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3 Short Interview Questions That Lead to Great Hires

Finding the right employee is not easy. Here’s a simple method to reveal much of what you want to know about a candidate in record time.

3 Interview Questions That Reveal EverythingThirty minutes is not very long to determine whether a candidate will be a fit or not.  In order to get the key information you need, use this simple yet highly effective technique from industry expert, John Younger. The concept was first introduced earlier this month by Inc.com columnist Jeff Haden. You can view the original article in its entirety here.

Simply start from the beginning of the candidate's employment history and make your way through each succeeding position.  Be sure to stay focused, without asking for details or follow–up questions.  Go through each job listed on the resume and ask these 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 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,” says Younger.

Depending how established the candidate is in their field, asking “how did you find out about the job?” reveals a great deal about their professional potential. 

Job boards and online listings are normal methods to use when first...  Actually, most people find their first few jobs utilizing these methods. But if the candidate was continuously going back to online listings rather than networking, they likely do not know what they want to do, or where they would like to end up.

These types of candidates are just looking for a job. More often than not, they are looking for any job that they are eligible for.  It is likely that they may not be particularly excited about the role or overly eager to work for your organization.

“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 show a level of competence that made someone go out of their way to bring you into their organization.”

Asking the interviewee “What did you like about the job before you started?,” shows that they know the type of work that will challenge them and where they will thrive professionally.

Over time, a candidate’s reasoning for why they accepted an offer should be something other than “it was a great opportunity,” “I wanted a chance to learn about the industry,” or “it was just the next step in my career.” The key to placing the perfect hire is that you have to find someone who you know will work hard because they have an appreciation for their work environment and truly enjoy what they’re doing.

Asking the interviewee “Why did you leave?,” gives the interviewer insight into how they will react in certain situations that otherwise would not have been addressed.

“It's a quick way 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 have issues with you.”

People leave jobs for many reasons, whether it is for a better opportunity, a greater sense of job security, or higher pay.  Often enough though, employees leave because their position is too demanding or they aren’t getting along with their boss and co-workers. 

It is also likely that many of these candidates have left and taken on jobs at other companies because they are seeking more opportunity for growth. Low or mid-level employees often advance faster than management positions and may have to move outside of the company if they are seeking a greater challenge or an executive position. It should not be assumed that simply because someone has not yet been recruited by a former boss or employer that they are incapable of producing quality work.  

As the interviewer, try your best to remain unbiased when they tell you their reason for leaving. Refrain from asking for details of their situation and always abide by the three question format. By sticking with the rhythm of the three questions and not asking follow up questions, you create an open and laid back conversational environment where candidates are likely to be more candid and honest.

In the conversation that is sparked from the “why did you leave?” question, many candidates will describe difficulties with upper management, disagreements with their co-workers and issues with taking on responsibilities, subjects that otherwise would not have been touched upon. After the interviewee has shared their stories, you are then able to ask follow up questions and address patterns that you may find to be of concern.  

Understanding why a person left an organization helps the interviewer recognize the candidate’s  key  success drivers, personal values and professional motivations, which can all be used to assess whether or not the candidate will fit well in the position and assimilate easily into the organization’s culture.

If you feel that the interview is going well and it is for a leadership position, here is a bonus question you can always ask: “How many people have you hired, and where did you find them?”

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

These questions serve as great talking points to begin any interview and will help you stay on track if time is not on your side.  However, by no means should these be the only questions you ask someone regarding their past professional experiences.  While these three questions may not reveal everything, they will at least quickly offer visibility into the candidate’s professional motivations, personal values and key success drivers to determine if they’re a fit for the position.

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