"Tell me what you want, what you really, really want" – questions to unlock the hiring manager's wish list

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By Tim Kemp

12 Dec 2017

I'll never forget the year that my daughter looked crestfallen on Christmas morning. She was five at the time. As her gift pile started to dwindle, she became more agitated, until she finally declared: "Why didn’t he bring me the dolly that cries?"

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My wife and I looked confused: "What dolly? Did she mention it to you? Have we failed some kind of parenting test? What on earth is one of those?" Turns out she had written a note to Santa for her deepest desire and like the wish when blowing out the candles on the birthday cake, kept it a secret.

Some days, it feels like the hiring manager thinks that I'm a mind reader. They assume I know instinctively what they're looking for. Some of them may be testing me, some of them may not be able to articulate what good looks like, and some of them just might not know.

There are many questions to ask when taking down the recruitment requirement. Initial questions are of course needed to establish the basics: Salary? Shift pattern? Job title? Size of team? Reporting structure? Authority to recruit?

Other questions can help a recruiter to manage the process better: What are the selection stages ? How long have you been looking for? What are the consequences of not hiring?

Key questions to unlock the hiring manager's wish list

Yet, we're just going to focus on those that get to the root of what the hiring manager is looking for:

1. What are the three non-negotiables the candidate must have for you to consider them?

2. Which organisations or competitors do you want someone to come from and why?

3. Which companies do you not value so highly and why?

4. If you had a magic wand who is the perfect person for this role? Who do you want? What does good look like to you and why?

5. What is worrying you the most about hiring for this role?

6. What personality or behaviour traits would not work in your environment?

7. What personality traits work well in your team, your organisation and with particular key stakeholders?

8. What direction do you hope this role will take your team and organisation in?

9. What will success look like and what do you need this role to deliver in the first year?

10. What will this person have achieved in their career up to this point?

11. What problem or pain will this person remove for you?

12. If you couldn't have [include relevant] experience, what would be the next best thing?

13. If they didn't have the experience? What qualities would this person need to get up to speed quickly?

14. If you were to cover this role tomorrow, which aspects would you find most difficult?

15. What three words best describe the person you are looking for?

16. What are you secretly hoping for?

Asking some of these questions will help you to understand the hiring manager's key criteria. Yet satisfaction is still not guaranteed, especially if these wishes are not realistic or if there are several hiring managers who all want conflicting things. Having confidence in what the employer is looking for is essential in making any recruitment a success.

Interviews are a crucial element of your candidate experience. That's why we've compiled Scientifically proven - the 50 best leadership interview questions a free guide that helps you to avoid making expensive mistakes with your leadership recruitment.

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