Finding The Qualities of The Candidates You Should Hire

6 questions to ask candidates to help you identify the fit you need when you need it. 


Big data analytics might one day replace today’s recruitment process by matching people with jobs like online dating services match potential romantic partners.  But for at least a little while longer when a small or medium sized business tries to hire a new employee the primary app used to make the match will be called the interview.

The candidate interview is a very imperfect tool. The ‘data’ on interviews efficacy tells us that most interviewers are only moderately successful in determining if a candidate is the best fit for a role and the organization. 

Build A More Effective Interview Space

There are many reasons the interview is an imperfect tool for candidate selection – interviewers bring in their own biases, some candidates benefit form the halo effect, candidates performance can be hampered by poor preparation, the interviewer often lacks real clarity on the needs of the role. In fact it is not uncommon for an interviewer to not know clearly know what they are looking for in a Candidate. 

Many business owners who do their own hiring are not trained interviewers. And even interviewers with experience often just hope they will “know it when they see it”.

While spotting technical qualifications can be somewhat straight forward, other elements of a good candidate, such as qualities, work style, interpersonal skills and more can be difficult to reconcile.

To improve your skills in conducting an interview keep in mind these two interviewer variables:

1 – Minimize Bias:

With regards to over coming bias, to a large extent awareness of some of these factors is an important step in the process of managing them.

Being consciously aware that a candidates appearance, accent, ethnicity, age and more can impact your perceptions of the candidates ability and fit can help you reduce the impact of these traits on your decision making. Nobel winning psychologist Danial Khaneman has demonstrated in his work on perception that awareness can help thinking and decision-making be more effective. You can check out his 2011 book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ to learn more about how our perceptions, expectations and cognitive biases have a significant impact on our decision-making.

If you learn to minimize the impact of your biases you can improve your chances of hiring the best-qualified candidate for the job.

2. Know what you are looking for:

When evaluating candidate responses it is not enough to just listen to the candidate’s answers and make notes.

As a first step in enabling the questions you ask to work for you, you have to consider well your own workplace, your current employees and the type of organization you are trying to build.  Before you ask questions to candidates ask these questions to your best and most valued employees and listen to their response. By making note of the traits these employees bring to the organization you can improve your ability to spot it in others.

Remember you are not looking for the same response; you are looking to understand the ways in which good employees respond to these questions.

Candidate Fit

To improve your odds of hiring the best candidate for your organization it is important to understand what you are looking for beyond technical qualifications.

Workplace culture is a commonly used ‘buzz word’ today and not always well applied. While workplace culture fit can be important it can also be limiting. Hiring all the same type of employees that fit into an existing culture can reduce innovation or adaptability.  It can be as important to hire certain types of employees who poses traits you need to bring into a team or organization as is can be to hire those who ‘fit in’. A combination of employees who fit in and who stand out can enable you to build a successful team.

To do this you want to consider what traits you have and what traits you need on the team.  

Asking questions that elicit information about the persons character, interests, work environment preferences and general approach to work can help you better understand if the candidate will be a good fit for your organization.  

Here are 6 questions you can ask to try to find the employees who will fit in and/or stand out.

1. Describe the best day at work that you have had? 

In responding to this question a candidate can share insights into what matters to him/her in the workplace and you can hear elements of the way the candidate approaches work. Probe by asking questions about how the candidate measures a good day, how a good day impacts their performance and how they turn around a bad day.

Next- Questions 2-6 you can ask to try to find the employees and Qualities of Employee Contribution

Tara Orchard
Tara Orchard
Tara Orchard is a coach, trainer, consultant and writer who applies her insights into people and Masters training in psychology to facilitate performance improvements, relationships and communication for people and businesses. She has worked with organizations to deliver clarity on culture and brand, develop their people and manage relationships with social network communities. Over the past 18 years she has consulted with 1000's of people who want to make effective transitions in their lives. Tara has a knack for hearing what people are thinking and helping them see what they need to see. She is the founder of her own career and social network coaching business, works with several other organizations as a coach and consultant and is about to complete her first book on the "psychology of effective social networking".

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