Ask This, Not That: 5 Ways You Can Improve Your Hiring Today

It’s all too easy to settle into an interview rut. You’ll probably do three or four for every job you fill, so it makes sense to have a go-to list of questions you’re comfortable asking.

But are these questions the best way to learn more about your candidates? Or are they just the questions that happened to work themselves into your routine?

Take a look below for five quick ways to hire better:

1. ASK THIS: Why should I hire you over everyone else who applied?

Let them pick the strongest tools from their toolbox to present to you. The long-forgotten screwdriver at the bottom doesn’t matter, but that big honkin’ hammer will make a real impact on your team. How do they define themselves? Plus, this allows them show you their drive to get the job. How hard are they willing to sell their potential? And ultimately, is their case successful?

NOT THAT: So, tell me about yourself.

If you ask them to tell you about themselves, chances are you’ll get a summary of their resume or something very similar. But you know this information already, or they wouldn’t be sitting across from you. Don’t waste time when you can learn something more important more quickly with another question. Avoid such generalized and open-ended questions as a rule.

2. ASK THIS: Tell me one specific thing you’ll improve here.

Let them show their knowledge of their field and your company … as well as their guts. Can the developer-to-be tell you a better way to organize your database? Does your future marketing director hate your ad copy, backed up by a tangible way to improve it? Better yet, are they willing to vocalize it? It also tells you that they see potential in your mission and have the spirit to suggest improvements and drive towards success

NOT THAT: What do you know about our company?

This only tells you that they know how to work Google. Ask specific questions like the one above that are predicated on them doing a bit of research previously. A lack of preparation will still stick out like a sore thumb, and you’ll learn something other than that their homepage is Google. Aside from search engine knowledge, there’s a fantastically small room for variance between “Impressed with their research” and “They might have gone through our trash.”

3. ASK THIS: You have to start a business tomorrow. What does it do? Why will it succeed?

A good answer here will tell you not only where they see themselves as experts, leaders, or innovators, but where their true passions lie. This is one question we can guarantee they won’t be expecting: the quickness and certainty of their answer lets you know how often they engage with their passions or entrepreneurial spirit.

NOT THAT: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Come on. ”As the CEO, because I’m awesome?” There’s no way to answer this question honestly and accurately. While this might not be a horrible thing with other subjects, this particular question has been so well-rehearsed by most applicants that you probably won’t get a telling answer by asking it. Here’s a good rule: if you can answer the question yourself — off the top of your head — try to twist it into something better.

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4. ASK THIS: Walk me through the last time you had to meet a do-or-die deadline.

Previous emotions from a stressful event are usually tough to hide in the future. How do they answer this question? You want them to walk you through a challenge they solved through confident action and quality work, not something they still marvel at surviving as if it were miraculous. Bonus points for a project that really changed the company, or better yet, the entire marketplace.

NOT THAT: Are you comfortable working under pressure?

This is another one to file under “Give me a break.” Is anyone going to look you in the face and say no? Of course not! They want the job, they know the answer, and you’re asking to get whitewashed with this interview classic.

5. ASK THIS: What was your favorite thing about _______, and why did you leave?

Just like Question #1, this is another great way to get down to business more quickly than the typical interview question. Look for parallels between their answer and your company. Were they inspired by the business-formal workplace? If so, they’re probably not the person to hire for your seed-stage startup. This question accomplishes the same “minesweeper” goals as the more typical one below: it’s just as likely to uncover big successes or bad blood.

NOT THAT: Tell me about your time at ________.

This will almost always be a nearly word-for-word recital of their resume. You already know it! Expect more interesting answers from your applicants and give them the questions they need to deliver.

This article originally appeared on The Resumator Blog.