On average, employers spend around $4,700 to find, recruit, and onboard a new employee.
This may sound like a lot, but hiring the wrong or unqualified person for the job can be extremely damaging and costly. Spending extra time and effort on effective recruitment to ensure that the right person is hired for the right job is critical.
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To that end, recruiters often use strategic questions, among other questions, to test the candidates’ ability to strategize and make important decisions in the workplace. The data can help them filter out unsuitable candidates and narrow the candidate pool to a few high-quality applicants.
In this guide, we’ll show you what strategic interview questions are and how you can integrate them into your recruitment pipeline.
What Are Strategic Interview Questions?
Strategic thinking interview questions allow the interviewers to see how the candidate thinks and makes important decisions in the workplace. In other words, these questions are built specifically to see how the candidate would approach problems that would typically come up in the line of work.
Types of Strategic Questions
Career Development Questions
Career development questions aim to explore how the applicant wants to develop themselves and their career in the future. These questions are great when interviewing candidates applying for leadership roles. It’ll help you learn whether the applicant plans to stick with the firm long-term.
An example of such a question is: “What project have you enjoyed working on recently, and why?”
Behavioral questions aim to help the recruiter understand the candidate’s personality, behaviors, way of thinking, and how you approach problems. These things can help you see if the candidate is compatible with the company’s culture, goals, and visions.
Behavioral questions are usually centered around past scenarios the candidate has been in.
For example, a common behavioral question that’s often asked in interviews is: “Can you describe an instance where your supervisor or manager gave you too much work with not enough time? What did you do?”
The best strategy that a candidate can use to answer this kind of question is the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method.
The STAR method can give their answer an easy-to-follow structure, making it easier for you to understand and record their answer.
Strategic questions can also come in the form of situational questions. In these questions, the candidate is presented with several hypothetical scenarios. They’ll be prompted to tell the recruiter how they’d react and what they’d do in these scenarios.
These questions test whether or not the candidate can handle different situations as they arise in the line of work.
For example, if the applicant is interviewing for an accounting position, a situational question can be: “How would you set up an internal control system for processing invoices?”
Why Strategic Interview Questions are Important?
Getting to Know the Applicant Better
All strategic questions are designed so the recruiter can better understand the candidate. The interviewer may not even ask about the job at all. For example, they can ask questions like: “How do you manage stress when you’re faced with a difficult project?”
While the questions may not be entirely relevant to the job that the candidate is applying to, such questions will give the recruiter insight into how they think, approach, and manage problems.
Assess the Candidate’s Working Strategies
Those who think strategically can devise the best, most efficient ways to complete a task. This makes them a great asset to any company they decide to apply to.
Strategic questions can help recruiters lock in candidates with the strategizing skills needed to come up with action plans for the organization. For jobs where strategizing skills are crucial like as a consultant or analyst, these questions are key for deciding the right person for the job.
Evaluate Problem-Solving Skills
One of the purposes of strategic questions is to help the recruiter determine the candidate’s problem-solving skills. This is the reason why many strategic questions are situational.
For example, take this situational question: “How would you respond to a request to do a task you’ve never done before?”
It’s a tricky scenario. To resolve this situation, the candidate must exercise their problem-solving ability. A sample answer to this question can be:
“Since I’m a quick learner, I’ll do my research and see if I can undertake it on my own. If there’s any confusion, I’ll enlist help from other team members or ask for clarifications from the client.”
Top Strategic Interview Questions
“What is something about you that isn’t on your resume?”
Resumes are a way for recruiters to have the basic details about a candidate even before they come to an interview. But it doesn’t provide the full picture of who they are or even how competent of a candidate they are. Worse still, 78% of candidates lie in their resumes and job applications!
As a result, one of the most popular strategic questions to ask interviewers is: “What is something about you that isn’t on your resume?”
In this question, you — as the recruiter — will want to know most about three things:
- Who the candidate is
- A personal description and introduction of themselves
- What makes them stand out as a person and as a candidate
There are many approaches that a candidate can take when answering this question. Here’s one example:
“Though I’m extremely result-oriented, I also care a lot about the tasks that I need to do to get the result that I want. When I was assigned as the team leader for my very first product team, I took a course on management to make sure that I have the skills needed to lead my team to success. It paid off, and we were able to deliver positive results for our firm within the deadline!”
“What are your goals for self-improvement over the next year?”
This question classifies as a career development question. This section can help the recruiter determine how motivated and proactive the candidate is at learning new skills and developing themselves. These are sought-after qualities for every company.
Candidates can answer this question by listing personal goals, like learning a new programming language or taking up new hobbies to improve their health.
Alternatively, they can talk at length about their career. Like in this answer:
“I have plans to take some courses in the future to help me improve my leadership and public speaking skills. And since I’ve also planned to expand my professional network, I’m looking into many business conferences and events for the next year. I hope to meet like-minded people there!”
“Explain a time that you used creativity to solve a problem.”
This is one of the most classic behavioral strategic questions to ask in an interview and one of the most obvious strategic questions yet. The candidate’s answer will help the recruiter determine how creative they are at thinking outside the box and developing strategies to overcome a problem.
For this type of question, a good candidate will take advantage of the STAR method to structure their answer, like in this sample answer:
“I was assigned to design a new product for my employer. The product needed to be something innovative, yet cost-effective (Situation). I brainstormed several ideas and ultimately came up with one. Instead of spending time and capital researching new features and technology, I proposed using existing technologies that we already use in the company and combining them to create one product (Task). I led a team to build a successful prototype of the device (Action). Eventually, the product went into full production and received positive responses from the customers! (Result).”
“How would you deal with a difficult coworker?”
Strategic thinking doesn’t just apply to the job. It can apply to relationships, as well. By asking this question, the recruiter can understand how good the candidate is at defusing drama among team members, which can get in the way of work.
“I’ll prefer to use a direct, yet professional and respectful approach. I’ll sit down with them and have a chat to understand their motivations and frustrations. Then, I’ll discuss openly with them their problematic behavior so that both sides see each other’s points of view. After that, I’ll try to work out any misunderstandings, frustrations, or problems that the particular co-worker is facing.
However, if the co-worker is too belligerent or unwilling to work with me, I’d probably get HR involved.”
“How do you deal with stressful work situations?”
Stress exists in any line of work, but some jobs will take a greater toll on the employee than others. Criticisms, deadlines, and long working hours can be punishing. Without a plan or the ability to cope with stressful situations, the employee will eventually become burnt out.
By asking this question, the recruiter will be able to learn two things: the candidate’s ability to cope with stress, and their strategy to manage it.
“In my previous job, I regularly had to work on multiple projects and juggle many different deadlines at once. Because of this, I’ve developed a system to help me from feeling overly stressed. For example, back then, I once had to deal with four projects at a time, each one with deadlines within the week. By planning and breaking the tasks that need to be done for each project into smaller ones, I was able to deal with each project systematically. By the end, all projects were delivered on time without me feeling too burnt out.”
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