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Interview Questions that Reveal Your Employer Brand

Interview Questions that Reveal Your Employer Brand

By: John Rossheim

When you’re interviewing candidates, it’s easy to simply scan their resumes and ask for more detail on relevant roles, responsibilities and accomplishments. But that’s no way to sell your company and the career opportunity. And in 2016’s tight market for top talent, effective selling is critical to the recruitment goals of your interview process

So how do you know what interview questions to ask to burnish your employer brand? We spoke with a few experts who offered many great suggestions about how to conduct brand-promoting interviews.

Invite candidates to air their perceptions of your employer brand. Ask candidates about their impressions of your company; if you don’t, you’ll risk them spreading wrong ideas about you. Whether interviewees have a good experience or a bad one, they may immediately post their reactions on Facebook or Instagram, says Richard Mosley, global vice president of strategy at Universum Global in London, England. 

So don’t settle for candidate’s fawning compliments; dig in for detail. “Building an employer brand has become a much more personal, social process,” Mosley says.

Sample Interview Questions: How would you describe our company? What is attractive about working here? Do you have any negative impressions? 

Ask questions that invoke your employer brand. Don’t just tell the candidate what drives your organization -- lead them with the questions you ask. 

Companies tend to emphasize their employer brand with new hires, but less so with applicants in the midst of the candidate experience, according to Mosley. “It’s good to plan to bring out the company’s brand signatures in interviews,” he says.

Sample Interview Questions: How would you feel about working in a place where everyone’s voice is heard? How would you feel about working in an open environment? Could you see yourself being a mentor to others? 

Illustrate your company culture through the type of questions you ask. “We ask candidates to talk about an experience where they’ve received feedback and how they’ve responded to it -- because it’s part of our organizational culture for everyone to be able to get and give feedback,” says Rod Adams, U.S. recruitment leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Sample Interview Questions: We like to keep communication channels open at our company. How do you feel about working in that type of environment? 

Go deeper than the conventional trappings of startup culture. If you’re lucky enough to interview a candidate who probes for what is unique about your company, don’t respond with cliches. “Everyone is trying to copy everyone else; everyone has free snacks and a hammock,” says Matuson. “Experienced workers know they won’t have time for a nap anyway.” 

Instead, savvy candidates want to know what kind of people they will be working with, how the company might react to emerging disruptions in their market space, and so on.

Shape questions to experience level. Show that you respect the candidate’s career arc by posing questions that demonstrate your understanding of the candidate’s current situation and long-term potential. “We ask different questions of someone with 10 years of experience versus a campus recruit,” says Adams. “But all the questions are looking for the same underlying attributes.”

Sample Interview Question:

For an experienced candidate: In your experience, how would you handle a situation in which your team took the wrong approach with an important project?

For a new-to-the-job candidate: How would you handle a situation in which you realized that the work you did on an important assignment was wrong? 

Vary your line of questioning according to the candidate. Start with a basic set of questions, but respond to candidates’ answers with more questions. “A lot of companies have actually made their interview process less flexible, because they want to apply metrics in hiring and deliver consistent results -- but this becomes counterproductive,” says Mosley. “If you don’t show flexibility, it affects your employer brand.” 

Adams adds: “We take cues from each candidate about which parts of our value proposition are most important to the individual.”

Encourage candidates to ask substantive questions. Find out what’s on candidates’ minds by probing for any reservations they might have about the opportunity you’re offering. And use your response to brand the career opportunity. 

“It’s important to impress on hiring managers that the interview process is a two-way assessment, that they need to sell the candidate on the job,” says Mosley.

Sample Interview Question: "Based on what you've heard in our interview, I'm interested in hearing how you feel about this job opportunity."

Offer interactive activities that candidates will value. Remember that directed interaction can have a bigger branding impact than a simple exchange of information. “We do experiential activities, hold on-campus workshops in how to get feedback, how to project confidence,” says Adams. “This frames our firm as focused on development. We try to show them, not just tell them.”

Train all interviewers. Remember, for most recruiters and hiring managers -- even those with good interpersonal skills -- effective interviewing doesn’t come naturally. “We do training and provide a lot of prep for anyone involved in the interview process, so hopefully everyone is delivering the same messages,” says Adams.

Teach everyone in your organization about your employer brand. Your recruiters and hiring managers can’t ask questions that reveal your employer brand if they can’t articulate what that brand is. 

“I don’t think the employer brand is on the radar screens of most people at small and mid-sized companies,” says Roberta Matuson, author of Talent Magnetism: How to Build a Workplace that Attracts and Keeps the Best. “You need to teach your people the importance of creating a connection with the company brand.”

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