The 4 Questions You Should Be Asking Candidates in an Interview

by Michelle (Shelly) Wallace Johnson

Questions you should ask candidates

When your internal hiring process is broken and the engagement survey shows less than satisfactory results, you might want to consider bringing in a recruitment process outsourcing company (RPO).

Hueman RPO, a Jacksonville-based RPO company, was brought in to assist with the recruitment and hiring issues of a large organization’s Environmental Care Unit (EVC).  The EVC did not have an issue with a lack of candidates, but rather an issue with engagement and turnover. Prior to partnering with Hueman, the organization had a 65 percent turnover rate in a five month time period (October - February). As of June 2018 after changing the way they conducted their interviews, the EVC reduced its turnover to 11.5 percent!

What did Hueman teach HR leaders that resulted in such a drastic transformation? ?

It starts with a panel interview versus a single person interview. The optimal panel is three to four people, with one member being from human resources. The panel interview is structured and consistent, using behavior interviewing techniques. One person takes the lead for the step-by-step process of the interview, then the other panelists discuss the candidate once the interview is completed.

During the training, Hueman worked with Hiring Managers to teach them strategies to help hire for culture.

Joe Marino, Senior Vice President at Hueman, stated “If the candidate doesn’t fit, then the panelists do not continue to discuss them.”. Ultimately, Hueman has found that being hyper-focused on culture, leads to higher engagement and therefore higher retention.

The next step in improving hiring processes  is changing the types of questions being asked and the length of time spent with each candidate. For example, prior to the partnership, hiring managers  would only spend 15 minutes interviewing each EVC candidate, not allowing the interviewer to go into much depth. Now, the panel interviews last an hour or so, and goes back to high school experiences.

According to Marino this is important because, “the experiences when younger tend to dictate what happens in their career and later in life.”

If a candidate has been out of high school for many years, then Marino recommends altering the questions to focus on the past ten years of their career.

Webinar: How to Get to the Human Behind the Job Candidate



Behavioral interviewing is not a new technique, yet many hiring managers don’t use it.  Body language is part of behavioral interviewing. Careerbuilder conducted a study consisting of 2,100 hiring managers and human resource managers and asked about physical appearance during an interview. They created a list of behavior quirks that did not create a good impression.

The top three inappropriate or disliked behaviors listed were:

  1. Failing to make eye contact - 65%

  2. Failing to smile - 36%

  3. Playing with something on the table - 33%

The 4 Questions

Hueman uses four questions to help determine a culture fit based on behavior.

  1. Who was their supervisor? (ask to spell the last name)

  2. How was ‘name’ as a boss?

  3. If we asked ‘name’ about you, what would ‘name’ say about you?

  4. How many people were on your team in the same role? How would ‘name’ rank you within this group, 1 being the highest?

Asking these four questions give candidates the impression that panelists will be following up with those managers for references. Often times, this causes candidates to open up about difficult situations and how they dealt with them. It’s a great way for panelist to see the real human behind the candidate - not just who they portray pre-hire.  

When asking these questions, it’s also important for panelists need to pay attention to the candidate’s body language. This strategy assists interviewers in determining honesty of a candidate’s responses. For example, if the candidate starts becoming fidgety, they probably are not telling the whole truth.

It’s important to understand what your organization’s culture is and to have it clearly defined before implementing the panel interview process. Once that has been established,  hiring managers can then begin to form an interview process that will lead to finding candidates that are closely aligned.

To learn more about Hueman’s interview best practices, watch Marino’s 30-minute webinar and download their free eBook here.

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