Preparation breeds success which is why finding employees who fit perfectly with a company’s goals and culture is the largest contributor to a company’s long term success. In this blog I will outline the top questions interviewers should be asking to find the best fit candidate for the job.

When you’re interviewing an individual, whether as a recruiter or a hiring manager, you’re looking to accomplish several key things. Beyond the reassurance that a candidate has the specific skills for a position, you want to understand their motivators – the thought process that went in to their career progression and the “why” behind their decisions. You also want to establish a rapport with that candidate so you can trust that they are being open and honest with you.

At IQ PARTNERS, we employ a modified Topgrading style of interview, which involves utilizing a technique known as ARC – Anticipated Reference Check or Attributed Anticipated Reference Check.

Our process involves doing a chronological walkthrough of a candidate’s background and career progression. What we’re looking for are motivators for behaviour and actions. It’s less about asking questions that have never been asked before, and more about the position of how you address the questions.

1. “Who did you report to and what would they say about you?”

With the ARC approach when asking about strengths and weaknesses, I would say, “You reported to Bill. So if I talked to Bill, what would he say your greatest strength is?


By repositioning the question, it puts candidates a little off kilter because they don’t have a pre-packaged sales response. There’s a bit of psychology involved as you plant the seed early in the interview about reference checks and, as a result, a candidate’s level of truthfulness goes up drastically. The fact is the world is small and informal reference checks are happening far before formal ones are even taking place. We probably know someone they used to work with and our clients may do some advance poking around as well.

2. “Where did you grow up and what did you like best about your school?”

In our IQ PARTNERS prep document we have a list of standard questions that we ask during the recruiting and interview process. In addition, I like to get a little more personal. Obviously it’s a delicate and challenging line to walk as there are labour laws we have to respect.

I like to see candidates as real people … so I ask “where did they grow up, what did they like best about their school, why did they end up taking the courses that they did, and where have they travelled?” That sort of thing … all of the little life bits about a person that makes them unique. People will put on a mask for different social circumstances, but the core values and motivators that run below the surface don’t differ that much from work and pleasure.

So if someone says they’re highly entrepreneurial, that’s great – but then if you talk about being a traveler, but all you’ve ever done is go up to the same cottage every year for the past 30 years, that makes me wonder about how risk averse you really are and I’ll probe a little deeper.

3. “Who do you go to for advice?”

I like to know people’s thought processes and who they go to for advice when they’re trying to make a decision. Is it their partner, a parent, a friend, a former co-worker, a mentor, etc.? Once they tell me who that person is and why they trust their opinion, then I’ll ask them “what does that person see you doing or what would they say you’re best at?”

4. “Tell me about the kinds of experiences you’ve had working in fast-growing companies.”

Sometimes the purpose of asking questions is to relay information about the position that you might not feel comfortable passing along directly. Let’s say there are some internal management challenges at the moment with a fast-growing company or a reputational issue the company is dealing with that is impacting their ability to attract top talent. As part of the recruiting and interview process, we can assess a candidate’s ability to succeed in a difficult environment or perhaps how they could help transform the current issues the company is facing.

5. “You say you want $100k … if you got an offer for $99k would that be enough? What about $98, $97, $96?”

In terms of salary, we try to dig down to what they actually need. You want to find out if the number they gave you is a real number. It also tests their commitment to the hiring process and to the organization. For employers, they want someone to be invested beyond just the cash today. So by pushing back on people you usually see if there’s some flexibility … or not.

Our advice to our employer clients is that sometimes there are circumstances where you have to buy somebody, but usually you do that on contract. If you’re bringing someone in as an employee, other benefits such as an equity offer, stock share purchase plan or other incentives can factor into the salary equation.

If someone offers to take a pay cut because they really like your company, that not only changes the hiring dynamic, but as an employer you recognize that you’re getting a deal. For more information on effectively negotiating salaries with top talent click

Often in the interview process, it’s less about the questions and more about looking for consistency in a person and the way they present themselves. I find for sales and recruiting, the more that you open up to people and are genuine, the more they respond and reciprocate. Hiring managers who open themselves up for an honest interview, set the tone for the conversation and create a reciprocal high-trust relationship. This will help you discover if this is the candidate you really want working for your organization for the long term.


IQ PARTNERS is an Executive Search & Recruitment firm with offices in Toronto, Montreal & Vancouver. We help companies hire better, hire less & retain more. We have teams of specialist recruiters in Financial Services & Insurance, Marketing Communications & Media, Emerging Tech & Telecom, Consumer Goods & Retail, B2B & Industrial, Technology, Accounting & Finance, HR & Operations, Energy, Mining & Engineering, Life Sciences, and Construction, Property & Real Estate. IQ PARTNERS has its head office in Toronto and operates internationally via Aravati Global Search Network. Click here to view current job openings and to register with us.

Bruce Powell Executive Search

Bruce Powell

Bruce co-founded IQ PARTNERS in 2001 and currently operates as Managing Partner. His personal background includes hands-on management experience in sales, marketing and marketing services. He has built management teams for a wide variety of marketing, communications, media and technology companies. He has also participated in several M&A transactions for service-based companies and is frequently called upon as a resource in the planning and negotiation of such deals.

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