Hiring Tips: Questions Our Recruiters Ask When Screening Candidates

December 13, 2016 - Jana Floyd


When it comes to screening candidates, organizations are often faced with the dilemma of discovering the best talent in a very short amount of time. Often only having 1-2 interviews in which to vet candidates, it is important to be asking the right questions that will reveal the most about an applicant.


With so much published information on the interview process available, it can be overwhelming to find the most helpful tips. That’s why we’ve compiled questions we use that have proven to get to the root of a candidate and properly assess whether they are right for a role.


Customization is Essential

Before making a list of questions to ask when screening candidates, there is something necessary to consider: customization. Interview questions that were conceived with no thought for the specific opening may end up providing very little insight, even if they were a home run for a previous role. We always customize our questions to the specific role at hand, and tailor them to the client.


At the outset of interview preparation, a brainstorming session with decision makers helps to ascertain exactly what is essential to the role. Are the skills and requirements on the job description all-inclusive? Is there a certain personality type necessary to work within the team, department, or overall culture? Laying out all the information in this fashion will help a recruiter decide which questions to ask, which to avoid, and which to modify according to the opening.


Credential/Experience Verification Questions

Interviews often begin with specific questions designed to verify that a candidate indeed has the credentials and abilities necessary to succeed in the role. Whether in a phone interview or in person, it is important to define the exact level of a candidate’s skills. Describing a skill as ‘proficient’ varies depending on who you speak with.


  • “What is your experience with this tool/skill?” Directly asking about a skill required for the role will provide clear insight. Is their answer vague, or do they specifically describe using the tool/skill in a previous role?
  • “How often did you work on deadline-driven manufacturing projects in your last role?” A second form of the above question, this can either reinforce their claim of owning a skill or prove lesser proficiency than initially suggested.
  • “What are your professional strengths and weaknesses?” It can be surprising what a candidate will reveal with this open-ended question. Ideally they will speak to strengths required for the role at hand, and limit weaknesses to minor past mistakes that are now corrected. However, when asking this question, we’ve often found candidates reveal they are not qualified for the role.


Behavioral Questions

After verification questions determine that a candidate has potential to be a great fit, behavioral questions are used to understand their working methods and thought processes. An effective approach is using the STAR technique, which asks a candidate to describe the Situation/Task, Action they took, and Results they achieved.


  • “Can you describe a time when you disagreed with your supervisor?” While conflict can be uncomfortable, here we are looking to see if the candidate constructively provided their supervisor with valuable feedback.
  • “Tell us about a large project that you lead.” The process described is the most important aspect of answering this question. Did they logically plan out steps and communicate with teammates appropriately?
  • “When faced with many tasks having similar deadlines, how did you prioritize their order of completion?” Can a candidate organize their time effectively? Their answer can reveal if they are unable to handle multiple responsibilities.


Cultural Fit Questions

Just because a candidate has the skills to complete the tasks required of the job opening does not mean they will be successful once on the job. Cultural fit questions are helpful in determining if the candidate can get along socially with coworkers and fit into your workplace environment.


  • “Tell us about yourself.” A simple prompt, it can divulge a lot about personality. Does the candidate talk about personal facts, or more about how they enjoy being a part of a team and helping others?
  • “What would you bring to the company if hired?” This is a chance for candidates to sell their best qualities. A great fit will be able to cite specific reasons as to why they will be a valuable asset to your organization.
  • “What did you like least about your last position?” Do they focus on an aspect of their previous job that is also present in the position they are interviewing for? That can be a major red flag.


Screening Candidates

We here at Personnel Services distinguish ourselves by tailoring interview questions according to the role and client. While the above list is a great starting place, it is vital for every hiring team to review their own unique openings and adapt questions accordingly.


Looking for assistance with your interview process and making hires? Let us know.

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