Four Focus Areas for Interviewing Candidates

We use four main focus areas when evaluating candidates and potential hires. Extracting insights based on these pillars should equip you with a deep understanding of each interviewee as you progress through your hiring process.  


Smarts indicate how intelligent someone is. We're testing several factors such as:

  • Information analysis
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Reasoning 
  • Decision-making
  • Planning
  • Verbal communication
  • Active listening 

Dig deep into a candidate's ability to process information, formulate rationalizations/plans, and make decisions. Their level of engagement - reflected by their verbal communication, body language, and active listening - should give you a sense of their comfort and confidence handling uncertainty and pressure. 



Role refers to someone's exact fit to the opportunity.

  • Adaptability 
  • Communication
  • Influence 
  • Goal-orientation
  • Detail-orientation 
  • Overall fit 

Determining a candidate's overall fit involves an examination of previous performance/experience, that individual's internal working processes, and how that impacts external interactions within a team or across departments. Probe the interviewee's adaptability (how they conduct themselves when facing ambiguity), goal-orientation (how they complete objectives and manage timelines), and detail-orientation (how they precise they are in delivering successful work).

From there, aim to understand how that candidate communicates within the greater organization. That means learning how that person communicates to stakeholders (e.g. peers, subordinates, superiors, customers, etc.). In addition, it's important to see how the potential hire influences others (e.g. coalition-building, persuasion, etc.) to achieve results.

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  • Initiative
  • Actions
  • Problem-solving / Decision-making
  • Collaboration
  • Organizational positioning
  • Growth potential

Exploring the interviewee's leadership skills really means gauging that person's ownership of situations. Your questions will touch on that individual's decision-making acumen, his/her sense of urgency and timeliness, and their confidence in execution. You're also taking a step back to see the larger framework of collaboration beyond his/her immediate duties. Hone in on the candidate's growth potential when compared to your ideal standard for that position.

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  • Teamwork
  • Values 
  • Decision-making alignment
  • Adaptive learning (are they learning with each experience and adapting that into the company's culture)

Does the interviewee align with your company's values? Do they have integrity? Are they ethical? Are they learning as they go through their career? Are they absorbing each experience and applying those lessons? Will they do their best work for you? Answering these questions will you compare and select your next great hire.

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The degree of focus often changes based on the stage or round of your interview process. There are no magic numbers for minimums and maximums. On one hand, many rounds of interviewing allow you to assess a candidate's abilities with precise detail. An early stage may examine smarts and leadership while later stages dissect role and culture. You'll be able to draw on a wealth of information for comparisons and selection.

On the other hand, several stages of interviewing can elongate your hiring process and harm the candidate experience with long wait times. You may face a tradeoff between quality and speed; great talent won't be available for long as they attract numerous offers in competitive labor markets.


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