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by Chris Ceplenski

The 5 most important questions are actually variations on common interview themes. The tweaks are important, however, because they completely change the information solicited from the applicant.

Here are the 5 most important interview questions you’re probably not asking:

1. Tell me about your very first paying job.

The standard question is: ‘Tell me about your last job.’ What does every single person have an absolute canned answer for? Their last job. Asking instead about their first job lets you begin to see what type of person you’re interviewing. Ask follow-up questions that establish where they progressed, which will tell you their capacity to take on additional responsibilities. Ask them what they learned along the way.

2. Tell me about the achievements in your life you are most proud of and the obstacles or problems you had to overcome to achieve them.

Give the applicant time to think about what they want to say. In fact, throughout the interview process, let silence work for you. Don’t help them answer the questions. What you’re looking for with this question is to see how they solve problems. See how they overcome issues.

3. Tell me about your last performance appraisal.

It doesn’t matter the outcome, just ask about it and ask how they felt about it and whether they got a copy of it. (If yes, they could bring it – it may be more useful to you than a reference!)

4. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rank yourself as a [job title]? Why did you give yourself that number?

It doesn’t matter what the number is, unless they say they’re a 10. If they do, you may consider highlighting that even the best professionals can always learn more. If they still insist they are a 10, consider not hiring them—if you hire them, they may not be the type of person who is inclined to learn.

The second part is the more important part of the question—to see what rationale they give behind the chosen number. It will tell you a lot about that person and their ability level. Ask probing questions if appropriate. Follow up by asking what it would take to move up to the next number. This lets them explain what they need to do better or what they want to learn next. In interviews, many interviewers ask about strengths and weaknesses, but this question format avoids a canned response. It also allows someone to explain what they can do better without actually asking them about weaknesses.

5. What one question would you like to ask me? Of all the questions you could have asked, why did you choose that one?

This question does not have to be the last one you have, but it’s important to ask it at some point. The second half is more important than the question they chose. In fact, don’t answer their initial question—follow up with the second half of it first to see why they want to know. This lets you see what the applicant finds important.

If you’re looking to really find out who the person is – the behavior, the skills, the capacity – these five questions will get to the core of the individual.