The Best Interviewing Question Ever

By Team Hireology,
October 19, 2011

Ever wonder if there were an interview question that, when asked, would immediately knock the unfit candidates out of the running for your job, if answered a certain way?

Of course you have! If you’ve ever been responsible for phone screening, interviewing or assessing a candidate, you yearn for that question that prompts your candidate to come out and say something like: “You know… I probably won’t perform that well in this role.” But it never happens. Instead, we relish the moments when the decision is almost that clear, and we keep search for that “magic bullet” question that can get at red flags like a bull in a rodeo.

Most interviewers have a few “zingers” up their sleeve and several go-to questions that they rely on, but even the best interviewers can’t escape the fact that there really isn’t one question that will predict success in every case. It’s just not that simple. There are shades of gray that need to be interpreted, and that’s the nature of interviewing. 

But, fortunately, there’s a way to make interviewing less “gray.” Through the use of structured interviews and scoring guides, your questions become more predictive and less ambiguous. So, for those of you who clicked this post because you thought your next magic bullet was awaiting, this one’s for you:

Hireology recommends asking this question to every candidate during the early stages of the interview process:

“Who was your was/is your manager at [last company on resume]? And, on a scale from 1-10, with ten being highest, how do you think [manager’s name] would rate your performance? Why?”

And follow that up with:

“What would have made it a definite 10? Or, What would they tell me was something you could improve upon?

Our research shows that candidates who list anything below an 8 tend to be a greater hiring risk than candidates who say 8, 9 or 10. For one reason or another, this usually implies tough times ahead. A good response to this question is one in which the candidate does’t hesitate to give you their boss’s name. In fact, great candidates will often say something like:

“My boss, Jim, has actually offered to be a reference for me if you’d like me to send it to you after our call.”

A more descriptive scoring guide for this question (and others) can be found in the phone screen in your Hireology account. As we mentioned earlier, an iffy score on this question should not automatically eliminate a candidate from the running, but it sure as heck should raise a red flag!

Disagree? Or, think you know the Best Interview Question Ever? We invite comments!

Make sure you don’t ask any of these illegal interview questions!

About the Author

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and learn how to build your best team.