Here's the plain truth about interview questions: they tend to repeat themselves. There's a reason "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Is one of the go-to for interview clichés - it's one of several questions interviewees can count on being asked.
The other incredible truth is that, despite having a good sense of what's going to be covered, potential candidates continue to tank their answers in new and baffling ways.
Smart interviewers are looking for red flags from the moment first contact is made (personally, I've never had a bad handshake with a good person). In fact, 33 percent of bosses know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire someone. However, we have to humor all interviewees with a few questions. While we often know what we aren't looking for in an answer, do you really know what you are looking for?
There are hundreds of different interview questions to ask. In preparation for this article I surveyed dozens of CEOs to find out the 10 best questions to share. However, after reviewing all their responses, and the reasons behind the asks, it became clear that there was one question that rose above the rest:
"What drives you?"
"It's a question that shows self awareness, your true self and what fulfills you. Understanding what truly drives someone will give you a lot of insight about that person," said Chad Jones, CEO of CEO of Boston-based investment fund Plesso Ventures.
Passion and drive go hand in hand. If someone isn't passionate about something chances are they are looking for fulfillment everywhere else. Happiness requires diversity of thought and action and if you're looking for your employer to provide it all, we will fail miserably every time.
We are naturally drawn to what we are good at. Employees are no different. Aligning an employee with tasks and responsibilities they are organically interested in can ultimately increase your bottom line. Research shows that strength-based cultures attract top recruits and can increase company profit 14 percent - 29 percent.
No one is passionate about spreadsheets and progress reports. But it's natural for an interviewee to stay on surface, work-related topics. They are applying for a job after all. What really matters is what they answer when you ask them to dig deeper and share something personal.
Side note: when a candidate responds to a simple question about how they spend their free time by countering with the absurd notion that they in fact choose to work during their free time, they're lying. Or worse, they haven't figured out what their true passion is.
Any organization worth its oats is looking to establish a kick-ass culture, which requires passionate interests outside of work. If we took this answer at face value, we'd be agreeing to enter a joyless individual into some sort of indentured servitude scenario, by their own request.
How you interpret the answer will determine if they are a fit. Are you asking this question to best align them in the company? If so, pay attention to what could be driving their passion. Are they passionate about painting? They are likely creative, and given the right training and position, could excel in a role where creativity is the biggest skill requirement.
Are they passionate about coaching their son's basketball team? They could be great at managing projects and teams in the midst of chaos.
For others, it is one of those questions where the actual activity isn't important, it's how their eyes light up when they talk about it. Excitement is contagious and the intentional act of doing something, anything, is absolutely the standard in 'A' players.