Colorado tech recruiters reveal: What to ask (and what NOT to ask) during an interview

April Bohnert

At the end of any interview, you have the chance to ask the recruiter your burning questions. But the savvy jobseeker knows it isn’t a just an opportunity for you to decide if it’s a good fit — it’s an opportunity for the recruiter to decide if it’s a good fit too.

We asked three tech recruiters about the best and worst questions they hear, and how jobseekers can leave a job-winning impression.

 

Prior to joining Healthgrades in October of last year, talent acquisition partner Whitney Bertram worked as a technical recruiter for IT staffing firm EdgeLink and in people operations for Google. She not only knows recruiting — she also understands the unique talent needs of Colorado’s tech companies. For Bertram, the best questions are those that show your enthusiasm for the role.

What's the best question a candidate can ask in an interview, and why?

Ultimately, I want someone to be excited about the opportunity and the impact they can make and show that through unique questions. “How do you innovate? What does success look like for HG and how will I be a part of that? How do your teams live your mission each day?” are all great questions. I want to hire the person who is going to wake up in the morning and be excited about the opportunities and challenges they will encounter every day at HG.  

Embrace your unique questions and showcase your connection to our mission and core values. Those are the types of people we want on our team to help Healthgrades change the game in the healthcare technology space.

What's the worst question a candidate can ask in an interview, and why?

“Can I speak directly to the hiring manager instead of you?”

We understand your time is valuable; however, this can come off as a complete lack of regard for our team and process. Our hiring teams put a lot of trust in our recruiters, and we can be great partners and advocates for you along the way, too.

Also, going straight to benefits, compensation and work-from-home policies can appear like you are not as interested in the long-term opportunity as you are short-term needs.

What has been the most surprising question you've received from a candidate?

“What does your company do?”

This is the most surprising as it indicates you have not done your research. Being prepared with basic information — or better yet, if you have used Healthgrades.com — is super exciting and a great way to make a good initial impression. As an alternative, you can ask, “This is what I know about your company. Are there other offerings, revenue streams or initiatives that I should be aware of?”

 

Senior corporate recruiter Beth Finger (left) and talent acquisition manager Jessica Gard (right) have a combined 45 years of recruiting experience. According to these recruiting pros, if you want a chance to join the CA Technologies team, don’t talk benefits on the first call. Instead, focus on the bigger picture and make sure it’s a good fit for you — and the company.

What's the best question a candidate can ask in an interview, and why?

Gard: I always like when a candidate asks what the culture of the company is and maybe about the teams/people they will be working with. To me that means they are asking for the right reasons — not about title or money, but is this the right fit for me? A question about culture also shows that the candidate is collaborative, which is a key part of our culture.  

Finger: When someone asks me what I like about working at CA, it is a nice change of pace to be able to tell them what I like  — and also highlight positive aspects of CA that relate directly to things they mentioned earlier in our conversation.  

What's the worst question a candidate can ask in an interview, and why?

Gard: When a candidate starts getting into the weeds about benefits well before we have established if it’s a fit. These issues are more appropriate to broach later in the process.

Finger: When a candidate asks me via email, before we even speak, what the salary is or if he or she can work remotely, I am immediately turned off. Similar to Jessica's thought, we have not established if it’s a fit, much less even spoken yet.  

What has been the most surprising question you've received from a candidate?

Finger: Early in my career, a candidate sat down in my office and the first thing out of her mouth was, "How many sick days do I get?"  It still makes me chuckle to this day!  

Gard: When a candidate asks me about the leadership and strategy of the company, I am always surprised in a positive way.

Finger: Another time, I had a guy meet with me, then meet with several other team members, then he came back to my office looking ashen. He excused himself, threw up in the bathroom, and came back to ask for a granola bar to relieve his nausea. Apparently, he had been up all night with his sick toddler. He did get the job!

 

Michael Collins manages talent acquisition and development for AUTOPAY. Three years ago, he launched a professional development and coaching business, where he works with anyone from entrepreneurs to executives. Collins says it’s not always what you say to a recruiter, but the impression you leave that makes the difference.  

What's the best question a candidate can ask in an interview, and why?

There are so many great questions a candidate can ask that will elicit a genuine reaction, where the interviewer(s) have to give a thoughtful answer instead of canned responses. One of these questions is, “What do you like most about working for this company?”

I like this question because it’s personal and it forces the interviewer to answer the question as it pertains to them, not the company talking points. Make sure to pay attention to their first reaction to the question. That will be a telltale sign if they enjoy working there or not.

What's the worst question a candidate can ask in an interview, and why?

I would say that you should be mindful of questions that make you seem high maintenance or that you’re going to be difficult to deal with. An example of this could be, “May I arrive early or leave late as long as I get my hours in?”

Even if your intentions are pure, the interviewer is probably thinking, “OK, this candidate is going to keep asking for things and will be a complete headache throughout the entire hiring and onboarding process.” I’m not saying don’t negotiate or try to set yourself up to fit your lifestyle. I’m saying be mindful of how certain questions can come across and create a negative reaction. Maybe reframe your question so it comes from a place of adding value to the company – that you have their best interest in mind.

What has been the most surprising question you've received from a candidate?

Can I just say that after doing this for a while that nothing really surprises me anymore? But people do continually amaze me!

 

Photos via featured recruiters.

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