The one question I always ask candidates in job interviews

People who routinely hire will usually have their own signature questions that they like to ask. These will be the queries that they find reveal the most insightful details about a candidate.

I once interviewed for a fairly senior level role and was asked by the VP of HR, “If you were an animal, which one would you be?”

It turned out that this was her go-to question that she always asked new hires to evaluate their personalities. New research reveals that it might actually say more about her own character than the applicants. Apparently, brain teaser interview questions are just mean.

When hiring for my own teams, my favourite question is more straightforward. I regularly ask a potential hire, “If I were to ask your most recent manager to describe working with you, what do you think they would say?”

This question works on several levels. First off, it encompasses elements of “what are your greatest strengths/weaknesses” without being such a cliché. Most candidates will try to summarize what has impressed their manager about their work and also include some elements that are more challenging.

It often reveals some insights into the candidate’s working relationship with their previous manager as well as how self-aware they are. Can they step outside of their own perspective and imagine how others see them and their work? Have they thought of how their supervisor views their work style and accomplishments?

And how accurate is their understanding of how others view them?

The added bonus to this particular question is that you can later ask the candidate’s references about working with them.

If the candidate has simply answered, “They would say I am a dedicated, hard worker who delivers top-notch results,” you can find out if that is actually the case. Do the references’ perceptions sound at least similar to the candidate’s response? This gives you further information about their working relationships, self-awareness, and honesty.

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