Articles about job interview questions abound; search "job interview questions" and Google lists 3.7 million results. (Second on the list is an article I wrote on the most common job interview questions and answers that has been read by more 8 million people.)
All of which is great for job candidates: The better their interview prep -- the better they can answer the interviewer's questions -- the more likely they are to get the job.
But there's a flip side to the process. With the Great Resignation in full swing, great candidates are more able than ever to select the job -- and the company -- they want to work for.
Which means you, the interviewer, need to be just as prepared to answer the candidate's questions -- especially the candidates you really want to hire -- as they are to answer yours.
Here are questions great job candidates ask you must be prepared to answer.
1. "What skills and qualities do your top performers possess?"
Great people want to be great employees, and they know every organization is different -- and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations.
What makes your top performers stand out? Maybe creativity trumps methodology. Maybe landing new customers drives greater value than building long-term relationships. Maybe your best leaders -- especially if your workplace is largely virtual -- are more practical than charismatic.
Also keep in mind that what you value helps define your culture. Culture isn't what you say; culture is what you do.
Smart people -- smart job candidates -- know that.
2 "What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 days?"
Face it -- being the new hire kinda sucks.
The best candidates seek to overcome "newbie syndrome" by hitting the ground running. By achieving results. By accomplishing things. By proving they belong through their actions, not their credentials or experience.
They'll really want to know your expectations so they can start making a difference immediately -- and join the ranks of your top performers as soon as possible. Be prepared to explain, in detail, what you want them to accomplish. Goals. Milestones. Timelines.
Sure, mediocre candidates might be scared off.
But great candidates will be excited by the challenge.
3. "Can you tell me about something that happened at your organization that wouldn't happen elsewhere?
As Adam Grant writes, research shows most companies fall prey to "organizational uniqueness bias," assuming that their company's culture is more distinctive than it really is.
Pretend I just asked that question. What would you say? Given no time to prepare, you'll probably talk about the time an employee went the extra mile to solve a customer's problem. Or the time employees took on extra duties to give a colleague time to deal with a family emergency. Or the time you gave a long-term customer a break on payment terms "because business is business, but business is really about people."
Great -- but just about every interviewer can tell those stories. Take the time to consider what really makes your culture different. What you or your employees do that few others do.
What sets you apart, and makes you the employer of choice for people with the same values and perspectives and goals.
4. "Why is this job open?"
Answering is easy. Either the previous person quit, got promoted or moved laterally, or it's a new position.
But don't stop there. If the previous person quit, explain why. Maybe the job provided experience that allowed them to land a higher-level job elsewhere. Or they weren't a good fit, which gives you the opportunity to describe why the candidate is a good fit.
If the previous person got promoted, use that to talk about opportunities for growth.
And if it's a new position, definitely provide context. Why the job was created. What the goals are. How the job will create value. How you hope the person hired will shape the job and its duties.
If you're unprepared, the "Why is this job open?" question could make you feel defensive.
If you're prepared, it's an opportunity.
5. "How often will I receive formal and informal feedback?"
Keep in mind that some people love feedback -- especially positive feedback -- while others only want to learn about what they could do better. (Like me.)
So first explain your typical process. Frequency of formal performance appraisals. Feedback timelines for new hires. Basic stuff.
Then go further. Since great leaders adapt to the needs of their employees, ask how the candidate prefers for feedback to be handled. Maybe you'll agree -- if the candidate is hired -- to do weekly check-ins for the first 60 days. Maybe you'll agree to a formal review after 30 days. Maybe you'll agree to a daily 10-minute Zoom call for a remote employee to answer questions, clear roadblocks, and clarify tasks.
Because how you prefer to provide feedback doesn't matter.
What matters is that the way you deliver feedback helps your employees perform at their best.
6. "What are your expectations regarding off-hours communication?"
According to research published earlier this year in Journal of Management, formal policies don't limit the stress, anxiety, and impact on personal time caused by after-hours emails.
To make things worse, a study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes shows that co-workers significantly overestimate how quickly senders expect replies to non-urgent emails -- especially those sent outside "normative" hours like nights or weekends.
But then there's this: Setting expectations up front does tend to reduce the negative impact of off-hours communication.
So if you expect employees to be available outside of work hours, say so. Explain why, how, and under what conditions. And don't be tempted to soft-sell the frequency.
Because then you're likely to lose a great employee once he or she figures out what you really expect.
7. "What is something I don't want to know about this job?"
No job is perfect. (Otherwise it wouldn't be a job.)
Maybe priorities regularly shift. (If you run a startup, priorities seem to shift from hour to hour.) Maybe job descriptions are more suggestive than absolute and employees regularly wear different hats. Maybe you know exactly what you want the employee you hire to accomplish, but not how.
Whatever it is, be honest. Not only is being candid the right thing to do, but oddly enough it also might make the person you hire more likely to succeed. Research shows that telling someone that something will be hard -- telling them they are likely to face roadblocks and resistance -- helps them cope with the mental challenges that naturally occur.
So don't sugarcoat the effort involved. Great candidates will love the challenge. They'll embrace the opportunity to show that whatever they need to accomplish won't be that hard.
At least not for them.