Greatest Interview Question

By: Matt Gainsford


If you could only ask one interview question, what would you choose and why should you ask two questions?

You’ve seen the LinkedIn profile, the resume looks great, and the cover letter paints a picture that makes the candidate look more valuable to your organization than the Mona Lisa. But just like the Mona Lisa, do you really know what’s going on behind the smile?

The interview is your chance to ask the questions to get to know the candidate, to dig into their background, what they’ve achieved and how they could fit into the team. It also gives them the opportunity to get to know your company better.

Interviews can be stressful for some while exhilarating for others and a successful interview can rise and fall depending on the preparation of the hiring team. The average time spent by hiring teams in preparing for an interview is 10 minutes. That’s it. Plus, most hiring managers review a resume for about 6 seconds. And we expect to make a successful hire after that!

So, if you only had ten minutes to prepare for an interview and you could only ask one question, what would you ask? What question would give you insights into a candidate’s suitability for the role, highlight their ability to succeed, overcome challenges and ramp up into the role quickly?

This question could change your approach to interviewing and allow your candidate the opportunity to settle in quickly to the process; for the nervous it will give put them at ease and for the candidate who can put on a great interview, it will help you uncover areas for further discussion.

This question can be asked in a couple of ways but the heart of it is the same:

Tell me about your greatest career achievement. What career achievement did you find most personally fulfilling or that you are most proud of?

Through this question you can uncover so much gold, and it will lead to further questions that will clarify relevant information in a natural, organic and connected way. Think of it like this:

  • What was your greatest career accomplishment? Are they an achiever?
  • What did that mean to you on a personal and professional level? This will give you insights into what they find fulfilling, potential motivators and how they view their impact on others.
  • How did this achievement impact the company and those around you? Was this something that contributed to the overall vision of the team or was this a solo accomplishment?
  • What challenges did you have to overcome to achieve this? Are they problem solvers and strategic solution providers; did they have to fight to achieve this; how flexible and adaptable are they; are they persistent?
  • Tell me about who was involved in the project. Who supported your efforts from a management and team perspective? This is a great place to get references who can speak to the achievements and character of the candidate.
  • Is there anything you would have changed about your approach? Do they evaluate their approach, are they growth minded?

The second question that you need to ask (you know, if you can only ask one question) is:

What is motivating you to explore this opportunity?

This question is gold for helping to uncover what’s important to the candidate and separates the candidates who are looking for a job from the candidates that genuinely invested the opportunity. That sense of why will give you key indicators on what’s driving the candidate.

What’s motivating you to explore this role?

  • Does the candidate understand the role?
  • Do they understand your company?
  • Do they understand themselves?
  • What are they not getting in their current role that is causing them to look elsewhere?
  • If they are doing this now, then what will keep them engaged at your company?
  • Are they growth minded?

A combination of these questions will set up your hiring team for success and equip them to get the most out of every interview.

More than recruiters, Titus Talent Strategies is a team of Talent Optimizers. We empower companies to put the right people in the right seats through informed, connected strategies that combine data with an empathetic understanding of what makes people tick. You can predict retention, guarantee performance, and chart growth.

Related Insights

Talent Checkup

Want to start a journey towards building a high performing culture? We can give you a roadmap. It takes less than 10 minutes.