Talent Acquisition & Hiring

Interview Questions that Get Candidates to Open Up

hireEZ Team
February 8, 2023
Table of Contents

Recruiters and hiring leaders are overwhelmed. We pride ourselves on how fast we can assess a candidate, but in a short amount of time, how do you build a relationship and create an environment where the candidate shares openly and feels comfortable?

Comfortable enough that they are not on edge, can recall good examples and will be transparent with you about their experience and goals. The goal is to hire the best candidate, not the best interviewer. The more comfortable you make someone, the more authentic answers you will get.

Step 1: Make it about the candidate for two minutes

The mileage you will get out of this is priceless. So many people want to dive in by asking their screening questions. You can ask about anything from the weather to how their day is going. I will often connect to something about their profile that I can relate to (i.e., I just got back from Tampa, where they live). After getting through the personal connection questions, there are a few sample questions that also help candidates open up:


  1. Tell me a little about why we are talking today – what is driving you to make a change?

  2. What skills do you enjoy using in your current role?

  3. What skills would you like to develop or use more in your current role?


Plus, it allows you to find out so much about their motivation. We are all trying to assess whether they match our role, and today, it’s so much more than a checklist (at least it should be).

Step 2: Tell them a little about yourself and your style

My style is to share that I am transparent and want to figure out where they are today and where they want to be. If we have a mutual interest, then great. If not, you never know about the future.

Step 3: Let them know what to expect and be real

Sometimes, I’ll also have something clunky happen. Maybe an interviewee couldn’t hear me initially; maybe someone is running late from another meeting. Let them know you understand and put them at ease.

Use a conversational non-scripted tone. If you jump on the call and say “let’s get right to it,” the candidate will think, okay, here comes the rapid fire.

Try complimenting their experience, if applicable. “Looks like you led some interesting projects at [company name]. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your experience and impact.”

Step 4: Watch body language

If you are on video, pay attention to your body language and eye contact. Smiling can go a long way! Be engaged in the conversation. If you are taking notes let them know saying “I’ll be taking some notes and may lose eye contact, but just know I’m listening. I want to make sure I can summarize our conversation accurately.”

Start with a non-threatening question. My favorite well-rounded question is:  What are the most important criteria for your next role?

This question provides so much insight.

At the end of the day, our goal is to find people who match the role and company.  If a person tells you they are looking for stability and your company changes by the hour, then you can keep that in your head and consider asking a follow-up question.

In the end, helping candidates feel comfortable by going beyond technical questions, maintaining positive body language, and being authentic will enable you to achieve your goal of determining whether or not to move the candidate forward.

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