• Carter Consultants Ltd
  • Carter Consultants Ltd
  • Carter Consultants Ltd
  • Carter Consultants Ltd
  • Carter Consultants Ltd
  • Carter Consultants Ltd
  • Carter Consultants Ltd

Probing Questions

As the need for better talent increases, companies are spending a significant amount of money and time trying to recruit individuals that are at a higher level than before. The issue though is that bad hires still happen. Not only does the failed individual need to be replaced but it affects the team and department and possibly the morale of the company overall.  


It is important to implement an effective recruiting process with strict timelines and guidelines that set the foundation for the recruiting assignment. However much more needs to be done. The hiring manager, executive recruiter, internal recruiter, and the rest of the interview panel need to be well trained in asking the right questions. The issue usually is that the interviewer talks too much. In addition, they do not ask the questions that really reveal the true candidate. Such questions like “how would you describe yourself?” or “ what is your greatest weakness?” have been asked so often that candidates have answers already prepared. The point of asking behavioral questions is for the interviewer to have a solid understanding of the candidate on several levels –- not just their job responsibilities but also what their aspirations are, what motivates them, and what they either don't like to do or don't know how to do. The candidate's body language and their overall behavior also need to be assessed to reveal what is “between the lines” of what is not being said but being communicated in other ways.


So what kind of probing questions should be asked? Here are some examples:

  • In your current role, what was one thing your boss did that motivated you to go the extra yard?
  • How do you determine what motivates each member of your staff?
  • How do you handle rejection?
  • How do you develop a strategic vision?
  • If you left your company tomorrow, what is one thing you wish you had accomplished?
  • How do you work under pressure?
  • How do you handle conflict?
  • What is one thing that you admire about the different generations that you work with?
  • What are you doing for professional development?
  • How would you describe your ideal boss?
  • What type of work environment do you thrive best in?
  • Are you a morning person or an afternoon person?  How does that affect your work performance?
  • How are you different from your peers?  


Regardless of the questions that are asked, it is imperative to use certain protocols which include:

-- Give the candidate the time to really answer the questions thoroughly. The person may pause at times to think so don't assume that is a sign to ask another question.

-- Use empathic listening so the interviewer understands what the interviewee's answers really mean.

-- Ask follow up questions to determine the true needs and wants of the interviewee and what motivates them.

-- Qualify the candidate by asking questions in a couple of different ways and see how and more importantly watch how they respond.

-- Remember that first impressions are not as important as one would think. A candidate could be very nervous so cut them a little slack.

-- Leave your prejudices at the door. Everyone has opinions about something but interviewers should keep an open mind. I remind my clients that one can learn from every person they meet but if they have already made a snap decision about a candidate then the interviewer could lose out on a learning experience and a great hire.


Recruiting today is more of an art than a science so companies need to not only educate their hiring managers about the right questions to ask but also train them on being sensitive to the mannerisms of the individual. By spending more time on the front end, more effective hires will occur which not only helps the bottom line but also employee morale and the company's reputation within the community.  Remember we were born with two ears, two eyes, and one mouth so listen and observe more than talk and see how much more successful your recruiting process will be.


Carter Consultants Ltd.
provides excellence in unbundled research and recruiting services for over 20 years. We handle any and all aspects of name generation and candidate development for a variety of industries and functions. Additional services include executive and business coaching and workshops.

Carter Consultants Ltd.
12 South Grove Avenue
Warren, RI 02885

T 401.245.7050

357 Commerce Drive, Suite 320303
Fairfield, CT 06825

T 203.331.7579


Conducting Interviewing, Networking and Leadership seminars in New England, New York and throughout
the U.S.


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