My “Go To” Interview Questions

My “Go To” Interview Questions

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 29, 2014

0 Author-Jeanne, Candidate Sourcing Strategies, Hiring Strategies and Tactics get connected

PACE Staffing InterviewBasic Interview Questions!

At PACE Staffing Network most of our interview questions are constructed to assess a candidate’s  experience and competency levels doing specific type of work.  Once we reach agreement with our clients on the key candidate screening and evaluation requirements, we prepare a list of questions we  ask each candidate.  The goal?  Identify which candidates best fit our client’s hiring criteria.

We use standardized interview questions not only because they are the most legally defensible way to approach the employee selection process, but also because they make it easy to compare one candidate to another –  using the very different answers we get to the same questions to identify a candidate who best answers our questions in alignment with our client’s selection criteria. .

There are times, however, when this type of customized approach isn’t possible, or needed.  When we aren’t interviewing for a specific job and just want to get to know a candidate better,  job specific questions aren’t possible.  That’s when our recruiters pull out their  basic “go to” interview—a set of very simple questions they can ask any candidate, regardless of their skills or the type of job they are seeking.  These are questions designed to help an interviewer get to know a candidate better.

There are THREE lines of inquiry that go into my personal “go to” interview.

Line of Inquiry #1 – The candidate’s assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.      

Opening Question…….

When I speak with your previous supervisors about your work, what will they tell me they liked most about how you did your job?  

Follow Up Questions…

What will they tell me were “areas of improvement”—things about your work they would have liked you to change or improve?  

Will some supervisors see things in you that others didn’t or will they all tell me pretty much the same thing?   

Do you agree or disagree with your supervisor’s assessments? 

Look For…

…information you can use to better understand the candidates strengths and weaknesses that are likely to surface in most work settings.  It helps you pin point the type of jobs they are most likely to do well, and which ones might be problematic.

I tend to ask the candidate to describe their strengths and weaknesses thru the eyes of past supervisors as it tends to open up the conversation more and reveal something about how they view their work, perhaps differently than how they think previous supervisors might view their work.  Research has shown that if a candidate believes you will be checking their reference, there will be a high correlation between what they tell you their supervisor is likely to report and what they actually report.  

Line of Inquiry #2  –  The candidate’s motivators for working – their likes and dislikes, the reasons why they accepted and left jobs in the past.

Opening Question…

Looking only at your last three positions, share with me why you took each of these jobs, and what ultimately made you decide to leave.       

Follow Up Questions…

Which of your previous jobs did you enjoy most?  Like the least?  Why?     

Was there one or two supervisors you’ve had who you thought was particularly helpful to you in terms of developing your skills or expertise?  In what way? 

What kind of work do you enjoy most?  What do you not like doing?    

Look for…

Patterns or trends in their decisions to take or leave jobs.  Have they made smart choices about how to better themselves?  Do they appear to be pursuing advancement or just taking jobs?

Factors in the candidate’s work history that they seemed to like or dislike the most….what type of jobs or work environments got their best work?  What factors turned them off?

Line of Inquiry #3.   The candidate’s current state – what is important to them now?      

Opening Question…

What is most important for you to accomplish in your next job (change)?      

Follow Up Questions…

How long have you been looking? for what kind of jobs?

Have you been offered jobs that you have chosen not to take?  Why? 

Look for…

…if the candidate is currently working—it is good to know how motivated they are to make a job change. What level of clarity do they have about what they want to do next? What would prompt them to make a job change? What would make them decide to take one job over another?

Notice that none of these basic interview questions are tricky or complicated.

I prefer  using straightforward opening questions and more probing follow up questions to help me  get to the “core” of each candidate quickly.

At the PACE Staffing Network, we use a wide variety of behaviorally based structured interview questions that makes it easy for us to short list a select group of candidates who are the right fit for a very specific hiring profile.   Before we present a candidate to a client we find out not only what that  candidate “can do”  (their skills, knowledge and work experience) but also what they “want to do” – what type of job or work environment will pull out their best.

For more information on PACE’s candidate screening and evaluation systems and how these systems  “make a difference” in your hiring outcomes, you can contact me directly at


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