The questions every recruiter should ask their candidates

Discover the questions that top recruitment professionals always ask candidates, how to interpret their responses, and how asking the right questions can help fit a candidate with a position.

Are they serious?

For Jacky Mason, principal consultant at Hudson, it’s important to establish how seriously a candidate is about looking for a new role, by asking, ‘if I was to have a job offer on the table, and your current employer counter-offered, addressing the issues you have – would you stay with them?’

“Establishing this early on is very important, not only to see if the candidate has thought about the possibility, but also enabling them to have an open conversation with their current employer – to see if they can find common ground, before looking for a new opportunity.”

“In the long run, this will save you time as a recruiter, and not jeopardise your relationship with your clients.”

Why do they really want to leave?

Jane McNeill, managing director for Hays NSW and WA, also likes to probe why a candidate is looking to leave (or has already left) their current role.

“The answer gives real insight into what they’re looking for, helps them find the right role, and identifies if they’ll fit into that role,” she says.

“If a candidate is happy, and only looking for more for money, I’d advise them to discuss that with their current employer. If you can identify the reasons why they’re unhappy, there’s a better chance of finding the right role and right environment. 

“It’s often a cultural thing, or related to career progression, such as lack of training and development, so then we’re looking for somewhere that offers that.

Highlights and achievements

Michael Simonyi, principal consultant at Davidson, likes to ask, ‘can you outline for me, in three minutes, your professional profile to date, what your motivation is for pursuing this role, and how those things align?’

“This compels candidates to clearly and succinctly articulate what they feel to be their career-related highlights and achievements, what their drivers are now, and demonstrate that they’ve given genuine thought to the role they’re expressing interest in,” he says.

“There’s no right or wrong answer, but once I’ve heard what they have to say, I’ll typically have a sound understanding of whether there’s real potential to take things forward.”

Attitude is everything

“Skills can be taught, but attitude cannot, which is why I think this is such an important piece of the puzzle when looking to hire,” says Tom Moore, manager, sales and marketing at Robert Walters.

Some of Moore’s sample questions to uncover someone’s cultural fit for a company or position could be:

  • ‘If you were to start your own business tomorrow, what three core values would your company stand by?’
  • ‘If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be? If others described you in three words, what would they be?’
  • ‘Tell me about a time where you put someone else’s needs before your own, in a professional capacity?’

Left field

Todd Pavlou, chief operations officer at Protech, likes a candidate to grapple with the unexpected, such as, ‘how do you feel about New Year’s resolutions?’

“This question reveals the natural tendencies of the individual. Are they intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? Do they need external accountability or are they self-driven? Will they buck the system and take pride in being a non-conformist?” he says.

“The question provides a great insight into the cultural fit needed to make sure a candidate will be happy in the role they are being interviewed for.”