The most important job interview question to ask candidates

How people answer this question tells you more than you may realise.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

The Question

There are a few questions candidates are advised to be prepared for, and the most important question is one of those. What’s surprised me over the years is how often people cannot answer it. They don’t just answer it badly. In many cases, they simply don’t have an answer.

“What do you know about us?”

A candidate’s answer to this can tell the interviewer many of the key things one needs to know about the kind of team member they will be.

Preparedness

Do the homework. Look at the company website. Browse the company’s social media accounts and updates. Use a search engine to see what else comes up.

Attention to detail

It’s always interesting to see how in-depth of an answer a candidate provides. If they’ve taken the time to get behind the core messages on the front of the website, it speaks volumes.

Resourcefulness

Sometimes, a candidate will bring up an obscure point that really shows they have done their research. This can come from a public source that is not easily found (e.g. not linked from the website, or not listed on the first few pages of search engine results), or by speaking to someone familiar with the company.

Conscientiousness

The best answers to this question are typically well-structured, have a logical beginning, middle, and end, sound natural yet prepared, and conclude with confidence because they know they nailed the answer.

Interest

In most endeavours, genuine passion and interest more than compensate for a lack of knowledge or experience. We should give people extra credit when they show an elevated amount of curiosity for the role they could be doing.

Bonus question

I usually follow with:

“Why cybersecurity?”

Of course, substitute “cybersecurity” with your relevant industry. The answer here should tell the interviewer if they truly want to be in the industry, or whether they simply think “it’s a good area to be in” or they are “in it for the money”.

Caveat

I’m aware that candidates should not be judged purely on the strength (or lack thereof) of their answer to one question. We want to hire the complete person, not a single response.

Extra Credit

If you are a candidate and about to interview with me for a role, mention this article. For extra kudos, say it’s because I told you to: it will help prove you really did your homework :)

Cyber Risk. Cybersecurity. Business. Tech. Entrepreneur. CEO at Avertro. Former CTO at McAfee Asia Pacific.