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Philip Lee

Hire the Best with the Best Interview Questions


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Six questions to match candidate and employer expectations


Recruitment interviews are pivotal in the selection process and play a crucial part in the assessment of professional expertise, competencies, skills and motivators.

Having a goal-oriented conversation, understanding the requirements of a vacant position, bringing this into the interview and extracting the maximum of relevant information needed for making a good choice, is a challenging task.

In addition, the manner of communication and behavior during interviews is important. The complexities of interpersonal communication – including non-verbal signs and responses – are just some of the reasons why.

The key to the success of professionally held interviews lies in the quality of the questions and the correct interpretation of the answers.

The below questions aim to reveal the applicant’s aspirations, priorities and goals and match them with the essential job requirements and what your company offers. Measuring compatibility and making a good assessment depends on getting concrete, specific and reliable information.

Take note that while one applicant may be looking for a challenging working environment that allows room for decision making as well as professional growth and development, another one may need clear structures, directives, a harmonious team environment and regular recognition from his superior.

It is only after you know what the candidate’s priorities, needs and motivators are, will you be able to match these with the job requirements and the work environment on offer.

#1 What do you think a company owes its employees?

This is an unexpected and out of the ordinary question and that’s why the reaction and answer is so revealing. It forces the applicant to think laterally and look at things from a different perspective.

The response indirectly shows what he expects from your company, and the vacant position; this could be promotion and career prospects, competencies and skills training, interesting and challenging tasks, inspiring and motivating work, recognition for good performance, responsibility, participation in decision making, a good work-life balance, health checks, good colleagues and qualified superiors, fairness, constructive and open dialogue, space to be creative, regular feedback or proper pay.

All of these expectations are legitimate; the question is which ones can the employer meet.

#2 What do you expect from your new job, what’s the most important for you?

The question demands concentration on the essential and reveals information about expectations, motivation, priorities and even values. Is it the challenge, the opportunity to learn something new, getting to know a business field better, wanting to put newly acquired know-how into practice or the urge to develop and grow in a dynamic industry?

Are job expectations clear and specific or vague and undifferentiated? Is the answer logical, coherent and is there a correlation between the reason for applying, and the actual job? Has the applicant thought about his own qualifications and matched them to the requirements of the job? If the applicant is well-prepared, he should be able to show how well his skills and career goals fit the position and that he has familiarized himself with the company and the job requirements.

Furthermore, you can draw conclusions about the candidate’s self-image; is it realistic or too confident, is there a tendency to overestimate ability? Pay particular attention to the reasons given, whatever they may be. Then probe with further ‘why’ questions. Important is to evaluate if the company can meet the candidate’s expectations.

#3 What attracts you most about this job?

By emphasizing the word ‘most’ you separate special interests from the general ones. This question shows how much time the candidate spent analyzing the job requirements and reviewing his own qualifications. You can assume that the named areas will be the ones in which the candidate will show the most commitment and motivation.

Keep your ears pricked; ‘the short commuting time and good working hours’ sounds very different to ‘the optimization of processes, the possibility of improving product features with my own ideas and experience’.

#4 One usually wants to develop in a new job. If that’s the case with you, in which areas would that be?

The answer may relate to any of the following topics: widening the scope of tasks or responsibilities, development of specialized expertise, applying new sales skills, getting experience in a new business field, being exposed to important IT developments, keeping up to date with the latest changes in robotics or the use of recently acquired language skills.

Besides finding out whether the candidate prioritizes further development at all, the answer reveals the applicant’s expectations and helps determine whether the employer can meet these or not.

#5 What would you like to know about our company?

The answer shows how well-prepared the candidate is. Were these questions already answered in the job advertisement or on the website, or are they new and intelligent ones? What sort of questions are they? What do they reveal about depth of interest, motivation, working type, expectations, cross-linked thinking or goals?

Are break times, overtime and canteen prices in the foreground of interest, or is it customer segmentation, projects, corporate goals and possibilities for further education? The answer will help you make conclusions about the candidate’s focus, level and ambitions.

#6 If you could design the perfect job for yourself – what would it be?

The answer shows whether he has reflected on his career path, what his work preferences are, what plans he has, how he estimates and steers his career and professional future, how motivated he is to actively shape this and which basic values play a part (success, security, freedom and creativity).

Interesting is of course to see how many and which answers and aspects correspond to the advertised position. Applicants who know their needs, their expectations and what is really important for them in a job, are often performance-focused and ambitious.

Philip Lee is the author of “Hire the Best with the Best Interview Questions” available as an eBook on

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Philip Lee


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