10 Questions We Should Always Ask Hiring Managers

Nov 19, 2008

One thing I’ve finally learned in life and in recruiting is that the key to making connections comes from asking the right questions. When I first set out to get into the world of recruiting, I was turned away because my future brothers and sisters in arms thought that I would be better off sticking to my Intelligence Analyst background.

It wasn’t until I asked the right question that I was able to get in the door with recruiting companies. The question was, “What is it that you would like to see in my background that would show that I am serious about getting in this field?”

The answer I received was “sales experience.” Two weeks later I was selling new and used cars.

When selling cars, I learned that overcoming the negative stereotypes that come with being a car salesman was also made possible by asking the right questions. When you ask the right questions, you demonstrate to the person on the other end of the table that you are listening; you are interested in meeting their needs; and that you are really there to help them arrive at a satisfactory decision.

A lot of times we may not see ourselves this way, but in all of our inquiring engagements we are really on a decision-making journey. Arriving to that destination is facilitated through questioning.

Otherwise we are doomed to the time-consuming process of trial and error which is better received on the solitary path to self discovery and other more pleasurable pursuits. And while our clients may respect the person we’ve become through those efforts, they rarely want us to make our mistakes on their time.

We identified some questions that should be asked of hiring managers to help us get the clearest picture of what they are looking for in a particular candidate. As stated above, the real purpose of these questions is to help get to a hiring decision. We all have stories about hiring managers being inflexible with regard to their idea of the right fit. These questions are specifically designed to address this notion.

After running through the questions in this order, hiring managers who see you as a true partner will see that what they are really looking for in most cases is someone who is qualified and yet teachable. You cannot fill a glass that is already full.

Candidates who truly have everything on that dream sheet will not will not be able to endure long-term engagements with one organization. There has to be room for them to adapt to the new culture and there has to be a space for them to learn how our clients do business. These questions remind the client of this fact.

  1. How long has your company been searching for candidates to fill these roles?
  2. What is the current process that your company has in place to help you reach your goal?
  3. What expectations do you have of your new employee for their first day at work?
  4. Is there a process in place that will help them get acclimated to the new office environment?
  5. Is there a training program in place that will prepare them to succeed in their new role?
  6. What are the typical credentials of their coworkers and the team members that they integrate with?
  7. How soon do you expect your new employee to be up to speed with the rest of the team?
  8. Given the process you have in place, what basic skills would a new employee need to be up to speed in that _______ month time frame?
  9. Are you prepared to hire a candidate today if they demonstrate these core skills and prove to have the competency to be up-to-speed in this _______ month time frame?
  10. What is the interview process your company uses for determining your potential employee’s ability to be fully engaged within that _______ month time frame?

When you get to the end of these questions, if the client doesn’t already see this, they will realize that for the bulk of their hiring, they rarely are looking for a person who is going to hit the ground running. As we know, there are some hires who do not start their actual jobs until months after their first day—depending on the training program. So if you come across a candidate you are confident about, having these answers may be just what’s needed to coax your client off of the fence.

Of course, these exact questions will not really work as well for executive searches or VC-backed startups looking for super-human Jacks and Jills of all trades. But the truth remains that asking the right questions is always the best way to navigate toward making a decision.

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