The Art of Discovery Questions in Hiring: How to Ensure you are Asking Candidates the Right Questions

The Art of Discovery Questions in Hiring: How to Ensure you are Asking Candidates the Right Questions was originally published on Ivy Exec.

Discovery questions

Let’s face it: hiring a new employee is no small feat, no matter the size or sector of your business. It takes ample time, resources, and money to onboard new hires and integrate them into your organization’s operations. In fact, one report found that companies spend an estimated $4,129 per new hire. This makes choosing the wrong person in the interview process all the more disappointing and harmful for your organization.

In order to choose the right candidate on the first try to prevent future headaches, it is important to have a solid hiring strategy in place. This starts with developing interview questions that vet the most qualified candidates for the vacant role. With over 20 years of experience helping businesses improve their strategy, I am here to spill all of my secrets for choosing the best discovery questions to make your hiring process the very best it can be!

What Are Interview Discovery Questions And Why Are They Important?

When a new job opening warrants dozens of applications from eager candidates with similar resumes ready to get their foot in the door, selecting the best person for the job can feel nearly impossible to navigate. Despite how overwhelming this process can be, all that it takes to start narrowing in on the right candidate is by asking interviewees the right discovery questions. 

Taking the time to ask thought-provoking discovery questions is essential for obtaining more detailed and credible information on a potential employee than application materials alone. This is because resumes and cover letters can only inform so much on who a person is and what kind of asset they will be to your team. Not only this, but a shocking 85% of people have been found to lie on resumes anyways.

In general, great discovery questions are designed to give candidates the space to elaborate on the experiences listed on their application materials. They also allow them to reveal more facets of their personality, skillset, and experiences that don’t fall within the confines of just a page or two of information.

What To Think About While Formulating The The Right Interview Questions

Asking the right discovery questions can be the difference between hiring a mediocre candidate and hiring one that is perfect for the culture, mission, and goals of your organization. Since every company runs differently and has different roles to fulfill, there is no one size fits all approach to the best-fit interview questions.

However, as a general rule of thumb when formulating your organization’s discovery questions, it is beneficial to think about:

1. Open-ended questions

One of the best ways to gauge that you’re asking the right questions is by selecting ones that are open-ended in nature. This is because open-ended questions provoke deeper thoughts than close-ended ones. Furthermore, open-ended questions often reveal more about a candidate’s personality, intelligence, and communication skills than something that could be answered in a sentence or two.

2. Screening for culture fit

Every workplace has a unique set of behaviors, values, and beliefs that informs their company culture. If you wish to hire employees for the long haul, it is essential that they share a similar mindset to that of your current team’s culture. Make sure to ask questions that will reveal insights on how they would fit into your established work style and how they would behave when collaborating with peers.

3. Learning about hard and soft skills

If you’re hiring for, say, a software engineer position, it might be tempting to focus on solely their programming skills or past engineering projects in your interview questioning. However, it is equally helpful to seek information on their soft skills, as these skills say a lot about their ability to work well with others and lead a team. A few of the many soft skills to be looking out for in an interview include:

  • Teamwork
  • Positive attitude
  • Flexibility
  • Time management
  • Dependability

7 Dynamite Discovery Interview Questions to Ask Your Next Candidates

Building a rockstar team doesn’t happen overnight, for behind every successful team are hours of time and energy spent developing and asking successful discovery questions. If you are on the hunt for a stellar new employee and need a place to start, here are 7 of the most effective discovery interview questions to ask your next prospective candidate:

1. What are mistakes that you’ve made in a previous job and how did you overcome them?

It is in human nature to make mistakes. While asking about a candidate’s skills, strengths, and abilities is important, understanding their past struggles or errors made in a previous position can be just as crucial for informing your hiring decision as their successes.

This is because the way in which someone handles and navigates a past mistake can say a lot about their character and ability to learn from blunders. If they can speak on how they were able to overcome challenges and have the humility to fully admit to their wrongdoings without placing the blame outside factors, they are likely able to do the same at your organization.

2. Why are you interested in working for this company?

Perhaps one of the most basic yet impactful questions is imploring about why candidates are applying for the job in the first place. Not only do you wish to hire those with an innate passion for the line of work you are presenting, but it is equally important that you understand why they are interested in doing the work with your organization specifically.

The answer to this question will inform you on if a candidate has taken any time to peruse your website, mission statement, and current projects or initiatives to better understand who you are and what you care about as an organization.

3. What achievement are you most proud of?

A great interview question to take advantage of is prodding candidates about achievements they are most proud of reaching in the past. Whether it’s from a previous job, a personal project, or something else, allowing a candidate to articulate their most fulfilling successes will reveal some of the skills and passions that they will bring to the table while working for your company.

4. What is your reason for leaving your current position?

The manner in which a candidate leaves a job says a lot about their commitment, loyalty, and respect towards an employer. Asking about why they left their current employer or position will give you much-needed insight into the nature behind their relationship ending. You’ll learn if they were laid off from the job, fired, or perhaps just weren’t the right fit for the culture or job tasks.

5. How do you handle stress and multiple priorities at work?

No matter what role you are hiring for, there are bound to be days that are stressful in your workplace. For this reason, asking about a candidate’s ability to handle deadlines, conflicting priorities, and general stress at work can help you in understanding how they could think and perform under pressure.

In general, this answer gives you a picture of what they might look like while handling busy seasons of the job and whether or not they have the time management skills to accomplish the job role’s tasks efficiently.

6. What do you enjoy in a workplace environment?

The easiest way to assess whether or not a candidate will thrive in your workplace’s culture is by asking what they have enjoyed in a prior work environment. Whether it was the ability to have independent work time, the fast-paced nature of their office, or the supportive and nurturing attitudes of their coworkers, this answer will help you see if your current team’s way of operating aligns with their preferred method.

For example, someone who articulates the fulfillment they had in working with an outgoing and energetic team might not be the best match if your company is quieter and more serious in nature.

7. Do you have any questions about the position or company?

Just as you have had the chance to pick the interviewee’s brain during a discovery interview, it is equally important to allow them the opportunity to do the same for you. Plus, if your interviewee comes with a slew of questions related to the job, it shows that they are active in the hiring process and are excited to learn more about what you have to offer. If they don’t, it reveals a lack of engagement and intrigue for the position.

The Bottom Line: Great Discovery Questions Are The Key To Hiring Success

At the end of the day, asking hard-hitting questions throughout the hiring process is essential for

honing in on the best-fit candidate for your organization’s needs and culture. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, the above 7 questions are a great place to start for ensuring that your hiring manager is gathering the right kind of information.


By Allison Todd - Ivy Exec
Ivy Exec
Ivy Exec is your dedicated career development resource.