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Thought Leader Series: The Two Questions You Must Ask During Every Job Interview

Jul 15 , 2015
job interview

In every interview, you ask questions. There are two questions that stand above all others - two that just might get you the answers you need to select the best candidate, every time.

And the best part? The questions are neither overly complicated (e.g., How many ping-pong balls fit in a school bus?) or a silly cliché (e.g., What is your greatest weakness?). Instead, they get to the heart of the matter: Does this applicant thoroughly understand their value, and how will their working style complement your existing team?

Here are those two magical questions:

Why Should We Hire You?

As simple (and perhaps as common) as this question may be, it helps the interviewer learn three simple things:

  • How well does the candidate know - and how well can they articulate - their strengths, skills and qualifications?
  • How well does the candidate understand the mission of your organization and the role for which they applied?
  • Have they considered how working in this specific role will help you accomplish that mission?

So when the candidate answers this question, don't settle for a deep dive into their hometown, what they enjoyed most about college, or their family life. Don't let them regurgitate the company mission statement or spout the standard "I'm a hard worker" or "All I need is a chance" lines.

Instead, push them until it is clear they understand how their skills and experience would help them excel in this role at your company. Or until it becomes clear they have no idea how they might help move your mission forward. After all, isn't that what you really want to know?

Describe a Real-Life Problem. How Did You Solve It?

With this question, you are not just measuring the candidate's ability to think critically and develop solutions - but you're also seeing if they understand the impact of the solution itself.

As they begin to answer this question, keep in mind that the story they tell isn't all that important. In fact, the situation they describe may have nothing to do with your business. So rather than get caught up in the details, focus on the confidence in which the story is told.

Specifically, look for:

  • The Beginning | What was the problem? What impact did the problem have on the organization?
  • The Middle | How did the applicant solve - or help solve - the problem? Who was helped? How did lives or business change? Specifically, what role did the candidate play?
  • The End | What was the real impact of their work? How many dollars were saved? What percentage of operations were impacted? What was the effect on the customer? As the candidate concludes the story, look for quantified statements (numbers, percentage signs or dollar signs) to show they absolutely understand how this story affected the bottom line and/or mission.

This is more than just a good question; this is your opportunity to hear a good story.

There are many other questions you can - and probably should - ask during every job interview. But these are the two you must ask. Because the answers will tell you more about that candidate's confidence level and qualifications than a resume, LinkedIn profile or online presence ever could.

Mark Babbitt, CEO and Founder of YouTern, is an in-demand career mentor, blogger, author and speaker. For more great career advice, visit

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