Hiring 101: Unexpected Questions You Can Ask to Identify Top Talent

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This is the third post part of Indeed’s SMB series. See what SMB owners have to say on the debate between skills and culture fit in part two. 

You’ve sifted through dozens of resumes and finally narrowed down the top candidates. Now it’s time to further refine your candidate pool at the interview stage. Without preparing the right questions, this process can often favour candidates who are persuasive speakers over those who are best-suited for the role. 

Whether your recruitment process has one, two, or four rounds of interviews, it’s crucial to establish compelling questions at every stage and ensure that only the most qualified candidates are moving forward. This means digging beyond what’s on the resume and learning about the candidate’s key character traits and values as well as how they have put them to practice. 

“Based on their hiring process, most employers are actively seeking out people who are really good at selling themselves” says Mike Silagadze, Founder and CEO of Top Hat. By asking broad-ended questions such as ‘tell me about yourself’ or ‘walk me through your resume’, employers are giving candidates ample room to fabricate an image of themselves. This can be a useful skill for some jobs but it fails to provide substantial knowledge about an applicant’s competencies or how they will perform in their role.

In 2018, 84% of employers discovered that their candidates had lied on at least one part of their resume. This makes it essential to ask questions geared towards specific experiences and which require a candidate to describe how they applied their skills in the past. 

Our panel of SMB employers from tech, beauty and PR industries, rely on unexpected questions to identify top talent. The best questions should make a candidate think on their feet, demonstrate creativity and confirm their credentials. We narrowed down some of the most effective questions to target essential candidate features:

Questions that unveil soft skills

  • Describe a time when you had to learn something as a beginner.
  • When have you made a mistake and what did you do about it? What did you learn?
  • Describe a time when you had a disagreement with a manager.
  • How do you go about self-reflection and self-growth?

Questions that uncover technical expertise

  • Tell me about a challenging project you completed and what was something interesting you discovered?
  • Describe your planning process when tasked with a new assignment.
  • What steps did you take to ensure quality in your deliverables?
  • What technologies could you not live without and why?

Learn about relevant values and goals

  • What makes you excited?
  • What has been your most meaningful work experience?
  • What do you look for in an employer?
  • Tell me one thing that isn’t on your resume.

Many applicants spend hours preparing for an interview and the employer should be putting in no less effort on their end. By asking generic questions, readily available at the top of a google search, employers will receive scripted and rehearsed answers. Oppositely, preparing unexpected questions requires your candidate to think on their feet and demonstrate their true talents.

For more helpful interview tips, including pre-screening questions, check out our Best Interview Questions page.

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