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3 Simple Interview Questions to Ask Every Job Candidate

Posted by | April 28, 2015 | Employer, Hiring

Via LinkedIn :┬áInterview questions: we all have them, and we all wish we had better ones — especially because some candidates are a lot better at interviewing than they are at working. (Admit it. You’ve hired at least one person like that.)

For a different approach to getting the core info you need about the candidates you interview, here’s a simple but extremely effective interview technique I learned from John Younger, the CEO of Accolo, a cloud recruiting solutions provider. (If you think you’ve conducted a lot of interviews, think again: Younger has interviewed thousands of people.)

Here’s how it works. Grab the resume, start from the beginning of the candidate’s work history, and work your way through each subsequent job. Move quickly and don’t ask for detail. And don’t ask follow-up questions, at least not yet.

Just go through each job and ask the same three questions:

1. How did you find out about the job?

2. What did you like about the job before you started?

3. Why did you leave?

“What’s amazing,” Younger told me, “is that after a few minutes you will always have learned something about the candidate — whether positive or negative — that you would never have learned otherwise.”

Here’s why.

“How did you find out about the job?”

Most people find their first few jobs on general postings, online listings, job fairs, etc, so that’s certainly not a red flag.

But candidates who continue to find each successive job from general postings probably haven’t figured out what they want to do… and where they would like to do it. Generally speaking those people are just looking for a job; often, any job.

And that probably means they aren’t particularly eager to work for you. Again, they just want a job and yours will do… until something else comes along.

“Plus, by the time you get to job three, four, or five in your career and you haven’t been pulled into a job by someone you previously worked for, that’s a red flag,” Younger says. “That shows you didn’t build relationships, develop trust, and display a level of competence that makes someone go out of their way to bring you into their organization.”

And that’s why being pulled in to a job is like a great reference; people don’t hire people they really know unless those people are awesome.

“What did you like about the job before you started?”

In time, interviewees should describe the reason they took a particular job for reasons more specific than “great opportunity,” “chance to learn about the industry,” or “next step in my career.”

Great employees don’t work hard solely because of lofty titles or huge salaries. They work hard because they appreciate their work environment and enjoy what they do. (Titles and salary are just icing on the personal fulfillment cake.)

That means they know the kind of environment they will thrive in, and they know the type of work that motivates and challenges them — and not only can they describe it, they actively seek it.

“Why did you leave?”

Sometimes people leave for a better opportunity. Sometimes they leave for more money.

Often, though, people leave because an employer was too demanding. Or because they didn’t get along with their boss. Or they didn’t get along with co-workers.

When that is the case, don’t be judgmental. Hold on to follow-up questions and stick to the rhythm of the three questions, because that makes it easier for candidates to be more open and candid when discussing subsequent jobs.

Do that and many candidates will describe issues with management or disagreements with other employees or with taking responsibility — issues they otherwise would not have shared.

Then, when you’ve worked your way through every job, follow up on patterns that concern you.

“The three questions are a quick way to get to get to the heart of a candidate’s sense of teamwork and responsibility,” Younger says. “Some people never take ownership and always see problems as someone else’s problem. And some candidates have consistently had problems with their bosses — which means they’ll also surely have issues with you.”

And a bonus question:

“How many people have you hired, and where did you find them?”

Say you’re interviewing candidates for a leadership position. Want to know how their direct reports feel about them? Don’t just look for candidates who were brought into an organization by someone else; look for candidates who brought employees into their organization.

“Great employees go out of their way to work with great leaders,” Younger says. “If you’re tough but fair and you treat people well, many will go out of their way to keep working with you. The fact that employees changed jobs just so they could work for you speaks volumes about your leadership and people skills.”

Give it a try. The three questions technique only takes a few minutes and could help you learn things about the candidate that can turn the rest of the interview into a conversation instead of an interrogation — which ultimately is the goal of every interview.

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