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3 Probing Questions to Ask Every Candidate During a Job Interview

Posted By: Marilyn Emanuel on December 31, 2021

Do you remember the first week of your experience getting to know someone? After that, the following weeks may be full of persistent attempts to thaw the ice and find out who they really are. Professional job interviews are a lot like that, but they cover the same process sometimes in less than an hour. Imagine the pressure it puts on the interviewers to keep the ball rolling and try to accurately evaluate the candidates they’re speaking to.

A lady solving a puzzle

If you’ve ever sat in a job interview where a hiring board is shooting question after question at you—in a Senate-hearing style—then you know what pressure is. This is when an interviewee clings to their “performance mode,” so there’s no use listening to their rehearsed answers that are so polished they’re perfect. While they may qualify for an Oscar, until you get them out of their comfort zone, you’ll never really know who they are. That’s why you need probing questions.

Here are some prime examples of those.

1. How did you solve a problem?

This type of question can throw a candidate off if they are ill prepared, but it’s a much-needed changeup to break the monotony of resume-specific questions. Your goal is not to make the candidate feel uncomfortable for discomfort’s sake, it’s to learn how they respond to unpredictable circumstances—similar to what they may encounter on the job.

Give the candidate a hypothetical situation where they’re asked to pick the lesser of two evils and come out alive. That’s how you test their creative abilities and desire to excel under pressure. If you need someone for a leadership or managerial position rather than someone to stare at a screen for eight hours a day and go home, you need to check how adept the prospective hire is at working their way through a situation. The best part is, there is no correct answer. What you’re testing is their confidence in their abilities and their tenacity—both must-have characteristics to lead a team.

2. How did you survive or resolve a workplace conflict?

A lady conducting an interview.

No organization is perfect and, inevitably, there will be conflict among people—especially if they are passionate about their jobs, the company mission, and the higher purpose of the organization. Then there is the reality of what’s needed when working with imperfect human beings who have frailties, which pretty much includes everyone. And gossip, resentment, favoritism, stereotypes, personal relationships, and much more often make their way onto the scene. These human habits make every organization prone to conflict at any given time.

Employees who get riled up by arguments or participate in rebellions because of the slightest inconvenience are generally disliked. And your interview process—in particular, this line of questioning—should be designed to uncover the extreme examples of people who won’t be a good fit. If you prefer someone who can be diplomatic, objective, compassionate, and authoritative when the situation calls for it, ask hypothetical questions and assess their responses. They may be intelligent, but are they emotionally intelligent?

3. Do you work better by yourself or in a team?

Depending on the nature of a business, its employees will either be required to work in teams or alone (by themselves). To understand how well-equipped a candidate is for either circumstance, you need to simply ask them.

Candidates who admit to working better in teams will naturally be suitable employees for positions that require collaboration and teamwork. Contrarily, candidates who admit to being more independent and enjoying solitary work will naturally perform best at tasks that require leadership and initiative. It’s important to consider the personality-based requirements of the position you’re hiring for instead of just the skill-based ones. This question helps you cater to the former and understand whether a candidate fits not only the organizational culture but also the job description.

Conducting interviews and sifting through applications is tough. If you’re looking for professional recruiting firms in Austin, San Antonio and Houston, contact Brookwoods Group to get the process for finding the perfect-fit candidates for both your team and your organization started.