What’s the best question to ask a job candidate?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Just kidding, that question sucks!

One of my favorites to follow, Tyler Cowen, has a weekly column over at Bloomberg, and his article this week was “The Best Question to Ask a Job Applicant.” Now, put it into a context that Tyler is an Economist by trade and an Academic, so he doesn’t do a ton of hiring.

So, what’s Tyler’s question?

“What are the open tabs in your browser right now?”

It’s not bad, but it does scream ten years ago Silicon Valley tech startup question! Plus, it also assumes either this interview is remote, and you are doing it via Zoom, and you have tabs open, or you let the person bring their laptop to the interview, and they have open tabs.

The belief is your open tabs speak to your interests. You leave something open because you haven’t finished with it yet, or you want to dive in a bit deeper. Knowing your interests, in Tyler’s belief, must then correlate to you being either a good or bad hire. There actually isn’t any correlation, which speaks to how dumb interview questions can be!

I took a look at my own open tabs and here’s what I had today:

  • Theater tickets in London (I’m taking a trip this summer and will see a show with my wife)
  • Investment site (yeah, all of our 401Ks are in the toilet!)
  • PR Site for news on a recruiting tech company (I got to keep up on the latest)
  • LinkedIn (It’s open all day, every day)
  • Tweetdeck (same as LinkedIn)
  • WordPress (how the hell do you think I wrote this!)
  • Rhone (active wear clothing site, I need new golf shorts)

So, yeah, I guess it does speak to my passions and interests!

What is my favorite interview question?

I like to find out how passionate people are about their work. So, I love to ask a question that gets to the heart of that, which isn’t that dissimilar to Tyler’s question above. Here is mine:

“Tell me how you develop and educate yourself in your current position and industry? What resources do you use? How much time do you dedicate?”

I hire recruiters. I will often sit in front of a recruiter who will say something like, “I Love Recruiting!” “Recruiting is my life!” I’m like, sweet! Tell me more. And I ask the question above.

The vast majority of the time, I find their “love” of recruiting is complete bullsh*t. Their love is that they actually show up and do the job, but not much else. I want people who are passionate and self-educate. They could say things like, I joined a recruiting community online, and I frequently read and add tips to help others. I write recruiting articles on LinkedIn. I purchased a recruiting training program on my own, and I’m learning Boolean. Etc.

People who are passionate about their work won’t necessarily be successful, but there is more likelihood they will be. Can you be good at your job and do none of this? Yes, but it’s not often, and it’s most likely not sustainable.

One thought on “What’s the best question to ask a job candidate?

  1. you can ask some common questions
    How would you describe the responsibilities?
    What are the biggest challenges of this job?
    Why do you want this job?
    Why should we hire you?
    What are your greatest strengths?

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