Interviews give candidates an opportunity to shine and also give hiring teams a chance to evaluate candidates based on skills, culture fit (and add) and behavioral attributes.
When candidates leave interviews feeling unfulfilled, it can be due to simple communication mistakes or misunderstandings. To avoid leaving a bad taste in their mouths, remember to clarify and verify what candidates are saying and what they're asking!
You may be thinking, "if candidates wanted to know something specifically, why don't they ask specifically that?" It can be tricky for candidates to fully disclose everything they are thinking, wondering or feeling during interviews. It could be nerves or general courtesy, but some questions are off limits to candidates by status quo.
These are the common questions candidates ask during interviews, what they often hear as responses, and what they are actually trying to learn about your organization or team. Use this information to better inform candidates and answer their questions during the interview process!
Common Candidate Questions & What They Really Want To Know
How would you describe the company culture?
Common interviewer response: This is a time when interviewers often describe the company's work hard, play hard attitude. People genuinely like working together, and they praise the environment for providing a place to have fun and grow. It all sounds awesome!
What candidates really want to hear: Do employees often stay late? Is there a good work-life balance? When candidates probe about culture, sure, they want to hear about your fun team outings and new ping pong tables. More importantly, they want to know how culture is relayed on a daily basis and if they'll enjoy being part of the team. Rather than stress only light topics, get into the nitty gritty of being an employee. Describe the work perks you most appreciate and that make an impact on your day-to-day.
Why did you choose to work here?
Common interviewer response: Interviewers typically share some enlightening story about being unhappy at their job and coincidentally finding this dream job that fell into place so nicely. They explain how much they loved the culture and team so it was a match made in heaven.
What candidates really want to hear: Candidates want to understand how current employees were attracted to the organization initially and how they were treated during the hiring process. Along with this, they really want to know what keeps employees happily working where they are. Everyone can relate to wanting a new job - whether that's due to needing a new challenge or escaping a bad boss. Sharing that can help candidates relate, but they don't actually want a personal glory story. Interviewers should give some details about how they got to where they are, but more importantly, share this office and job can meet that candidate's needs, expectations and desires.
Why is this the right time for you to expand this team?
Common interviewer response: Usually teams need to make new hires because they are growing rapidly and need more hands on deck, they are replacing some members who recently left the organization or a new budget allows for more team members. The first response is usually what interviewers share with candidates. It's a way to plant the seed that the company is super successful and growing tremendously, while also validating the candidate's question.
What candidates really want to hear: Here's the thing; candidates love hearing about impressive growth, but that's not totally what they're looking for when asking this question. They are really asking: why am I important to the team and how can I make an immediate impact? Strong candidates will research your company and recognize rapid growth, so responding with that is just confirming information they already know. This is a question aimed at gauging what skills would be required on the job and how they can perform to exceed expectations. Outline exactly what this role needs to accomplish and how they can impact the team.
Do you offer any training?
Common interviewer response: This is when the conversation turns to onboarding processes more than training and the interviewer assures candidates that they'll be eased into their position.
What candidates really want to hear: Be honest. If you have a training plan, outline what that would entail, how long it would take, what that new employee will learn and how they'll learn it. If you don't have a plan, let candidates know that you're still figuring it out. A training plan could also be contingent on what candidates already know, so be upfront about that. Keep in mind that onboarding is not the same as training. Receiving a company t-shirt and stickers their first day doesn't translate into training. Candidates asking this question want to know they'll be supported and have resources to learn and grow from day one.
Why did the person in this role leave?
Common interviewer response: Interviewers can share how the previous position-holder grew into a new role at the company or decided to move to a different team, if that's the case. Otherwise, candidates usually hear a nice, fluffy answer as to why that person left the company but they did so amicably.
What candidates really want to hear: If someone did move from this role into a new position at the company, candidates want to hear what that career path looks like and if it could be possible for them in the future. If someone left the company, though, candidates want to know what made that person want to leave. Of course, these are delicate details that you cannot explicitly share, but candidates want to know what potential problems they may face before jumping in whole-heartedly. Be brief but honest about challenges and roadblocks that may come up.
What are the biggest obstacles or challenges in this role, and what are the biggest opportunities?
Common interviewer response: "Wow, there are so many opportunities." Then starts the laundry list of vague challenges, like bonding with the new team or being busy.
What candidates really want to hear: Plain and simple, candidates want to hear the bad news and only the bad news. The opportunities piece of this question is just thrown in to keep a balanced and positive attitude. Genuinely share what this potential employee could expect. If communication on the team is challenging, be upfront about that. Being dishonest or sugar-coating responses to this question can lead to pretty immediate turnover.