With the Great Resignation under way, employees are wielding more power than ever. They are making the decisions about where they want to work and what kind of company they want to work for.
As a result, hiring firms are now in the hot seat—and according to Monster’s 2022 Future of Work Report, “good talent is getting harder to find.” Recruiters and managers must up their game in order to ensure they’re providing answers to questions that inspire talented candidates to join their companies.
I recently interviewed Jay Rosenzweig, CEO of Rosenzweig & Company, a talent strategy firm engaged in recruiting leadership teams for public and private companies. Below are his suggestions for how hiring managers should answer nine tough (and common) questions:
1. WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WORKING FOR THIS COMPANY?
A candidate may ask the interviewer this question in several ways, including, “Why did you join this company?” Or, “Tell me, what’s it like working here?”
“Since today’s candidates are looking for a sense of purpose,” Rosenzweig said, “a great answer would be ‘I like the fact that we are a mission-driven company. We want to make the world a better place, and in this company we have mentors and leaders at every level who are making that happen.’” However you answer, make sure you’re highlighting a big picture message about the company. The important thing is to elevate the candidate’s perception of your firm and show that it’s not just business as usual.
2. WHAT WILL SUCCESS IN THIS ROLE LOOK LIKE?
Job seekers today want to know that they will accomplish big things in that next role, so your answer should show that the bar is set high for the successful candidate. “Show that success will mean exceeding expectations,” Rosenzweig suggests. That might involve delivering a project ahead of schedule, or bringing in more clients than your quota requires, or introducing new ideas or angles. In short, “adding value beyond the specific parameters asked for,” says Rosenzweig.
3. WILL I BE ABLE TO WORK FROM HOME?
This question will be on the agenda for most job applicants. In fact, a full 43 % of employers believe hybrid is the future of work. But there is a larger point to be made here. Rosenzweig says the more inspiring message is that “we are not engaged in micro-management. We like to hire self-starters who get the job done. And you’ll be expected to work wherever you need to and take responsibility for your performance.’”
4. CAN I EXPECT TO HAVE A WORK/LIFE BALANCE IN THIS ROLE?
This question requires finesse. You want to provide a realistic picture of the demands of the job but also show how the organization values each individual holistically and believes in the importance of rest.
If you have a young, ambitious candidate looking at a big job, Rosenzweig says, “Tell that individual that this is a serious job. You know what you’ve committed to in your previous jobs. Managing multiple projects might require weekends and nights at times. But so long as you’re able to get the job done, and achieve the things you want to achieve, it’s in your hands.” This answer will appeal to strong candidates because it shows that your company trusts employees and gives them the responsibility of making their own decisions.
5. WHAT OPPORTUNITIES ARE THERE FOR ADVANCEMENT?
If you’re dealing with a go getter–the kind of person you want in your organization—you’ll need an inspiring answer to this common question. Rosenzweig says “emphasize that your organization rewards talent, that it is a meritocracy where people are promoted based on the value they bring to the firm. Tell the candidate: ‘If you deliver, the sky’s the limit.’”
Go on to say that there are many firms, and industries, where climbing the ladder is dictated not by individual performance but by strict guidelines. Explain to the candidate, “Our company is different.” Conclude with statistics or illustrative examples.
6. TELL ME ABOUT THE CULTURE OF THE COMPANY
If a job candidate asks you to describe the culture of your company, you might be tempted to say, “we have a fun-loving culture,” or “we are all passionate about our work” or “we have a culture of trust.”
But another approach, says Rosenzweig, “is to talk about the values of your company.” He explains: “I prefer to look at the values of the company—values like integrity, curiosity, a passion for learning, a desire to develop employees. Many companies try to fit their employees into a specific cultural norm or personality,” he says. “But to me it’s more interesting to have people of different cultures, different personalities in an organization. You might miss out on someone really good if everyone has to be the same.”
Whichever approach you take, make sure you’re on top of the answer when candidates interview you, because this is a frequent question.
7. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO INCREASE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION?
This is a question any hiring manager should be ready to answer. If you “um” and ah” it will be viewed as evasion. Talk about diversity and inclusion programs your company has. “Most of the major corporations are doing an incredible job building these programs,” says Rosenzweig. “They also are changing their hiring practices, ensuring, for example, that there is at least one diverse candidate on every short list, and avoiding practices that perpetuate the hiring of white males at the top.” Be ready to mention initiatives like these, as well as statistics that show your firm is making progress in its diversity and inclusion practices.
And don’t forget to talk about how your employees and the leadership of the firm are supporting diversity and inclusion beyond the company.
8. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY’S LEADERSHIP?
The challenge here is to present the strengths of the company’s leaders and to reassure the candidate about what interactions will be like. After all, many people fled their last jobs because they hate their bosses.
Rosenzweig says he would answer the question this way: “I would say we are a leadership team that doesn’t take itself too seriously. We work super hard but have a sense of humor and are not ego-driven. We see no one being below us or above us and are here to inspire and lead the company to great heights. When good things happen, we give credit where credit is due. We have open communication at every level. Everyone’s voice matters.”
While each manager’s answer will vary from company to company, the idea is to convey to the candidate a positive feeling about what it would mean to report to these leaders.
9. IS THERE ANYTHING I HAVE SAID THAT MAKES YOU DOUBT I’D BE A GOOD FIT FOR THE JOB?”
This question may sound like a downer, but some candidates will ask it because they want to get closure and respond to any caveats. To keep the energy of the interview high, begin with praise for all the areas where there is a good fit between the candidate and the role. If the candidate has made a good impression, Rosenzweig suggests saying: “‘I’ve very much enjoyed our conversation. You have an impressive background and I believe you would be a good fit.” If there are areas where a good candidate lacks experience, say “I know you have all the skills and drive to develop in those areas.” There may be times when you sense it may not be the best fit. If so, moderate your praise but stay upbeat.