For currently employed candidates, seek sound
explanations for why they’re searching for greater
opportunities, challenges or responsibilities. If that
includes transitioning into a new industry, find out
why they’re attempting to make that change. See
if the answer is credible and ties into the new job’s
short- and long-term responsibilities. Of course,
applicants who can refocus the discussion to how
their skill set matches the current position are ready
for the next question.
3. What are your greatest strengths?
This is an interviewing stalwart (along with the
next question) that every applicant should be ready
to hit out of the park. “It should tell you a lot if they
don’t,” Enelow says.
Look for answers that briefly summarize
work experiences and the strongest qualities and
achievements that are directly related to the duties
of the open job. Make a note of candidates who
cite skills such as self-motivation, initiative and
the ability to work in a team. Think twice about
those who focus on perceived strengths “that
might not carry much weight in your work environment,” she says, such as an eagerness to handle
assignments not covered in the job description or
an interest in returning to school to study a field
unrelated to the opportunity.
4. What are your weaknesses?
Of course, few applicants are so honest and self-aware that they’ll share an accurate overview of their
deficits. Smart interviewees try to turn the question
around and present a personal weakness as a professional strength. For instance, micromanaging workaholics who drive their colleagues crazy may present
themselves as meticulous, dedicated workers. Ask
for detailed, specific examples of their workplace
interactions with colleagues to get a sense of whether
they’re hiding a difficult personality.
Savvier candidates will talk about how they’re
taking steps to improve themselves. An accountant,
for example, might explain how he’s working to bolster his knowledge of payroll procedures by enrolling in courses at a local college, while an I T professional could outline the additional certifications she’s
5. What can you tell me about our
company and industry?
Nothing should eliminate a person from consideration faster than a lack of research into the employer’s business lines, locations, customer base and
“I don’t take these applicants seriously because
they obviously don’t take the interview process seri-
ously,” says Falcone, who suggests that interviewers
should dig for more than superficial answers that
could have been gleaned from a five-minute review
of the company’s website.
“Even at the entry level, while a candidate may
not know much about a company, there are multiple opportunities to research the organization in
advance of the in-person meeting thanks to Google,
Glassdoor and the company’s website,” he says. “I
often refer to this as the ‘candidate desire factor,’
which can serve as a significant swing factor in the
6. What do/did you like most and
least about your present/most
Look for answers that are specific and relevant to the
open position. Job seekers who say “it was an easy
commute” or “the benefits were great” will likely be
job hunting again soon. Instead, identify people who
value the same workplace qualities that your company has, such as those who are seeking opportunities on the cutting edge of technology or those who
can create teams with strong camaraderie.
When discussing the least-liked aspects of their
present or previous job, applicants who mention
areas of responsibility that are far removed from the
functions of the available job may do well in the position you’re hiring for. And, Enelow says, those who
say they performed an undesirable assignment well
or who learned something useful show that they can
stick with tasks, even ones that don’t particularly