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The Nine-Question, Twenty-Minute Interview
6 Things Your Recruiters Want

The Nine-Question, Twenty-Minute Interview

Part 2 of 2

We have limited time to dedicate to any search, whether contingent or retained. Recruiters must be ruthlessly efficient in determining whether an individual might be a potential candidate for the search.

Here are the remaining questions to ask in order to quickly and efficiently determine if you have met the right candidate:

5. Why Are You Interested In My Client’s Company?

Alternatively ask, "Why are you interested in leaving your present job?" These responses will give you two sides of the coin: the positive desires and negative dissatisfactions. If the answer is "money," and this is the sole motivation, then caution should be exercised because another company will tempt this person away from your client’s organization with a little more money later on. If an applicant has done research on your client and knows why he feels that working for them would be beneficial to his career, knows how the company relates to the industry as a whole, or how he would be stimulated by the working environment, these are positive signs of a mature decision making process. This question is an attitude indicator, and the answer can go a long way in developing your evaluation of the individual.

6. What Are Your Hobbies? What Do You Do In Your Spare Time?

When an individual talks about life outside the workplace, the answers to these questions give you a view into the individual's outlook on life and his or her aptitudes and attitudes. A person who is involved in competitive sports will be competitive in their job and a team player – an excellent characteristic for a salesperson, although perhaps not for a secretary. Individual sports such as running or bodybuilding are an indication of a person's dedication and concern for their personal image and health, or possibly their preference to work alone rather than on a team. Chess or bridge players or those who engage in other activities requiring mental challenges make excellent problem solvers or engineers. A person who spends every spare hour with his or her children will often make a good long-term employee because of their care for their family. Salespeople tend to enjoy activities where they can meet others, which can be reflected in their off-hour activities and hobbies.

7. What Are Your Long Range Goals? Where Do You Want To Be In Ten Years?

Taken with the individual's short-range goals, this answer can give you great insight into the potential to be tapped and the degree of investment your client may wish to make in this individual. The response will also assist you in assessing his or her ability to plan in order to achieve specific long-range objectives.

8. What Are Your Major Assets And Your Major Weaknesses?

While you can't expect a person to reveal their deepest, darkest secrets, you can expect the person to be able to recognize his or her obvious faults or deficiencies, whatever they may be. The more honest a person is while being self-critical will indicate their ability to handle criticism or correction from a manager (although this is not always so). One who can identify and correct their behavior has shown insight and thought in evaluating and improving their own progress. Well thought out assets indicate a person's level of self confidence and can help you assess whether their strengths can be fully utilized in the position you are offering.

9. How Have You Changed Over The Last Five Years?

The answer to this question will indicate a person's progress, both in their career and in their personal life. Follow up with the question, "How would you like to change in the next five years?" to see whether their own assessment matches what you can offer them. This will also indicate what kind of management style will work best once they are on the job. If a person has been making progress in their life, it is a good bet that they will continue to do so. Other facts such as their job progression, salary progression, and increasing levels of responsibilities will give you a clear picture of how the person will fit into your client’s organization. Also look for signs of personal growth, maturity, and positive feelings about those changes.


While no single question can give you the magic answer as to whether a person will fit the particular position you are recruiting for, these nine questions and their brief answers can give you a clear picture of a potential employee's attitudes and character, which are often better predictors of success than a technical competency or previous experience. Once the basic screening has been done, the ultimate decision-making factor is the chemistry between the employee and the hiring manager – and whether the "gut feel" is that this is the right person for the job.

This series of questions will bring out the some of what creates those feelings in a hiring manager, and will allow you to see more clearly the potential fit. At the minimum, it will serve to identify the few individuals who have the potential for the position for more thorough interviewing or testing. Finally, the degree to which the applicant is comfortable answering questions in general, and the level of preparation shown by their responses, will provide additional information about their self-awareness and maturity.

Read Part 1

-Lion Goodman

Lion Goodman is a business and life coach specializing in helping independent recruiters and small firms accomplish their business goals and achieve work/life balance. With 22 years experience in retained search, contingent recruitment, and executive coaching, he offers coaching to recruiters who are seeking management expertise, support, and advice.

© Copyright by Lion Goodman

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