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How to answer candidate interview questions

The job search isn’t what it once was, and interviews shouldn’t be either.

We no longer recruit our friends to spend an afternoon stuffing envelopes. No one hits the streets to look for ‘Help Wanted’ signs anymore. We go on the interwebs, click ‘apply’, and upload our resume, and maybe write a cover letter. If through these uploads we convince all the bots and gatekeepers that we’re worth meeting, we land ourselves an interview—either by phone or in person. And if we’re really good job seekers, we Google something like, “Questions to ask an interviewer.”

Sure, it starts out as a Google search, but soon after job seekers think about the questions and customize them to their value system. The questions are important. So how do candidates know that the hiring manager is answering them correctly and transparently?

In our record low job market, everyone is a candidate. The company, not just the job seeker, is being interviewed, too. Infinia Search thinks hiring managers can prepare for the interview the same way as candidates: by reading a carefully crafted blog that not only outlines the most common interviewee questions, but also advises interviewers how to best answer them.

1. What does your ideal candidate look like?

If this question comes up, it’s because you didn’t make clear (like you should have) what ideas you have for the person in this role. Nowadays companies create an ideal candidate description, or a list of must-have or nice-to-have qualities before the job even posts. If you have that info, let the candidate know. Not only will you be able to cite transparency as a quality of your own character, but by disclosing it early in the interview process, candidates will clearly see if they are—or maybe more importantly if they are not—eligible for the job.

2. What can you tell me about the reason this job is unfilled?

Has your company just identified a need and now wishes to expand? Do you need to replace someone because they were promoted, or jumped ship? Be honest. It’s important for candidates to know why you’re looking for new colleagues.

If the business is growing, it’s important to state this as your reason for hiring. It could motivate the candidate to more seriously consider your company. If the candidate is looking for a temporary position, knowing that you need full-time work upfront could cause them to withdrawal their application. You’d rather that happen early in the interview process, rather than after three rounds of interviews and an offer.

3. What have you enjoyed most about working here?

If this question stumps you, you probably don’t like your job or your company, or both very much, and it shows. If you can’t talk passionately about a single aspect, or if you hesitate and fumble, the candidate will see this as a big red flag.

Your company’s website should advertise the benefits of working there, i.e. a flex schedule, a shorter work week, or free bagels on Wednesdays. If your company doesn’t advertise these perks online, but does offer them, let your candidate know.

4. Who would I work with & what does the team look like?

If you can’t best answer this question, but you know someone from the team is nearby and available to answer, consider inviting them into the interview. Or, anticipate this common question and get ahead of it. Include a few words about the team in the initial job post. Let the candidate decide early on if the receiving team is big enough to give them the support they need, or if there’s too many cooks in the kitchen for their taste.

5. What does a typical workday look like?

No matter how detailed your job posting is, or how transparently you answer their questions, candidates will still wonder exactly what a typical day looks like at your company. Who better to answer this question than the team members themselves!? If the candidate is a stud and you think you’d like to extend an offer, or if they’re passive and you want to show them your company has a truly amazing culture, invite them back for a day-in-the-life tour. Introduce the candidate to their potential team, and have members talk about their daily routines, and the reason they walk through your doors every day. Not only will your current employees’ stories paint a truer picture, it will also show your team’s diversity and various backgrounds.

6. What personal & professional development opportunities do you offer?

Growth within a company is extremely important. Does your company have training programs in place? Is there access to growth platforms? Is there a training budget to support course offerings outside the organization?

These perks are more important than a ping pong table in the breakroom to all employees, but especially to Millennials whose decisions are heavily influenced based on growth opportunities. Make sure to also mention them in your job post or on your website.

7. What are the biggest challenges facing your company, and would I be in a position to help solve them?

This question shows that your candidate is already thinking about how they can help the team. Tell them about current obstacles, what is going well, what you hope to achieve, and where you need help. Sharing this info adds an increased sense of value. Because more than salary and perks, having purpose matters the most.