Simplify Your Search: 11 Interview Topics to Discuss With Candidates

The field of recruiting has a number of unique challenges.

First, you have to attract high-quality job candidates. Then you have to weed through countless resumes until you find a few that match what you’re looking for. Then comes the really hard part – interviewing.

Though it may not seem too difficult, asking questions to gauge a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, you also want to come up with questions that will offer more insight into each person’s personality.

In recruiting, it’s vital to consider the culture of the company and how each of the candidates will fit in.

So, what types of questions and conversation starters will help you determine which people will move forward in the process?

11 Interview Topics for Recruiters

1. Self-Assessment

We’ve all heard the stand-by, “tell me about your weaknesses.” Nobody likes answering this question, but most people will already have a go-to response.

If you want to get a less-rehearsed answer, think of ways you can re-phrase the question.

One way of doing this is to ask them what negative qualities a friend or family member might say they have. In this situation, they’ll have to think about the perceptions of others in order to come up with an answer.

You can also figure out weaknesses while framing the question in a more positive way. Ask them to rate themselves on a scale of 1-10 and ask what holds them back from reaching a perfect 10 (if they do rate themselves a 10, you can press them to see if there are any more ways they can grow professionally).

2. Career Highlights

Throughout the interview, there will be ample opportunity for candidates to discuss projects they’ve worked on and results generated. But which one or two stand out the most?

Ask candidates what has been their biggest accomplishment to date. You may end up learning even more about their background and skills by encouraging them to talk about something they’re especially proud of.

It also gives you better insight into the type of work that really excites them, and what they would look forward to in a new role.

3. Working with Others

You can approach this question in a couple of ways.

You can ask candidates to tell you about the best bosses they’ve worked for, and what made them great to work with.

You can also ask what traits they didn’t like in a past boss or employer.

The main purpose of this question is to see what type of relationships they’ve built and how they’d prefer to work with people. By asking about former employers, you get a better sense of the employee and what they like or don’t like.

And depending on how positively or negatively they respond, it may be a red flag to consider later on.

4. Describing the Role

We always encourage candidates to actively research a company and job posting before coming to an interview.

Check their preparedness by asking them to describe what they think the company and job are about.

This shouldn’t feel like an interrogation, so don’t be too serious or quizzical. Simply ask what their impressions are based on what they’ve learned in their research.

It will offer some insight into the candidate, and also into the clarity of the information put across online.

5. Customer Service

No matter what position you’re hiring for, every candidate should have some customer service experience.

If they will be working in a customer facing role, this makes total sense – you want someone who can solve problems and make customers feel at ease.

But even for back-end workers, there’s usually some interaction between other groups and outside organizations.

Having good people skills can help resolve conflicts with vendors, re-direct misplaced calls, and get the job done as efficiently as possible.

Ask about how candidates have worked with customers in the past, and what they liked or didn’t like about working with others.

6. Longevity

Ask candidates about the longest length of time they’ve stayed with a company, and why. If they frequently job hop, this is a good opportunity for them to explain why.

Maybe they felt undervalued or were stuck in jobs that didn’t appeal to them while they continued searching for something more in line with their goals.

Or, maybe they just can’t sit still and are always looking for the next big thing.

We often fall into the trap of rushing to judgment. Use the interview as a way to get the candidate to explain any gaps or other questions you may have.

These are legitimate concerns when hiring, so it’s important to figure out what will make an employee “stick,” or which employees already have one foot out the door as soon as they’re hired.

7. Long Term Goals

It’s pretty common for interviewers to ask about a candidate’s plan for the next 5 years. And usually, there’s a planned answer that’s relatively vague.

“I see myself in a management position in the next 5 years.”

Or, “In 5 years I plan to be leading a department.”

Switch it up just a little by taking away the timeline. What are the long-term goals they’re working toward? What are they currently doing to reach those goals?

This opens up more potential for discussion and should give you insight into what type of employee this person will be over time.

Are they going back to school or taking online courses to prepare for a new role? Have they done any volunteer work or career shadowing to enhance their skills and set more realistic expectations?

It’s one thing to say you have a goal, it’s another thing to show how you’re working to achieve it.

8. Top Motivators

Everyone has a reason for leaving their current job. Maybe they feel underpaid, or under appreciated, or maybe they’re looking for an easier commute. These might not be the things a hiring manager would want to hear, but they are important for recruiters to know.

If you’re finding jobs that nearby the candidate’s current job, it would have helped to know that they didn’t want to work in that area anymore.

Similarly, if the position you’re recruiting for has a specific salary cap, it’s crucial to make sure candidates are aware of this and that their expectations fall in line with that budget.

Discuss top frustrations to get a better handle on what they’re really looking for so you can match them with opportunities more in line with what they want.

9. Relocation and Travel

Many companies have multiple offices and customers spread throughout the country (and even the world). Travel may come up from time to time to conduct office training or even just meet and greets.

If this is a possibility, ask candidates if they would be comfortable traveling, and how often they would be able to do so throughout the year.

This topic is usually relevant on a case-by-case basis, but if there is any potential for travel within this position, make sure it’s known and make sure potential hires are able to meet this need.

10. Outside Competition

It’s important for recruiters to know whether candidates are actively interviewing at other firms to avoid any last minute surprises.

A hiring manager will want to know if they’re competing against a few other employers so that they can create the most appealing offer package.

It also helps to know how soon they should proceed with interviews and offers, to get in ahead of the competition.

11. Start Dates

You may have a specific timeline for when you’d like a prospective employee to start. They may have other plans.

Ask candidates how much notice they’ll need to give at work. While two weeks is standard, it’s possible they’ll need more time to transition their work to other workers.

You’ll also want to know if there are any other circumstances that may impact start dates, including life events, vacations, relocation or other possibilities.

If you need someone to begin right away, but your top candidate needs at least a month after an offer has been extended, you’ll either need to reset expectations or potentially move forward with another person.

Discussing your needs and candidates’ availability ahead of time will save a lot of trouble down the line.

Bringing It All Together

In a recruitment interview, the most important thing to remember is to make things as relaxed as possible for the candidate.

You want them to feel comfortable enough to talk about real concerns and goals that they have, rather than simply stating what they think you’ll want to hear.

This isn’t like an interview with a hiring manager, it’s more of an exploration into what motivates each person and how they will fit into a particular company.

You’re looking for relevant skills and experiences, but you’re also looking for things that won’t be found in a resume or cover letter. Things like how they relate to different people and situations, or if they can think on their feet to solve a problem.

Sometimes, even examining how candidates answer questions will factor more heavily than the answers themselves. Do they lose patience when faced with a challenge? Do they get defensive when you point out a gap in experience?

These are all things to consider when trying to place people into new positions.

Ready to move forward and extend an offer? See how job candidates approach salary negotiations.