Talent Acquisition

10 Candidate Questions That’ll Make You Squirm (But Earn)

There’s nothing worse than working closely with a candidate and genuinely believing that you’ve found them the PERFECT role, only to confidently deliver them the offer and have a curveball hit you out of nowhere! They tell you that they’ve decided to stay at their current company, or that something else has popped up down the road, meaning they can be home by 6pm to see their children for an extra hour (children, they didn’t mention any children to you)?

These nail-biting questions will ensure that you leave no stone unturned and will help to eliminate those nasty last minute surprises!

1. Why do you want to leave?

It’s important that at this stage you assure the candidate it’s a completely confidential conversation. What you don’t want to do is put them forward for a role which could result in the candidate encountering the same frustrations and dropping out prematurely (it doesn’t look good for you or the candidate). Asking them this question outright will also give you a good talking point, allowing you to delve deeper into what they’d like to see from a new position. This also opens up a great opportunity to sell your role to them!

2. Take this role to one side, what would your perfect role look like?

The best way of asking this is to explain that you have a number of roles open constantly, and that you want to work out whether there is anything else worth putting them forward for.

Okay sure, this can be difficult to digest as they rattle off a list of  industries and responsibilities that they’d love to get involved in… especially when that list starts to look like the polar opposite of the job description you recently sent through to them.

The best tip? Be honest and push back on them. Ask, ‘why this role’? They might surprise you when they describe to you one aspect which really interests them. If it really doesn’t look like a match made in heaven, at least you save yourself the heartache in the long run from a rejected offer, and instead form a list of target companies to proactively target on their behalf, based on what they are looking for.

3. Have you spoken to your boss about the fact that you’re unhappy?

Find this question difficult to ask? Don’t! Sure, some candidates are nervous about approaching their boss and tackling their frustrations head on, without the safety-net of a new job-offer lined up, but it’s good to have honest conversations to make sure everyone is on the same page. Explain the benefit to them of having this conversation up front. Why? As soon as they hand in their notice, the likelihood is that this conversation will take place and the candidate will receive a counter offer. If your candidate’s issue with their current role is something that is easily fixed by their boss, you could end up in a sticky situation! It’s best for everyone to find this out earlier on in the process!

4. Have you looked for other opportunities internally?

Maybe the candidate is frustrated with the responsibilities of their current job role, but they’re fully immersed in the company, it’s values and culture (especially if they’ve been with the company for a long time). If they’re applying internally, find out what stage they are at (many companies will prioritise internal applications over external ones) and talk to them about the pros and cons of staying with the same organisation. Make sure the offer you get them isn’t going to just be a bargaining chip for them to get a pay-rise internally!

5. Are you in the process of applying elsewhere?

Aside from the candidate’s application/s with you, what else do they have going on? Most ‘active’ candidates in the marketplace will have more than one iron in the fire (and that’s fine, you want them to make a well informed decision!) However, there are a couple of additional questions that you can ask that will really help you gauge how serious this candidate is about their application…

6. (If they are) Which role is currently your preference and why?

This is where honesty from the candidate is really important. If your role is priority number 10, is it worth your time and effort representing them?

7. How many other applications do you have?

I’ve personally been faced with that horrible feeling in the pit in your stomach when a candidate tells you that they have 8 or 9 other interviews within the next week. Why so many? Sometimes the most in-demand candidates can be the most difficult to work with. Getting a heads up on this is important, so you know you’re probably going to have to exert extra control over the process.

8. Who else in your life will influence your decision?

Partners, family members and significant others all play a huge role in people’s decisions when they are considering making a big change in their life. Hopefully, they will have spoken to their partner / family members about this role or at least about the fact that they would like to move. If they haven’t, this would be an alarm bell for me! (Ask them if there’s any reason they haven’t, and whether they are serious about moving on form their current role).

9. Have you been turned down by another company recently? Why?

I once had a candidate tell me that he got very nervous in a presentation, became flustered in the interview and referred to it as a ‘car crash situation’ (he was actually attending a presentation-based interview for me the following week) and it had clearly knocked his confidence. To conquer this I set up a meeting with him before the interview and had him present back to me first. We talked through the presentation and I threw tricky questions at him, but also assured him that it was a really good presentation!  So, when it came to the day, it seemed like a breeze in comparison to his last interview. If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have known…

10. Do you have any reservations in accepting this role if offered?

**Close eyes and bite lip on the other end of the phone as you ask this question**

It’s such a powerful question to ask. Hopefully they will say ‘no’, but even if they say ‘yes’, these are things that you can still overcome before their mind is made up. Maybe they really like the role but it doesn’t offer flexi-working (easily solved – one phone call to the hiring manager to ask whether this is an option / how they could accommodate) and relaying this to the candidate.

The most important thing to consider when representing candidates, is that you need to gather as much information as possible and make sure you’ve done everything you can to accommodate their need and reservations BEFORE delivering any offer of employment to a candidate. The last thing you want to be faced with is a candidate turning down the offer based on something that could have been avoided if tackled earlier in the process. Effective questioning and ensuring that the candidate is able to be honest with you are key components to understanding your candidate’s needs. From here it will be easier to manage the process between your candidate and client and  and ultimately understand whether this is the right role for them!

By Naomi Baggs

Account Executive at Link Humans, download our 12 Essentials of Employer Branding eBook now.