Want To Hire Better People? Ask These 4 Questions

May 11, 2022

Think back to the last interview you were in. As an interviewer if you were one, or as the interviewee if not. What kinds of questions were asked? What kind of insight did the answers to those questions give you? And if you were the interviewee, how true were the answers?

Job interviews generally have two purposes from an employer’s perspective. To understand the character and the competency of the person sitting in front of you, and if they are a good fit for your business. Competency is all about the skills, abilities and qualifications of the candidate, while character is about getting to know the intrinsic character, values and attitudes they hold. You know, like empathy, compassion and all of that important stuff.

But many interviews tend to focus more on the competency questions and neglect the character portion entirely. The common question – ‘what’s your biggest weakness?’ is one of the few token character questions asked because the answers can be valuable – if true. But it’s so common that candidates prepare for it with the same answers – ‘I’m too detail oriented’, ‘I work too hard’ or ‘I care too much’. At best these come across as overly rehearsed, and at worst they feel disingenuous.

So the real question is, what can you ask candidates to get an idea of their character? Expert author Anthony Tjan has some suggestions. The first 3 are for the candidates, and the last is for your team.

What Are One Or Two Traits From Your Parents That You Value, And Want Your Kids To Have In The Future? 

The aim of this question isn’t really to get an answer (though that can be helpful too). The aim is to help start a conversation that’s genuine, not rehearsed and can shed some light on the kind of things they really value in life. Asking open and inviting questions like ‘can you tell me more?’ to make them really think and bring out the story behind their answer. If there are some silences while they think, don’t interrupt (tempting as it might be!). Instead, be patient and allow them to gather their thoughts to share – you’ll get better answers and a greater insight into their values and attitudes.

You want to ensure every employee you hire will fit into your company culture, as well as skills gaps. This kind of question helps you assess their character, values and morals on a deeper level and see how well they will fit.

What’s 25 Times 25?

I know, I know. What’s a maths question doing in an interview, and how on earth does it show you anything about a candidate’s character? Well, in simple terms, it gives you a real time insight into how they think and react to challenging situations. It’s not a question they will have prepared for, so what you see is going to be genuine. They might react defensively, look ashamed or even get angry. They might be open minded and willing to work through the problem to get the correct answer. Or they might blurt out the wrong answer. All of which tells you something about their character. If they get the answer wrong, see what happens when you ask them to approach it a different way. Can they accept that embarrassment and discomfort and work towards a resolution? Or do they shut down and freeze?

When someone is in a role, they’re going to experience situations that aren’t up their street and need to problem solve. This simple question shows you exactly how that would play out.

Give Me Two Examples Of People Whose Lives You’ve Positively Changed? What Would They Say If I Called Them Tomorrow?

This one is a bit of a spin on the classic ‘tell me about your successes’, only it makes them think about things in a different light. It’s also a great way to bypass their references, as they’ve often been picked because they’re primed to brag about the candidate. Asking them about people they have personally helped, on the other hand, can be incredibly useful. It doesn’t have to be a co-worker, it could also be a relative, classmate, neighbour or friend. Just someone they have personally helped. And if they can’t think of a single person, it’s worth asking questions about why.

Within any organisation you want employees who work well together and lift each other up. Compassion and empathy are important, and if someone is naturally inclined towards compassionate mentorship then it can have a very positive knock-on effect through the whole company.

To Your Receptionist: How Was Their Interaction With You?

This question you want to ask of anyone other than you who had an interaction with the candidate during the interview. Receptionists, security guards, cleaners, other team members – anyone you know they spoke to or interacted with. This is for one very good reason, and it’s best summed up by a quote from a very unlikely source – Harry Potter.

If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.’

Of course a candidate is going to be on their best behaviour with you. But are they kind and compassionate to strangers who can do nothing for them? Are they polite and courteous, or are they snappy and irritable? How someone treats strangers speaks volumes about their attitude, and how they will represent you in the world.

Hiring the right people for your business isn’t just important – it’s essential. By taking the time to assess not only the competency but the character of the people you employ, you can achieve a lot more success. Not only will your employee retention rate improve, but your reputation in the market will also soar, and the environment your employees work in is more likely to be supportive and encouraging. If you’re not sure how to do that, or you’re new to the hiring process, we would love to help. At Wildcat Careers we’re your personal recruitment guru, guiding you through every step of the process and finding the best candidates to meet your needs. So if you want to know more, just get in touch!