6 Interview Questions to Ask When Short on Time

Delving into a candidate’s motivators as well as asking frank, focused questions are two of the many strategies that Nanette Foster applies to her recruiting success. As the president and electrical manufacturing recruiter for Foster Conner Recruiting, Foster vets candidates for original equipment manufacturers of power transformers, distribution transformers, magnetic transformers, motors and drives, and more.

One of the poignant takeaways from this month’s interviews is that, “It’s not (always) about the money.” 

Here are Foster’s favorite interview questions that quickly help determine candidate fit for her client companies’ positions. 

1. What motivates you?  The salary increase, title, company culture, growth opportunity, etc.?

Why It Works: “We are in a candidate-driven market,” begins Foster. “Many recruiters and companies believe throwing a large salary at a candidate is all it takes to close the deal. My experience has led me to believe that if money is not the problem, it will not fix the problem.”

“Most people in today’s market are looking for opportunity,” continues Foster, describing motivated candidates as those who are stagnated by an immovable manager that isn’t leaving or getting promoted. Or, they have hit a glass ceiling.

Moreover, the right corporate culture galvanizes candidate interest. 

“Gone are the days of companies being able to demand rigid schedules for professionals. Instead, today’s employees want flexibility,” asserts Foster.  And, a culture that offers work-from-home options, flexible hours and other options to ease the pressure of the work-life blend will be more amenable—and motivating—to most candidates. 

The bottom line regarding motivators is to ensure a candidate’s alignment with the opportunity at hand before the interview process goes too far.

“If we don’t find out the real reason why the candidate is interviewing, we will not be able to tap into those reasons during the interview process. As such, if an offer is given, more than likely it won’t be accepted,” Foster concludes.

2. What type of manager do you work best with? 

Why It Works: “If a candidate wants collaboration, and the manager leads at a high level, this could be a problem,” explains Foster. “The candidate could perceive it as the manager not supporting them, while the manager believes they are getting out of the way, and allowing their employees to do the job they were paid to do.”

3.  Who or what has had the biggest impact on your career? Was it an event, or did you have a professional mentor?

Why It Works: Foster says that the insight garnered by a question like this is invaluable. “You can learn a lot by finding out who was an influence on their career. Was it a manager or college professor? Was it a lesson in what to do or what not to do?”  

Extending on Foster’s insights, you may uncover nuanced details that position a candidate for advancement. For example, you may unearth a candidate’s ability to tap into the not-so-obvious value of leaders to whom they reported. 

Maybe the candidate recognizes that their manager, known for having a gruff, impersonal demeanor, also wields exceptional savvy in identifying and mentoring top talent up the chain. This candidate’s openness to being mentored while also learning ‘what not to do’ in regard to leadership demeanor, demonstrates professional maturity and emotional intelligence. 

4. Why did you decide to respond to my call?

Why It Works: “I like to get past the common response from candidates: ‘I wanted to see what you had,’” explains Foster. “The blunt questions do this quickly.”

Continuing with this to-the-point line of questioning are several questions from Stephanie Troiano, in the article, “7 Pointed Questions That Cut to the Chase.”

5. What other types of positions have you been looking at? Where have you interviewed already?

Why It Works: According to Troiano, this question series helps identify the candidate’s level of seriousness of in seeking new employment. As well, it provides insights on how advanced they are in the job search process and “can also lend you some insight into where you stand on their radar of choices,” says Troiano.

6. Would your current/previous supervisor give you a reference? What would they say about you?

Why It Works: The first of this two-part inquiry helps to ferret out if a candidate is direct and will answer the question, or whether they instead will divert in an attempt to avoid answering or to hide something, according to Troiano.

Insight into the candidate’s emotional intelligence is a takeaway from the second part of the question, adds Troiano. If a candidate is able to detail not only what is being said about them, but also why that is being said, then they are proving an ability to be objective about themselves. Anemic and/or generic answers such as, “I’m a good worker” will leave the interviewer less than impressed.

By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter