The Art of Discovery Questions in Hiring: How to Ensure you are Asking Candidates the Right Questions

Employee people at modern office.

By Allison Todd

The last time I checked, no one exactly enjoys the hiring process. Combing through countless applicants, weeding out the unqualified, interviewing the few that may be a good fit, and then onboarding the chosen one is about as fun as having a root canal on Christmas Eve in the middle of a snowstorm. 

You want to make sure that you’re not wasting your time hiring the wrong candidate just to have to start the process all over again. Let’s go over some questions you should be asking during discovery to guarantee you’re hiring the right person the first time. 

Picking the best candidate boils down to having a solid hiring strategy in place before you ever post the job ad. We’re not just talking about qualifications and salary range; no, no, we mean knowing, in detail, the interview questions that you’ll ask candidates to zero in on the most qualified person for the job. 

What is Discovery and Why is it Important? 

When a company advertises an open position, they typically end up with a slew of applicants, the vast majority of whom are not qualified and many that are just casually looking to see what’s out there. Discovery is the process through which hiring managers or business owners are able to vet candidates by asking interview questions such as Why do you want to work here?

However, one does not go into an interview all willy-nilly and expect to walk away with the prime candidate for the role! Quite the contrary, the company should be putting effort and research into selecting interview questions that will give the employer the best picture of the person behind the resume and what they could expect from them as a new hire. 

Generally speaking, the best discovery questions allow candidates the chance to speak freely and elaborate on their past experiences as well as their future aspirations. These questions will reveal their personality and skills in a way that an online questionnaire never could. 

Picking the Right Interview Questions 

This part can be tedious, not gonna lie. However, it’s the difference between picking a temporary employee or finding your newest loyal team member. So, it’s definitely worth the effort. 

We’re not going to tell you the exact questions to ask since that should really be based on your company and the kind of individual you’re seeking to hire. But we will tell you the kinds of questions you should be asking as well as a few questions that are always nice to pepper in. It’s basically a “just add water” type of situation. 

#1 Questions Should be Open-Ended

One of the best pieces of advice we can give you is for your questions to be open-ended. Allow the candidate to have space to go beyond the initial question and show some of their personality and communication skills, rather than answering with a simple “yes” or “no.” This kind of question encourages the candidate to dig a little deeper and show off their intelligence (hopefully). 

#2 Ask Questions to Reveal Fit for Culture

Most employers agree that finding someone who can fit into the current company culture is always a key factor in selecting a new employee. That’s why it’s important to ask questions that will reveal the person’s mindset and personality. Ask questions that would show if they’d be able to quickly assimilate into your company’s work style and if they’d be comfortable collaborating with other team members and team coaching

#3 Don’t Forget the Soft Skills

While it’s obviously important to make sure the candidate can perform the necessary skills for the job, or that they have the ability to learn them, it’s equally important to learn about their soft skills. Examples of these would be teamwork, attitude, flexibility, and dependability. These are the skills that will speak to their ability to work with a team and lead others. 

Questions to Ask in Every Interview

As promised, here are a few specific questions that we always suggest asking in your interviews. These are not related to any particular industry or position, so it’s important to still ask questions revealing the candidate’s ability to perform applicable tasks using the above tips as a guide. 

What Kind of Workplace are you Looking For? 

This question will reveal what a person values in their work environment and if your office/company would be a good fit for them. If they only want to work remotely and you’re needing a front desk presence, they may not be the right fit. Listen to what they say they’re looking for to see where their values lay. Are they looking for a fast-paced job? Caring coworkers? A casual laid-back office or a more formal workplace? Ask and find out. 

Why are You Interested in Working for This Company? 

Let’s not beat around the bush. Just tell us what you like about us and why you’re even here.  Easy enough, right? You want to find someone not just interested in making money but someone who knows about your company and believes in it enough to want to be a part of it. By the end of this question, you should understand why they’re interested in your company specifically. 

Why Did You Leave Your Last Position? 

This one can feel a bit invasive but it’s important to ask them if you’re going to try to keep them past their first year. Also, their reasoning will reveal a lot about their commitment and loyalty while you’ll be able to find out if they were laid off, fired, or truly left for better opportunities. The reason they’re leaving, or considering leaving, says a lot about their future expectations. 

What is a Mistake You Made at Work? How Did You Overcome It? 

If you really want to see their personality, ask this question. Not only will you see how they talk about failure, but you’ll also see how they recover from it. The way someone navigates a mistake says a lot about their character and teachability. 

What is Something You’re Proud of Professionally?

This question is a good follow-up to the previous one and it gives the candidate an opportunity to toot their own horn after admitting to a mistake. Hopefully, they’ll have an achievement that they accomplished in previous jobs that they can share with you. This question will show you some of their skills and aptitudes that they’d be bringing with them to your company. 

Are You Able to Multitask and Manage Stress?

This question is particularly important for those companies that have fast-paced environments and need someone that can jump in without succumbing to stress. Ask the candidate how they handle multiple tasks with varying priorities and deadlines. Have they worked busy seasons before? If so, how did they handle the stress? 

Do You Have Any Questions for Me? 

This is one of our favorites because it will show if they did their research and how interested they are in your company and the position. No questions at all could be a sign of a lack of engagement and follow-through. 

Want to Make a Good Hire? Ask Good Questions. 

If you want to avoid going through the new hire process multiple times in a year, start by creating a strategic plan for your interviews and the discovery process. Ask questions that are tough but insightful. Challenge the candidate to think on their feet and see if they’re a good fit for your team and company. 

Discovery is an art, but it’s one worth pursuing and perfecting. 

About the Author

alisson toddAllison Todd is a coach and consultant with over 20 years of experience transforming small and large businesses’ operations and profitability. Whether it’s beginning, launching, or scaling a business, Allison founded her coaching and mentoring businesses with the hopes of helping clients conquer their fears and build confidence to take their business to the next level. 


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