2 Questions That’ll Probably Come Up in Your Next Job Interview

September 29, 2016, 3:30 PM UTC
Young Indian business executive having job interview
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The Fortune 500 Insiders Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Today’s answer to the question, “What’s the most important question to ask job candidates in an interview and why?” is written by Enrique Conterno, president of Lilly Diabetes.

It’s no secret that people today are switching jobs more than ever. A 2016 study by the professional networking site LinkedIn found that millennials had changed jobs an average of four times in their first decade out of college. It can be difficult for hiring managers to weed out job hoppers from people who are serious about building a career.

Candidates must meet a number of requirements before an interview is even granted. Do they possess the basic skills? Have they performed well in previous roles? Do they have the necessary experience?

But the tougher part comes during the live interview. You need to ask the right questions to unearth the more ambiguous motives in a candidate. Personally, I want someone whose primary motivation is the work they would be doing and who’s interested in the challenge our company offers. Someone looking only for the next promotion, higher compensation, or a different boss tends to raise concerns for me.

I’ve found two particular questions to be helpful during the interview process. They are not uncommon questions in job interviews, but the answers lend insight into the character and motivation of applicants.

The first question focuses on the past: Why are you leaving your current employer? This helps me understand what the person is looking for in a new job and why they are looking at our company. I want to know if they are truly attracted to the position or if they are just fleeing a bad situation. This question can also tell me more about the person’s character. If the focus of their answer is to criticize their current position or employer, it’s a red flag—even if the reasons appear to be valid.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard such responses too often. Job candidates want to find a better situation for themselves, and they may want to flatter you by positioning your company as the better choice. For me, it has had the opposite effect: It leaves me wondering whether they have a permanently disgruntled attitude—and whether they would bring that negativity into our company.


The second question focuses on the future: Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years? In asking this question, I’m hoping to learn more about what drives the candidate to succeed. The best candidate has high aspirations with real goals in mind. Their focus on what they want to do is as important as what level of work they want to achieve. Ideally, they will talk about the importance of developing their skills and challenging themselves by taking on broader responsibilities.

Some of my most successful hires followed a different path than the one they had envisioned when they joined our team. But because they brought their full drive, experience, and passion to the position, they made our organization better.

Qualifications are important parts of the equation when seeking out new employees. But they don’t tell the whole story. Where the person is coming from—and where they want to go—are strong indicators of whether they’re the right fit for the job.

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