The Magnificent Seven: Interview Questions to Help Hire the Right Candidate


A job interview is a lot like speed dating.

In just a short hour or two, you’re expected to get to know a person and see if they’re a good fit for your open position and your organization (yes folks, it should be both).

That’s a tough task.

Whether your interview process includes one or three interviews – unless you’re asking some direct questions – you’re not really doing your due diligence to hire the right candidate.

Far too often employers focus on just skills to try to determine whether someone is qualified to do the job.  Yes, skills are very important, but what about a culture fit for your organization?

And what about discovering what motivates them?  Or even how they prefer to get their job done? These are all important things in determining candidate fit and new hire success.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t! It’s the candidates’ job to sell themselves; it’s your job to ask the probing questions.

You can do that by utilizing these these seven (7) questions to help hire the right candidate:

1. Why should we hire you?

Well, why? Tell us what you bring to the table that will help you be a success here and help us be a success.

The right candidate will be able to clearly communicate their personal value proposition. They’ll also be able to tell you how it aligns to your organization.

You may need or want to dig deeper – asking for examples, data points, or even more specific details.  However, this will give you a snapshot into how they think, how prepared they are for the interview, and if they’re a fit for not just the open position but the organization, too.

2. What is your biggest hot button?

What frustrates the heck out of you? What really ticks you off in the context of a work environment?

Let’s get real – everyone has hot buttons at work. Some are just more obvious about it than others. The right candidate will be able to articulate what frustrates them (which can inhibit productivity!) and why.

A good candidate will also be able to tell you how they manage these hot buttons. Ask for examples here. You don’t just want to know if their hot buttons will be pushed at your organization, you also want to know can they manage them if they are pushed.

3. What makes you a fit for our culture?

Culture is king. Being a skill-set fit is just as important as being a culture fit.

Culture is how work gets done around here. If your organization is fast paced, will they fit in or be frustrated? If your organization has limited hierarchy, can they mesh with the rest of the team and get work done across departments with limited direction, or do they need more structure for success?

You have an idea of your culture. You want to find out what they see and feel about your culture.

Look for inconsistencies. Take note of a mismatch. A candidate can have the best skill set in the world, but if they aren’t a fit for your culture they aren’t likely to reach maximum performance.

4. What was the worst work environment you’ve ever been in?

Let’s face it – we’ve all worked places that sucked the life out of us. What you want to know from the candidate is what made them feel that work environment was so terrible, and how did they cope. You don’t want someone to come on board if your organization has some of the similar traits they’ve considered to be toxic.

Some candidates will be afraid to answer this question in fear that they’ll turn off the interviewer. Try your hardest to make them feel comfortable answering this question honestly, because it will give you insight into their deal breakers.

You don’t want to hire someone and then 90-days later they quit! It also provides insights into how they cope with certain curveballs.

5. What do you want to get out of this role?

What are you looking to achieve? What do you expect to learn?

This is very important. A job is a give and take. As an employer you expect certain things from an employee.

Well guess what – they expect certain things from you as well. It’s important these are aligned. Can you both provide each other with what you each need?

Whether it’s an entry-level role or a leadership position, this question helps you understand what they want to accomplish – can they make good on accomplishing what you’re expecting of them in this role and can you make good on what they’re expecting?

6. Why are you successful?

We all view success in different ways. You not only want to know how they define success, you also want to know what they think helps them be successful, and see if this aligns with the open position and the organization.

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This question also gives you insight into how they accomplish their job. Are they reading the latest trends, research, and data reports to better understand their role and how to achieve success? Perhaps they learned traits that make them successful from a mentor?

Understanding why a candidate feels they are successful – and what behaviors and traits they use to define success – gives you a snapshot into how they think and how that aligns to the role and the culture of your organization.

7. What motivates you?

If you’re not offering rewards to your people, start immediately! Though there’s more to motivation than rewards. A paycheck is often not enough anymore, although it doesn’t hurt!

Understand what personally motivates the candidate. Does it align with the other team members motivations? Can you provide these things to them? Knowing what motivates them will help you determine if they will be satisfied – and perform.

Talent acquisition isn’t easy. It doesn’t stop with a good resume. As you lead the interview process, focus on finding the nuggets of information that will really help you determine mutual fit and success.

These questions are some good starting points to understand who the candidate is, how they get the job done, what makes them tick, and does it all align to your needs.

Having these answers allows you to make a better informed decision – for both the candidate and your organization.

This was originally published on the Tolero Think Tank blog.

  • Jason Lauritsen

    I think these questions will give you a good sense of whether the candidate is great at giving great interview question answers and/or the degree they’ve done research on you and your company, but not sure any of these will actually predict if the person is a great fit for the organization or a particular role.

    • Nikeita Passley

      I’d have to agree with Jason. This is a great list to start from but is definitely not all inclusive. For example, “3. What makes you a fit for our culture?” – This would imply that the candidate has a good idea of your companies culture prior to answering the question. I’m not sure that most candidates have enough background information to know rather they are a good fit, and/or they may say whatever “sounds good” to land the job.

    • TalentTalks

      So true, Jason. Being a good interviewer isn’t at all related to being an exceptional performer. Yet, that seems to be the primary hiring decision influence.

      It always amuses me that so many people believe they can decipher so much about another individual by asking their favorite interview questions and interpreting the interviewee’s answers through their own perceptions and biases. What is always lacking is CONTEXT.

      While most of these questions are OK, some of them would depend on the context of the role as well as the phase of interviewing. Some of them seem to presume the person already really understands the company, the job, and actually wants to work there.

      I’m not at all a fan of “why should we hire you?” or similar inquiries that put the person on the spot to further “sell” her/himself as worthy of your attention. I also don’t care for questions that make the person come up with some sort of “negative” trait or situation.

      A “hot button” pet peeve item seems like a variation of “biggest weakness” which of course is one of the weakest questions, EVER.

      ~KB @TalentTalks:disqus

  • Scott Span

    As a behavioral scientist, and organization effectiveness practitioner, I’ve conducted many interviews. Regardless of the approach to the interview the interviewer must still be skilled – both in interviewing, in understanding of their company and culture, and in trusting intuition. There is no one size fits all approach. Of course context is required. Interview questions shouldn’t be read robotic, they require a lead in, a set up. This should align to the role and the organization.