Incorporate Massage Blog

Hiring Top Talent: 5 Best Interview Questions to Ask (And 3 to Avoid)

Written by Erin Hall | Aug 23, 2017 5:00:00 PM

There's no question that hiring top talent is every hiring manager's goal.

But the right talent isn't just good for your productivity and project completion goals. The right job candidate also needs to fit into your company culture. To make the right choices when hiring, you've got to be asking the right questions at interview time. 

The key to asking the right questions, is to first determine what makes your current top performers work best. Is it their drive, their technical skills, the way they fit into the company culture and seem to get along with everyone?

By determining what already works at your company, you'll know what it is you're looking for. "Top talent" doesn't just mean the best experience or qualifications, but also how well they'll fit into the culture and help business run smoothly. 



 5 Best Interview Questions To Uncover Top Talent


1. "Tell me about the best working job you've had and why it worked for you." 

Why this is a winning question:

This question gets your candidate talking about company culture, which can give you real insight into what makes them tick.

From the stories they tell, you'll be able to see what has worked for them. Then you can compare that to your current company culture and see if it's a match.

When they start talking, you'll learn all kinds of things: 


  • Do they prefer working alone or in a team?
  • Does regular managerial input give them confidence and encouragement or does it feel like micromanaging?
  • Does a lighthearted office environment distract them from their work or help them get energy out so they can focus and be creative?

Without asking these questions directly (though you could), you'll be able to get a picture of what keeps this candidate productive and happy. 

Related: 9 Ways to Build Company Culture From The Ground Up: How the Pros Do It 


2. "What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to the beginning of your career?" 

Why this is a winning question:

You'll hear about their regrets, their impulses, when they became impatient, or where they may have made mistakes. 

Here you'll learn about what your candidate has struggled with in their career, and you'll get some self-reflection in their answers. (This question will give you those answers you might be looking for in question #2 from the list below.) 

Even if your applicant is young, they started somewhere. Even a previous barista job or part-time student gig will have given them opportunities for professional learning. 

Related: How to Attract Top Talent: Finding the Right People for Your Company


3. "Why is this job a good fit for you?" 

Why this is a winning question:

Unlike question #1 from the list below, asking why the job fits well for the candidate will help you understand your applicant's motivation. 

This question uncovers where they see your company falling on their carer path. Is this job a logical next step for their career path, or are they looking for something—anything—to pay the bills?

By phrasing the question this way, your candidate is likely to reflect on their own needs and drives. Compare this to the more common question, "Why are you a good fit for this job?" -- that focus is on your company's needs, when what you're looking for is what drives this particular candidate. 



4. "What interests you more about this job: the industry or the job title?"  

Why this is a winning question:

This question allows your candidate to talk in broader terms about your industry (what product or service your company pumps out) or their field (the tasks they are trained for to help the company produce those products or services).

Here's where you'll see what your candidate is passionate about when they come to work. If it's not the industry so much as their particular field that interests them, you'll find that out too.

Neither is inherently better than the other -- but your company culture may indicate a preference.

For example, a software engineer may not care as much about the industry your company works in, but it's their actual job duties that are more interesting to them. On the other hand, you may have an applicant who loves working in your company's industry, regardless of what they are tasked with doing in that world. 


5. "What's your organizational style?" 

Why this is a winning question:

Though more technical than the other questions on this list, this question allows your candidate to give insight into their day-to-day work methods. 

This will be another indicator of how well they will fit in with your company culture. Is the applicant overly organized, such that they may clash with their more go-with-the-flow supervisor?

Or do they like to wing it, and leave things to the last minute, yet produce winning results? Maybe they prefer brainstorming sessions over figuring how how to implement a procedure -- this will come out when asked this question.    


 3 Tired Interview Questions That Get You Nowhere


1. "Why are you the best candidate for this job?" 

Why this is a time-waster:

Do candidates know the qualifications of other applicants? Usually not. This question asks the interviewee to show off how much they can talk about their qualifications, and compare them to others' (without knowing what they are).

Applicants should only have to speak for themselves at an interview, not compare themselves to unknown variables. As the interviewer, that decision is best left up to you.

If it's proof of confidence you're looking for, there are better ways to uncover that. 

2. "What are your weaknesses?" 

Why this is a time-waster:

We've all been asked this question and we've all given some version of a truthful answer. But ultimately, in a job interview, candidates are doing their best to prove themselves worthy.

Their focus is on why they're awesome, not times they've been less-than-awesome. They'll likely be prepared for this question and give you a throwaway answer.

At best they'll find a way to rephrase the answer to a positive. This question is just a hoop to jump through that doesn't provide anyone with real insight into the candidate's ability to thrive on the job. 

 Related: Hiring Top Talent: The Growing Influence of Social Media

3. "Tell me about yourself."

Why this is a time-waster:

Groan! The best way to stop your applicant in their tracks is to ask this question, especially as an opener. This question is too broad to get any kind of real answer. If you want to find out their hobbies or work ethic, as questions about those topics specifically. 

Open-ended questions with no focus pave the way for a rambling answer with no real substance. 


Need some help identifying your culture in order to find candidates that fit? Take a look at our checklist: 

 Editor's Note: This article was originally published in July 2015, but has been updated for completeness and accuracy.