What Questions Are Recruiters Asking?

To prepare for interview success, job seekers must anticipate the recruiters’ questions and be prepared to address them.  To help with the preparation process, here’s a list of questions recruiters are currently asking.

  • What are you looking for in your next role?
  • Why do you think you’re a fit for this position?
  • What projects/tasks are you looking for do more of in your next job and what do you hope to do less of?
  • What excites you about ABC Company?
  • Why are you interested in working for ABC Company?
  • What’s your favorite part of your current position?
  • What is your least favorite part of your current position?
  • How would your manager describe you?
  • How would your colleagues describe you?
  • What areas of improvement would your manager mention?
  • Why did you leave your previous company?
  • What motivates you?
  • Tell me about a time you relied on emotional intelligence.
  • What challenges have you helped your company overcome?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What is your current salary?
  • Wit which other companies are you interviewing?
  • How do you need to be managed to be successful?
  • What do you know about ABC Company?
  • What do you already know about me?

Why Should We Hire You?

Students are often shocked to be asked directly in an interview, “Why should we hire you?”  Whether the question is asked directly or not, every candidate needs to answer that question for every interviewer in the process, if the candidate hopes to succeed.  If you are prepared to answer it directly, you are ready but in case they don’t ask, you can use that preparation in your summary.  You want to be sure the interviewers leave the room with the answer to that question firmly in their mind.

Take this opportunity to demonstrate your fit and your interest.

Skills and Expertise

What does the employer specifically need that you can offer?  How are your skills and expertise uniquely aligned with this position so you could contribute at a different level than other candidates?  Demonstrate that in meeting the specific needs of the employer that you are interested and excited about contributing to the goals of the company and the department in this specific role as a great next step in your career.  In addition to your skills and expertise you bring  motivation and a strong work ethic as well.

Unique Qualifications

If there is something unique about your qualifications be sure to emphasize that.  It is important to be well informed about the company, the department and this specific role in order to sell the on your unique skills.  Of course they are talking to other candidates but what is it about you they can’t find in others?  Do you have experience in their industry, using their software, working with their clients, or other unique perspectives?  Are you willing to share your knowledge of others for the good of the team?  Be sure the interviewers have a clear sense of your unique qualifications.

Solve Problems

Often the need to hire for a specific position is related to solving a business problem or eliminating a pain point.  Do you have a track record of solving problems?  Share some examples.  Are you motivated by the challenge of finding a better way to do something?  How could you specifically assist with this particular problem?

Don’t duck this question if it is asked.  Demonstrate your unique value add.  Be sure to do so even when the question is not asked.

Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

If you spend your interview preparation time only preparing for the questions you will be asked during the interview, you are only half prepared for the interview.  It is also critical to prepare the questions you will ask the interviewer.  Asking questions demonstrates your interest in the position as well as your approach to preparation.  The answers will also provide you valuable insight into the new position.

Of course you should always be fully alert during the interview and question anything that causes you concern.  In addition to the in the moment, questions, you should consider asking some of these questions to ensure you have the best picture possible of the opportunity.

Questions About the Role

  • What is the history of this role? Is it a new position or is it a replacement hire?  What justified approval of this position?
  • What does this role contribute to the achievement of departmental and company goals?
  • What technology is used by the person in this role?

Questions About the Department

  • How does this department fit into the overall organization?
  • What are the key roles in the department and how do people in those roles interact?
  • How does this department interact with other departments across the organization?
  • What internal customers does this role support?
  • Is there formal training for this position or it is it expected that the person will just jump in and ask questions?

Questions About Management Style

  • How do you prefer to interact with the new hire? Do you prefer regularly scheduled check in meetings, ad hoc meetings, email, team meetings, etc?
  • How do you communicate with your department? How are key project deadlines tracked and monitored?

Questions About Success

  • What are the success measures for someone in this role?
  • What do you hope the new hire will accomplish in the first three months on the job?
  • What will success look like for this position at the end of the first year?
  • What are the critical goals in the year ahead for this position? How do those goals support the success of the department and the company?

General Insights

  • What do you like most about working for this company? In this department?
  • How did you get to this role at this company?

While it is unlikely you’d ever have the opportunity to ask all these questions in an interview, it is important to be prepared to ask the ones that matter most to you.  Some questions can be handled via email as follow-up.  Put your best foot forward in the interview by asking insightful questions.

What Other Positions Are You Exploring?

Recent feedback from students actively interviewing is that in addition to being asked salary history very early in the screening process, they are also being asked what other opportunities they are exploring.  Is it illegal to ask this?  No.  Do you have to provide a comprehensive, detailed list?  No.  What is a job seeker to do?

Think about what you have to gain or lose as a job seeker by answering this question or not.  If you say you are not exploring any other options, what is the interviewer to think?

  • Maybe you aren’t serious about looking and this is just a trial balloon for you.
  • If no one else is inviting you for interviews, maybe there is a red flag we haven’t discovered yet.
  • With no other balls in the air, we can take our time with you and have no urgency to make a decision.
  • This will be an easy negotiation if you have no other options.

If you take a hard stand and claim it is personal information that you refuse to share, what message does that send the interviewer?

  • You are trying to hide something and are not being honest with them. They value integrity in their employees.
  • Maybe candidate is arrogant and has to always get his/her own way.

Clearly you do not want to discourage potential interest in you as a candidate early in the process.  You want to keep your options open while you gain more information to assess the fit of the opportunity.  You should be honest and share an overview of your search process.  For example, “Given my strong interest in the xx industry and my transferable skills in x and y, I am focusing my search on growing companies in this industry.  Given your industry leadership and outstanding reputation, this opportunity is of strong interest to me.”

This lets the interview know that you have something to offer the market, that you know what you want and what skills you can leverage and that you have done your homework.  Resist the urge to be annoyed by the question and use it to demonstrate your strength as a candidate.


Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Job seekers should always be prepared to address this question in an interview and how you respond can have a significant impact on the outcome.

Critical rule – never be negative about a prior employer or manager.  It gains you nothing but can detract from your responses.  Instead of sharing your negative thoughts and impressions, focus on what you have learned is most important to you in your career and how you are seeking a better fit culturally to align with those values.  Don’t blame the former employer for not being the company you want it to be.

Acknowledge that there are often business pressures and demands that make it difficult for a company to fully achieve their desired culture.  Rapid growth can be a great thing but it can also bring significant challenges to an organization.

Demonstrate that you are aware of what it takes to do your best work, that you take ownership for delivering your best results in spite of the challenges and that you are willing to learn and grow along the way.  Present yourself as part of the solution, not part of the problem

Assessing Company Culture

A critical part of the interview process is assessing fit – does the candidate fit the company culture and does the company culture fit the candidate?  How can a candidate accurately assess the culture of the company they are considering?

Do Your Research:  Don’t just look at the company website.  Social media will give you much better insight into the culture of the organization.  Look at what they post on Twitter or Facebook.  Check out their videos.  Also look at independent sites such as Glass Door to see feedback from employees.

Network:  Even with social media there is some level of company control over messages.  Talk to current and former employees.  Leverage your Linked In connections and alumni contacts to identify contacts who can tell you what it is like to work there.  Ask them why they chose to join the company.  What keeps them there?  What do they like most about their work there?  What do they like the least?

Observe:  Arrive a few minutes early for your interview.  While you are waiting in the lobby pay attention to how employees interact with one another.  If there is no interaction, that certainly tells you something about the culture.

Pay Attention to Heavy Emphasis:  If everyone you talk to in the interview process mentions the pool table in the lounge or the summer outing, you should do more probing.  If they are all talking about the same thing is the emphasis on the wrong things?  Do their actions support the scripted message?

Before you decide to spend several years of your career with a company, it is critical to gain insight into the culture to determine if this is a place where you would choose to spend your days.



Interview Feedback – Believe it or Not

You just can’t make this stuff up!  I often hear interview feedback that is hard to believe but unfortunately things happen.  Hopefully you can learn what not to do from these stories while I’m confident some will make you chuckle.

Make Yourself Comfortable   – An employer called to inform me that he would not be hiring the student they just interviewed.  While disappointed, I wanted to use it as a learning opportunity so I asked why.  The hiring manager was upset that the candidate put his feet on the manager’s desk during the interview.  I called the student to my office and asked how the interview went.  The student thought he had all the right answers but said he got a bad “vibe” from the manager as the interview ended.  I had to ask more detailed questions and was told “yes, I put my feet up on his desk.  He told me to make myself comfortable.”  Apparently the student did not realize that “make yourself comfortable” means it is ok to remove your jacket or even loosen your tie.

Expletive Not Deleted – In an interview you are putting your best forward to convince the hiring manager that you are the best person for their open position.  I had never occurred to me that we had to specifically tell students not to swear in an interview.  Clearly I was wrong.  I had a distraught employer share feedback that a student had used inappropriate language several times during the course of the interview.  When asked, the student explained that the hiring manager talked about the collaborative work environment so he felt he should just be himself.  Professionalism is certainly expected in most business settings and always in the interview.

White Socks –  We spend time in career management class talking about appropriate professional business attire.  We work to be very clear about our expectations to ensure that students are meeting the expectations of our employers.  You can imagine my horror when I saw a student leaving the interview room with an impeccable, well pressed suit, coordinating shirt and tie, and bright white socks.  I called the student to my office and closed the door.  The student was quick to explain that they were brand new socks.  He bought them for the interview to ensure that they were as clean and bright as possible.  We reviewed the dress code again.  He still thought he had done the right thing and asked if it mattered.  I asked him, “Do you want to be remembered for your experience and skills or for wearing white socks to the interview? “ I never saw him in white socks again.

Weakness with Emphasis – Students are often asked the question “what are your weaknesses?”  We practice that one in class so they are comfortable talking about a developmental area and how they are making progress in that area.  An employer asked that question of a student and she explained that she has a habit of never finishing anything.  She went on in great detail to talk about the closet full of unfinished projects and how after getting started she loses interest and doesn’t go back to a project.  Instead she starts something new and then adds to her collection of unfinished projects.  Not only did she go into significantly more detail than was appropriate she also failed to positively talk about how she was overcoming the issue.  Worse still, she didn’t consider the key skills required for the job – it was a project management job and keeping multiple projects on track and making progress was critical to success in the role.

Overstating Your Abilities – Anything on the resume is fair game and candidates should be expected to be asked about it in an interview.  One student listed proficiency in Mandarin on her resume.  Little did she know that the interview was fluent in Mandarin.  When asked a question in Mandarin, she was unable to answer.  Her credibility was blown early in the interview.  Another student claimed Advanced Excel skills.  When asked by the hiring manager questions about pivot tables and V lookup, the student was not able to respond.  Your credibility is too important to risk it by overstating your skills.

Legal Mumbo Jumbo – Some job applications ask if you were ever convicted of a felony.  It is critical that you answer honestly.  I had a student respond no on the application but the background report showed a conviction.  While there was an explanation and the conviction was eventually cleared, the company would not even consider the student for the job because of integrity issues.  You have to be honest.  If he had disclosed the conviction on the application is would not have been an issue.

Thank You Note Nightmare – I am a strong advocate of the importance of writing thank you notes.  Usually employers are very impressed when they receive thank you notes from our students.  While visiting an employer I had my first sense of doom when he said he wanted to show me a thank you note he received from a student.  My stomach sank as he reached into his drawer.  At the top of the note, his name was spelled incorrectly, crossed out, spelled incorrectly again, crossed out again, and spelled a third time incorrectly.  His reaction was two-fold – clearly attention to detail was an issue for the student but he also felt insulted that he wasn’t worth a fresh notecard instead of sending the note with two crossouts.  Definitely not how you make a positive impression.

Lack of Focus – While candidates should be selling themselves in their interviews, managers continue to report examples of students emphatically stating that they hate the functional area they are working for, the industry the company is in, or the type of work they would be asked to do.  It is important to review your feelings before you decide to apply for the job.  When in an interview you should know what is important in that job and not go out of your way to tell them you don’t like doing that.  Be positive.

Star Attire – We are very clear with our students that professional business attire is a suit.  One young woman with a strong desire to stand out in the crowd chose to wear a glittered mid-riff top under her suit jacket.  Employers to not want to see glimpses of her stomach during the interview and certainly questioned how she would dress in front of clients or prospects.  She stood out but not in the way she intended.