examples of how I have been strategic in the 7 years I have been at my organization, but I could certainly answer questions about how I would be strategic. I have been turned down for positions because I am “not strategic” enough. My resume tells you what I have done. Now ask me what I can do.

  5. I don’t employ, hire, or recruit … but if I was in charge and found folks that I was responsible for asking these questions of candidates (or questions like them), we’d be having a serious heart-to-heart conversation about never asking them again:

    “What makes you angry?”

    “Have you remained close with any former colleagues from past jobs?”

    “Who would you have saved first if your last company premises caught a fire?”

    These questions seem to me to be personally intrusive, a sure way to introduce bias (or discrimination) into a hiring interview, totally unrelated to a job or the work to be performed, and, even though I also don’t practice law, a wonderful way to get a labor attorney daydreaming of that new Mercedes they’ve always wanted after they win the lawsuit.

    I presume that most writers don’t write their own headlines, so I’ll give you “a pass” on this headline: “Interview Questions Candidates Want You to Ask.”

    But the “we” in your lead-in tells me you wrote this: “We talk a lot about questions hiring managers and recruiters should ask, but we never talk about the questions that the job candidates actually want to be asked. If you want to find the best people for your open positions, try some of these questions….”

    And frankly, I can’t think of anyone seeking employment who would want an employer asking these 3 questions or anything like them … especially anyone who has been following the Evil HR Lady for any length of time.

    1. You put it much better than I could have. I agree with you 100%. I also found these questions to be ridiculous. If I were asked these questions in an interview, I would consider them to be at least yellow if not red flags and would seriously consider not taking the job if offered!

    2. I mean, if a hiring manager thought about asking those questions, I, as a jobseeker, would want to be asked them. Only so I could know that that boss is going to be a giant pain of boundary stomping nonsense and avoid them if I can. But I don’t think that was the actual goal of the exercise.

      I really don’t need a prospective employer to make me reflect on who my friends in my last job were. And the question “Who would you have saved first if your last company premises caught a fire?” makes it sound like instead of doing something decent like pulling the fire alarm/calling the fire department, they’re expecting that I’d just peace out of work with someone because I like them and then just leave everyone else to the fire. And who wants to work for an employer who thinks you’d just abandon people to a fire because you aren’t personally friends with them, and how does that have anything to do with work? (Also, I’m disabled and would be the person in need of help during an evacuation, would I be marked as a bad coworker by that interviewer because I recognise that I would need help and not be able to help others? Not a good sign in an interview question!)

      It all just sounds like the sort of 4D-chess logic that is behind all of those “Why is a manhole cover round?” type questions people get from online lists because they have no idea what they are doing.

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