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Candidates who make it all the way to an in-person interview obviously have a lot going for them. Once the initial screening process is complete, it's time to bring them in to gain a better sense of what they bring to the table. Talking in-person provides hiring managers the opportunity to more closely assess an applicant's work ethic, personality, and values. A candidate who looks great on paper might reveal themselves to be a poor fit for a company's unique culture. Alternatively, a candidate with an underwhelming resume might set themselves apart with intangibles. In either event, making these assessments means drawing open, honest responses from the candidate.
Anyone who reaches this stage has obviously done their research. Reading up on a company, the savvy applicant can easily determine what a hiring manager "wants to hear." Well-researched answers show that the applicant is willing to dedicate time and effort. They do not, however, speak to the candidate's ability to think on their feet. What can companies do to appraise these skills? The MRI Network's Nancy Halverson suggests asking the unexpected questions. While "A few standard questions may be necessary to equal the playing field among candidates," Halverson believes, "asking targeted and unexpected questions during an interview can produce genuine natural responses that are more indicative of a job seeker's true character."
She recommends the following questions to help locate top talent and identify the best cultural fits for your organization:
1. What were you doing on your very best day at work?
This question provides genuine insight into a candidate's strength and weaknesses. Hiring managers can compare these against their company's wants and needs. Candidates will likely choose a day that saw them solve a long-standing issue or reach a critical breakthroughs. These anecdotes will help businesses determine how a candidate will contribute to the bottom line and progress throughout their career. Even non-monumental examples can indicate a solid, consistent work ethic.
2. What was the most interesting encounter you've had in the past few months?
The potential benefit of this left-field question is twofold. First, you'll learn how a candidate reflects on an experience that stood out to them. Maybe it was an inspiring conversation? Or perhaps it was a tech discovery that's made life easier. Their answer could reveal their thirst for innovation, problem solving skills, or any number of applicable skills. Second, the answer will enable top recruits to show off their creative sides.
3. What did you do on the day after Hurricane Irma or another major event?
According to Jodi Kantor of the New York Times, the true goal of any interview is to better understand the "real-life experience of a person." Speaking to their own experiences, candidates can provide telling and illustrative detail. Take care, however, to ask a non-invasive question. For example, asking the candidate how they spent the day after a personal tragedy or the 2016 election could go poorly. Asked thoughtfully, this question could elicit some of your most candid responses. It goes well beyond the "what ifs" of traditional hypothetical questions.
"Again," concludes Halverson, "asking the unexpected questions can help paint a full picture of your candidate. From the way they think, react and respond, an answer to this kind of question conveys true character through spontaneity."