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Three Interview Questions to Get Beyond the Resume

Resumes are an important hiring tool, but their usefulness wanes as you progress through the recruitment cycle. Once you hit the interview stage, the resume should serve as no more than a reminder of the applicant’s work history. 
Candidate resume on laptopWouldn’t it be great if we could learn everything we need to know about job candidates by reading resumes? Imagine how much easier the hiring process would be. Interviews could then become friendly meet-and-greets and CFO’s everywhere would stop worrying about the cost of turnover.
In reality, that’s not what happens. I’ll bet there’s an interview going on right now where the hiring manager is studying a resume under the watchful gaze of an anxious applicant instead of having a meaningful conversation about work ethic and career motivations. And that same hiring manager will have to assess the candidate’s fit with the organization at the end of their allotted time together.
How do you get away from the resume and into deeper topics that matter? It’s a challenge but it’s not impossible. A little advance preparation—and these three questions—will help you get beyond the resume and add depth to your hiring decisions.

Power Questions Are Good For Your Employer Brand

Power questions are open ended invitations to share. They have three things going for them:

  • They stimulate real conversation.
  • They’re revealing in that they can’t be answered in a single sentence.
  • They enhance your employer brand because candidates leave the interview feeling better understood.

Here’s something else you should know about the power questions we’re suggesting. While traditional interview questions are designed to test a candidate’s job knowledge, the three we’re presenting here are meant to provide insight how the candidate works so that you can assess their overall fit for the open role. Presumably, your recruitment and prescreening process will have already verified the candidate’s experience, technical skills, and certifications.
There are no right or wrong answers. Each question should produce a conversation, giving you the opportunity to express interest and probe further until you understand the candidate’s position.

1. Can you tell me about a defining event in your past that affects the way you work today?

Your candidate may need a few moments to come up with an event as they won’t have anticipated this one. You may feel uncomfortable with the silence as they think about it but resist the urge to prompt them. You also may find after several minutes of talking about a defining moment, they want to change to a different story. That’s not a bad thing. As they’re talking they may realize there’s something even more relevant that didn’t immediately come to mind.

2. What would you like your next supervisor to know about you in order to make this your best working experience?

The longer you stay with this question, the more you’ll learn about the candidate’s self-awareness, the type of environment that’s best for him or her, and their overall career goals. Most candidates have no difficulty coming up with a quick response to this one. Your job is to draw them out to gain a fuller picture.

3. Tell me about some of the things you do in your current job that are above what is expected of you or outside of your job description.

Of the three, this one has been the most powerful for me. It’s such an innocent and simple question yet this is where you really get to dive into work ethic. Once your candidate begins to list the extras they do, you have the opportunity to ask them what motivates them to do those things. What do they get out of it? You could find out that the quiet candidate sitting in front of you has a firm grasp on team morale and works in the background to build it. You might never gain that insight in a resume-centric job interview.


Don’t rely on candidate resumes to drive the conversation during formal interviews. Instead, use open-ended questions — like the three above — to better understand each candidate’s approach to safety, career motivations, and work style.

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