By the very nature of what we do, agency recruiters are often asked to close difficult searches. Clients don't even call us until they are struggling with a role for a hot minute, and so, we know that our entire process has to begin and end with getting talented candidates to accept an offer at the end of the process.
There are a few questions that I've learned that can help managers and internal HR determine what motivates a candidate at the beginning of the process and make the close even easier at the end!
1) Tell me about how you heard about the role and your application process.
This question actually tells you more about the candidate than you think. It's also a great ice breaker, and can get a candidate warmed up for answering tougher questions later on.
If the candidate says "I saw the role posted on (insert internet job board) then you know that candidate is actively looking on the market. This is useful because you know, if they are a good candidate, you will have to sell against other offers at the end of the process.
If the candidate says, "A headhunter called me." You know a few things. First, they are probably pretty happy where they are, and can be considered a passive candidate. Second, that they may be shopping the market to see if they are making a competitive salary at their current job. You are going to have to engage and convince this candidate to consider the role seriously from the beginning of the process, which may definitely change your interview style.
If the candidate says, "My friend so-and-so works here, and suggested I take a look at the role" then you know this can be a point of leverage at the end of the process.
2) Tell me about your favorite part of your current job.
This is a great question because people really like working within their strengths, so just by answering this question the candidate will tell you which aspects of your job description they are naturally good at.
The other part of their answer will tell you what you have to sell against. Say you want to make an offer to this candidate, but your role doesn't include A-133 audit. You find out that audit season is this candidate's Superbowl. You're going to have to make sure you sell that candidate on some other interesting project that happens once a year and everyone works hard to accomplish. You want to make sure there is a corollary to the candidate's favorite task for them to look forward to.
Finally, 90% percent of communication is non verbal. If you ask this question and they can't think of anything off the top of their head, then no matter how much they say they are happy at their current role to try to push your offer up, you know that they had a hard time thinking of ONE thing they like about their current job.
3) What are you hoping to accomplish here?
This question tells you a few things. First, if they have really imagined themselves as part of your team, they will have a great and detailed answer to this question. Second, if their answer is about contributions to your company's bottom line or overall mission, then they are interested enough to do some research and be prepared for the interview. You know you have their interest. If their answer is all about how this role will help their career...run. Don't even make an offer. They will shop your offer around town and use it to increase their salary at their current role.
Hope this helps!