Secret Recruitment Questions Successful Recruiters Ask

Secret recruitment questions? In Recruitment, of all places? Really?


Most people dream of having it easy when they’re approached by a recruiter.

They seem to think that once one foot is in the door, that’s the end of the process – that they can just prepare their bags and get ready for their new career.

If only it was that easy.

The most successful and best recruiters do not ask questions and look for the right answers.

They ask the right questions that gives them answers to discover the right candidates.


Because experience tells them the right answers do not always get them the right candidates. But the right questions always do.

These are the top 10 questions every recruiter asks in every recruitment interview:-

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Tell me about the last job you were in.
  3. What did you best and least liked about your last/current job?
  4. What are your skills?
  5. What are your responsibilities?
  6. What are your significant achievements?
  7. What are your career goals?
  8. Why are you looking at new opportunities?
  9. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  10. Why should we hire you?

These questions are good questions, but they may not be the right questions that will help you discover the gems of the candidates. And as a result, you will have inaccurate and insufficient information and data for your recruitment selection process.

Why? Because invariably these questions are looking for the right answers, just to check off a list of required skills and knowledge. And many candidates are prepared and they know the answers that need to be heard.  So what you are seeing and what you are hearing may not be what you are really getting.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong in asking those 10 questions.

In fact you should ask those questions. 

But if you only focus on those questions, then I am certain you are not getting the best candidates that you are hoping to land.

Who Asks These Secret Recruitment Questions?

The most successful and best recruiters, human resource directors, leaders, bosses and managers do not just ask these 10 questions.

They are not interested in hearing the right answers to their checklist.

They ask different questions beyond these 10 to discover the best class of candidates for the right jobs. They are more interested in finding out the innate strengths of their candidates.

And the secret of their success lies in 3 secret recruitment questions that revolve around satisfaction, excellence and learning.  

The beauty of the secret lies in the fact that the answers to the questions are innately familiar and true to the candidates.

Why? Because these are the innate strengths and abilities of your candidates. And yet, often they are not prepared for these 3 secret recruitment questions. So when they answer these questions, you will likely get an unadulterated response, and a genuine description of who they are at their very best, what they want and what they can do for you.

Here are the 3 secret questions that the most successful and recruiters ask: –

1. What have you done that gave you immense satisfaction? Why?

What have you done that gave you immense satisfaction, such that if you have the opportunity to do it again, your answer would be “absolutely yes!”?

When you derive immense satisfaction from what you do, it is very likely that you are successful in your work, you have done well and you would want more opportunities to do more of what you are satisfied with. The answers to this question will reveal to you about the candidates on: –

  • What They Know – Their skills, competencies, knowledge and experience.  They will share about what they know and how their skills and competencies have helped them in being successful.  You will not just hear about a listing but also about the usefulness of what they know.
  • How They Do It – Their unique ways and approach on getting things done.  Their answers will show you their unique “HOWs”.  This is revealing in who they are and what they are like in their best contributing role.  It will easily let you see how they can complement your team.
  • What They Need – The conditions of success for them.  They will share what it is that they have done, who they did it with, what did they have, and what outcomes that gave them the immense satisfaction.  Knowing their answers will give you great insights on their fit into your corporate culture.

2. What have you done that surprised you in how well you did?

What is something that you have said or done, that when you said or did it, it surprised you on how well it went?

I call this a moment of excellence. Others call it a glimpse of excellence. It is subconscious. It is intuitive. It is unprepared. And somehow, you were able to take everything you know, make them come together and give a performance of excellence. And it totally surprised you.

When candidates are able to share with you their moments of excellence, you will gather 2 huge insights about them: –

  • What They Are Potentially Great In – Moments of excellence reveal your candidates’ innate strengths and abilities.  Potentially, they show you what they do when they are at their very best.  Did they come alive when they are solving specific problems or challenges?  Or when they are addressing groups of people?  Or when they are working closely with their clients?
  • What They Potentially Love To Do – Moments of excellence reveal your candidates’ unspoken choice of role, work and opportunities.  Most candidates are usually not prepared in answering this question.  So when they answer it, it is often revealing in how they are at their best in certain situations, roles and functions.

3. When and how did you learn really quickly?

Was there a time where you were able to learn rapidly, you were a quick study and you possibly felt you were the smartest in “class”?  

How were you learning then?

When you learn rapidly, it reveals the best environment, process and people in how you learn best and who you learn best from. The answers of your candidates to this question will show you the type of learner he or she is, and whether your company is conducive for, or open to their best ways of learning and growth development.

Often, many candidates fit the role. Unfortunately, many companies are unable to fit the candidates’ ways of learning. This means the candidates will have to put in greater efforts to learn and grow. And all too frequently, it results in slow progress, discouragement, disillusionment, and eventually, untimely resignations. 

So there you have it! When you learn these 3 secret recruitment questions and master the nuances of what these questions can show you, I guarantee that you will foolproof your interview process, gain better control to draw greater and richer insights, and gather more genuine data on your candidates. It will forever change how you interview.

It is now or never. Stop going through the checklist of answers. Start understanding your candidates. 

One thing is for sure. If you use these 3 secret recruitment questions, you will impress your candidates, become even more memorable to them and differentiate yourself and your company from the rest of the pack. 

So don’t be business as usual. Do what the most successful and the best of recruiters do – ask questions around satisfaction, excellence and learning.

Do love. Do best.

If you like this article and want to find out more about Empowering Leaders, feel free to download the free guide we have prepared for you below.

Kim Pong is the CEO and Founder of StrengthsAsia, Creator of the REFRAME MasterClass and the first 20 Gallup Certified Strengths Coaches in the world.  He is based in Singapore and works with organizations in Asia in creating an engaged workplace culture for leaders, managers and executives to thrive.

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