Here’s how a handful of simple questions can immediately improve your interviewing process.

3 important questions

First, Jeff Haden of has three questions he suggests every HR pro add to his or her interviewing regimen.

Haden suggests you ask only these three questions about each candidate’s previous job history to start:

  • How did you find out about the job? Most entry-level candidates find out about open positions via online job boards.
    But Haden sees a red flag for candidates who are looking for their third, fourth or fifth job via a general posting.
    Why? It could mean that those people haven’t been pulled into a job by someone they previously worked for — and, therefore, aren’t good at building relationships or developing trust.
  • What did you like about the job before you started? Be wary of answers that include “great opportunity” or “next step in my career.”
    Instead, look for applicants who sought out jobs they knew would motivate and challenge them.
  • Why did you leave? This may be the most beneficial question. After all, some people leave for more money or better opportunities. But others leave for reasons that say just as much about them as they do about the former company (e.g. “I didn’t get along with my colleagues/manager.”)
    What you’ll find, Haden says, is that applicants will “describe issues with management or disagreements with other employees or with taking responsibility — issues they otherwise would not have shared.”

Avoid the temptation of asking follow-up questions as you go along. Just stick to the three questions for the relevant work experience that the candidate has, then double back on any troubling trends.

Unique interviewing questions

Arlene Chandler from TLNT also has some questions that HR pros should ask applicants, but they’re not the typical ones.

She suggests hiring managers break the ice and address questions that the candidate most assuredly has but is too afraid to ask.

Three topics to consider discussing:

  • Benefits. Like salary, benefits are perceived to be an “interviewing no-no,” but Chandler argues otherwise. Without a good idea of what you offer in terms of vacation leave, paid holidays and so on, potential workers won’t have the info needed to decide if a job is still worth pursuing.
  • Greatest weaknesses. Every applicant hates the question, “What is your biggest weakness?” But there’s a reason companies continue to ask it: It offers a chance for candidates to (hopefully) honestly assess where they could do better.
    Companies shouldn’t pass up that opportunity either. No applicant is perfect, and no company is perfect.
    As Chandler says, “Your honesty will quench their curiosity, and allowing an employee to come in knowing what the company’s weaknesses or negatives are will help keep your turnover rate to a minimum.”
  • Why you’ve fired people. Really? Yes, says Chandler. In the same way you ask candidates why they left a former position, it’s only fair to offer up reasons why you’ve had to let people go in the recent past. Again, it’s about transparency — helping candidates assess if they have the skills needed for the job while also helping them gain valuable knowledge on what to avoid if they’re hired.

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