My Favorite Interview Question

It’s a no brainer that knowing the reasons a candidate has applied for a job will help you win them over in the offer stage. My favorite question in a screening interview is …

Were all taught to tell employers why we’re right for a job. I want to know what job is right for you. What qualities and responsibility are you looking for next? 

However, asking once is often not enough. That’s because some people haven’t thought about what they really want. They know why they’re looking to leave their current job, but they haven’t reflected on what they really want next. During interviews, you might find out that what’s really important to a candidate is a supportive boss, a shorter commute, or more vacation, even though what she said in the first interview was that she wanted more responsibility and a larger budget.

You can check in with candidates via Skype or e-mail at the end of each week or after an interview with a hiring manager, for instance.

“What did you learn from your interview yesterday?” and “Based on what you know now, does this sound like the right job for you?” 

If the candidate hesitates or says no, find out why. If the answer is a problem that can be solved, try and solve it. When you make an offer, the only surprises from a candidate should be pleasant ones.

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About the Author

Laura has recruited people from more than 30 countries, working for global health and development organizations like Jhpiego, IntraHealth, Project HOPE, PSI, FHI 360, and others. Previously, she founded Nonprofit Recruitment Services to help nonprofit organizations find and keep talented people. 

  • Richard Davis

    “We’re all taught to tell employers why we’re right for a job. I want to know what job is right for you. What qualities and responsibility are you looking for next?”

    My response would be a mirror of the job for which I am being interviewed and the qualities and responsibilities would be similar to the position for which I am being interviewed. Why would anyone who has done any preparation before the interview provide details very different from the position? I agree the question may make one think, but it really does nothing to determine whether the candidate has the skills sets, competencies, and core behaviors to be successful in the position for which they are being considered. I would assume one is not going to say “the right job for me is one in which I am working with a team and collaborating on projects to help the company move toward the core mission” when they are interviewing for a regional sales position where the expectations are working independently to build a territory. If I am missing the point, feel free to correct me.

    • Dan Vaughn

      Agreed. A savvy interviewer will tailor their answer to the position for which they are interviewing. I do agree, however, that candidates typically have not thought that far down line to define what they want to do. They are typically focused on landing a new job without a lot of thought on the type of position they really aspire to and holding out for one that matches their priorities.

    • Laura Retzler

      You might be surprised how few people respond to my favorite question by quoting from the job announcement for the job I’m interviewing them for. Maybe this is because I ask it at the end of the interview or maybe it’s because I preface it by saying I want to keep them in my talent bank for other clients (I do consulting) and so I want to know a bit more about what to keep them in mind for.

      • Steph

        I ask that question too, just a little differently (what’s important to you for the next step in your career from a tactical, task “this is what I want to learn” perspective and from a strategic “this is what I want to be exposed to” perspective?) And most people don’t rattle off stuff from the JD. Comparing how we, as trained interviewers would reply vs a true candidate with less interviewing experience isn’t grapefruit to kiwi, mate. 🙂