What to ask a person to figure out if they are right for a role

When you earn a leadership position, that higher paycheck means added responsibilities. And in many industries, this means going through the hiring process to bring on new talented employees. But if you ask anyone who has ever narrowed down applicants to the top contenders, they’ll report it’s no easy task. Especially since it’s a major investment for a company to onboard a new person, making the right choice is super important. Not to mention the fact you’ll have to work with these folks day-in and day-out, which could have a major impact on your psyche, productivity, and happiness. 

As a psychologist whose specialties include career-related issues, Dr. Yvonne Thomas says many of her clients have struggled to make choices during the selection process. “Psychologically, it is important to determine how healthy a fit a prospective employee is for the role so that there is a greater likelihood of both the employer and the new employee being satisfied over the long run,” she explains.

Here, some killer questions to ask to figure out if your top pick is the right fit for a role:

What is the ideal work culture for your personality?

Even if someone has all of the hard skills required to excel in an open opportunity, they may not mesh well with other members of your team. A cultural fit is arguably even more important than checking off all of the necessities on a resume. By asking what type of work culture pairs best with their personality, career expert, author and Founder of FemCity, Violette de Ayala says their response will tell you about how they interact with other people. Pay attention to what word choices they use, and compare it to the day-to-day function and flow of the workplace. “Often work culture is the cohesiveness of developing a good team and it helps to create a more collaborative environment,” she adds.

What excites you most about this position?

If someone isn’t over-the-moon excited about the chance to work for your company — why would you consider bringing them into the fold? As an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert, Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D., explains, it’s essential to have someone who wants to dive in and excel. “If the candidate is unable to share one aspect of the job that excites or invigorates her, then likely she is not the best fit for the position,” she continues. “The candidate may be using this role to get a paycheck until something better comes around.”

Dr. Thomas says this question also allows you to see the potential new hire’s perspective of the role in questions. Sometimes, people have an idea of what a gig will be like, and don’t fully understand the requirements to be successful. “You can discover if the applicant’s reasons are solid enough and if these reasons are based on the reality of what the role would be rather than a glamorized version of it,” she shares. “If it turns out that the interviewee has a genuine interest in the role, then he or she will probably be more likely to be happy and responsible on the job.”


How and with whom do you work best?

Even if you would be compatible with a candidate as a friend, you may not work well together in a boss-employee situation. And hey, that’s okay — but you want to know that before making a hiring mistake. That’s why psychotherapists and author Jenny Maenpaa, LCSW, EDM stresses the value in knowing your own leadership style, as well as how someone might like to be managed. 

This question gets to the heart of this consideration since Maenpaa says they may require consistent praise. Or they may do better if they’re not heavily managed, while others need lots of guidance. Look for vulnerability and transparency as they explain their working style, she notes. “An answer that includes honest self-assessment, as well as observations of what does work for them, shows insight and a desire for collaborative growth,” she adds. 

What are three words that describe your work ethic?

Some people are classically type-A, while others are over-the-top creative, yet productive. Some professionals work the best in the early hours of the morning, while many can’t function until after they’ve had two cups of coffee. Ayala says this question encourages the interviewee to think critically about how they function daily and to put it into clear, concise words. “It reinforces the importance and the connection to the job description and can give the employer insight into what is their definition of work ethic,” she adds.

Where do you see yourself in two years?

Sure, someone might just tell you what you want to hear — but most of the time, you can watch their body language to see how serious they are about the opportunity on the table. Hakim says to keep an ear open to someone who expresses they would like to grow in the company and notes exactly what they’ll take from the experience. “The answer to this question can help you to project how this candidate’s long-term goals mesh with your hiring strategy and company objectives,” she continues. “Make sure the candidate is not just padding the answer to say what she thinks you want to hear.”

What qualities do you think are most needed in this role and do you think you have them?

This question is a two-parter that requires the candidate to not only know what this position needs to be successful but also their ability to meet the needs. Dr. Thomas explains this can be helpful since it’ll illustrate their level of self-awareness. “ If the candidate is far off in recognizing what it takes to fit this role successfully, it is likely that he or she isn’t the right person for this,” she shares. “Conversely, if the candidate identifies qualities which are truly important to the role and can objectively determine if he or she has those skill sets, psychologically, both the interviewee and the employer can feel more confident that this is a sound match which can lead to satisfaction for both.”