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The 2 most powerful interview questions you can ask

The 2 most powerful interview questions you can ask

by Geoff Balmer

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Asking the right questions during an interview will help you to make the best hiring decision possible. General questions such as ‘tell me about yourself’ are a great place to start a conversation and will help both you and the candidate relax. But, with limited time available, the two most powerful interview questions you can ask are ‘What else would you do?’ and ‘Why would you do that?’ These 2 questions will get straight to the heart of whether a prospective employee can do the job. They can be used independently or together depending on the information you require.

Many hiring managers will ask what candidates might do if faced with a particular situation or how they might handle a problem should they encounter one. The smart hiring manager goes a step further and asks ‘Why would you do that?’ or ‘What else would you do?’.

Situational questions, used in the examples below, will provide you with an opportunity to gauge how a prospective candidate would respond to a situation that is relevant to your environment. Asking probing questions will help you observe how well your candidate can think on their feet. I’ve included two potential examples to illustrate situational questions in action.

Situation 1: You are hiring a manager to lead a strong-willed team.

Q: You have a team member who refuses to adopt new changes in the processes, how would you ensure that the changes take place? Why would you take that approach? What else would you do?

Situation 2: You need someone to manage a planned accounting software upgrade

Q: If you were to manage our upcoming software upgrade, what approach would you take? Why would you take that approach? What else would you do to ensure a successful implementation?

The key to successful interviewing is to probe into the answers you receive and gain a deeper understanding, not just surface level assumptions. Adopt this approach and you will walk away from the interview with a clear understanding of what the candidate has done previously or how they might handle your specific situations.  Having used this style of questioning for a number of years, I believe it is the most effective approach for getting an understanding of potential employees in a brief interview.

Stuck for question ideas? Our general interview questions and behavioural interview questions will get you started.