Surefire Questions Every Hiring Manager Should AskExecutive Communityon August 10, 2023 at 1:26 pm Work It Daily


As a hiring manager, the types of questions you ask in a job interview can help you determine whether a candidate is qualified for a position and a good fit for your organization. But which interview questions are the best questions to ask?

In this article, members of Duffy Group will reveal how to craft effective and customized interview questions that help you uncover a candidate’s true potential, assess their fit within your organization, and make informed hiring decisions. Read on to unlock the secrets to conducting successful interviews that lead to building exceptional teams.

Kathleen Duffy

Hiring leaders recruit for technical skills to do the job and assess for cultural alignment. To assess for cultural alignment, we must go deeper than asking, “What does culture mean to you?” Look at your company values and develop questions. For example, at Duffy Group, one of our core values is innovation. I look for people who are curious.

Tell me about something you were really curious about that has nothing to do with this job. It doesn’t matter what they are curious about; it lets me know if they have a curious mind. We want people who are curious because that’s how we innovate.

Another question is, “What does diversity mean to you?” For some, it may be gender, race, ethnicity, etc. We are looking for people who have an appetite to come into an organization where reasonable minds can disagree. How do you approach someone who sees the world differently from you?

It is critical for us as hiring leaders to figure out if candidates will thrive in our environment that celebrates diversity.

Kathleen Duffy is the founder, CEO, and president of Duffy Group. The company’s vision is to elevate recruitment research as an alternative to contingent and retained search. Since its founding, Duffy Group has been a remote workplace and a culture of work/life harmony.

Colleen Neese

As an executive recruiter, it’s our job to be curious and ask a lot of questions that will help us determine if the candidate has the skills and fit for the job. Many times those questions are very specific to the industry or job. For example, the questions I ask when recruiting in the non-profit industry are different than the questions I ask when recruiting for a for-profit company. And the questions I ask a chief financial officer are very different than the questions I ask a chief information officer. But I have one tried and true question that I ask everyone I interview:

How do you spend your time? Break down in percentages where your time is spent.

This allows me to understand if the candidate has the right skills and experience to do the job. Are they doing this today or would this be a stretch for them? Of course, this only works if you have a true understanding of the job requirements and where the candidate will be spending their time in the role, so it’s critical to have that understanding first before asking this question of candidates.

For example, when recruiting for non-profit CEOs, I always ask them to break down how they’re spending their time. Many of the non-profit CEO searches I lead require a strong background in fundraising, so if I learn they are spending very little time on fundraising, it’s a mismatch.

The other question I always ask every candidate I talk to is:

What is motivating you to consider making a job change?

It’s so simple, yet the answer you receive will uncover so much information that will help you understand what’s important to the candidate. In many instances in life, we need to go back to the “why,” and that’s true in recruitment and interviewing. Why now? Why this job? Why this company? What are you NOT getting from your current role that you’re seeking? And then listen!

Happy hunting!

Colleen Neese is a practice leader at Duffy Group. She specializes in recruiting executives in non-profit and healthcare.

Kristin Pozen

One of my clients is TTI Success Insights, an industry-leading assessment provider dedicated to revealing human potential through assessment solutions and research. They had recently hired a new president and were positioned to grow the company. Although they had been a family-owned and operated business for over 30 years, their internal human resources structure or processes needed updating. Additionally, they required an HR leader who could bring about a culture change and fuel their planned growth.

Here are a few examples of the questions we used:

Have you ever been with a company while they were experiencing a culture shift? What was your role in that shift?

This question allowed us to determine if they could drive culture change. TTI’s president envisioned a culture that cared about character and serving others.

Give an example of how you influenced a positive outcome when several senior leaders disagreed.

By asking for examples, we could evaluate if the candidate could assist in the company’s strategic growth by collaborating with the senior leadership team.

We identified and hired a fantastic HR leader for their organization by digging deeper into our interviews and addressing their biggest concerns. Asking for examples of past successes and failures can better describe a candidate’s experience.

Kristin Pozen is a research recruitment recruiter at Duffy Group and a former HR recruiter.

Sharon Grace

You’ve been tasked to fill a position. Maybe it is a newly created position, maybe it’s with a new hiring leader with the company, or maybe it is a high turnover role, and you are not excited to work it again. Even if it is a role and hiring leader that you are familiar with and excited about, it’s still important to ensure you ask the right questions as part of your intake process. Here are some tips that have helped me:

Be able to define what makes this group attractive to a potential candidate. Why would you want to work with this group? Describe the personalities of the group.What are the top three primary skill sets (not soft skills) necessary to succeed in this role? Do they need experience creating and implementing a strategy, budgeting and forecasting, and designing and implementing legally compliant HR procedures and best practices?What is the most important thing this person needs to do in the role to succeed?What experience or skill set will not work? What companies should we avoid?

There is so much more to a position than what is in the job description. Digging deep with the hiring leader will set up the process to dig deep with a candidate as you try to identify the fit. Both the hiring leader and the candidate are curious about each other. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for hiring leaders and candidates to work with a recruiter to help uncover the real opportunity, identify fit, and remove ambiguity.

Sharon Grace is a veteran search executive at Duffy Group who helps hiring leaders hire great people because of her proven track record as a strategic partner and advisor to recruit, identify and assess talent.

Need help recruiting talent for your organization? Check out Duffy Group today.

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