How to Assess Candidates in a Job Interview?

Are you sure you are assessing your candidates the best way? Learn the best practice tips and tricks for assessing candidates in a job interview. You’ll also discover 5 questions that can help you assess the performance, responsibility and ownership the candidate has displayed in the past.


The best way to assess job candidates

So, is your job is to recruit the best candidates for open positions in your company?

➡️ Download The Ultimate Candidate Interview & Employee Onboarding Checklist!

Congratulations, you hold the key to the company’s future. Do you even realize how important you are?

The people that you hire will be driving the course of your company’s future - up above to the stars or down into the dumps

So, as important as your job is, are you sure you are assessing your candidates the best way?


What to assess in job candidates?

For any job, the following are usually the key assessment aspects:

  1. Skills 
    Whether the candidate possesses the skills required for the position.

  2. Experience
    Whether the candidate has related experience in job, function, industry and geography as the ones required for the job.

  3. Salary
    Whether the expectations can fit the budgets.

  4. Culture fit
    Whether the candidate will be able to fit the people and company culture without causing disruption to either self or the organization. 


Just make sure you don’t hire based on the cultural fit alone!

In most cases, these are evaluated subjectively by those involved in the selection process and a decision is basically taken unanimously on gut feel.

However, one of the key aspects that gets ignored mostly is “How did the employee perform in his previous roles and jobs?”

Digging deep

Typically, past employee performance assessment during recruitment follows a standard set of questions asked, like:

And so on…

While everyone has a way of evaluating responses to such questions of the candidate, there is no sure way to determine the performance level of the candidate in the previously held jobs.

Looking for a more structured way of evaluating your candidate's performance in a previous job?
Determine the interview structure for a position you are hiring for and leverage interview scoring templates to create a repeatable process and an equal evaluation system!
 Structure my interview process 

Why is previous job performance assessment important?

Of course, there is a school of thought that may ask out loud, why is previous job performance important?

After all, if the employee was a high performer, any organization will ensure that the employee is retained, motivated and provided the best opportunities to continue performing.

And if that is how it is so, then why will a high performer want to leave the organization?

If the reason is compensation, then is that the only reason why we should be hiring the candidate because anyways, tomorrow there will be someone else offering higher and there will be no way to retain such people.

Thus, isn’t it counterintuitive to try to dig into past performance and run the risk of making a wrong judgement?

The curious case of past performance

The ideal employee for an organization is one who is equanimous to external factors and solely driven by the responsibilities of the job one is expected to perform.

Life, after all, cannot be fair to everyone at the same time all the time - thus, the need to put one’s head down and get the job done all the time.

In a world of constant flux where nothing is permanent from macroeconomics to people’s behaviour, what option does one have but dig the hole and forget the sun.

This is the reason why recruiters should assess the emotional responsibility of candidates – of how in spite of trying odds, one has completed the job that was required to be done.

Maybe, an incompatible Manager gave a bad rating once in a while but how none could ever raise a finger on the ownership and the sense of duty of the individual.

How to assess past job performance?

Well, strangely enough, this is not a very difficult job to do.

A set of 5 questions can quickly help you assess the performance, responsibility and ownership the candidate has displayed in the past.

These questions can be asked sequentially or in an order suited to your needs based on relevance but answers to most of these questions will give you a fair indication.

Before, we share the key questions to ask, let us stop in our tracks and try to understand how you are currently assessing employee performance.

Facts be stated, if you believe employee performance management is just a form filling ritual to award increments or a project to keep HR involved, then we suggest you stop here and check this out – maybe, it will help you understand why you are missing out on a gold mine of employee driven business benefits.

The reason why we are asking you to stop is that if you have not experienced the value of employee performance management, maybe asking you to assess past employee performance of candidates may boomerang and impact your recruitment strategies adversely.

Top 5 questions to assess job candidates past performance

Here is our list of the best questions to ask to assess past performance:

  1. In your past jobs, would you say you were a High, Medium or Low performer?
    This is a question that can easily reveal the honesty of the candidate. Most candidates will want to say High but may fear that saying so would open a can of worms. Again, if they say they were medium or Low, then they run the risk of being rejected. After all who wants to hire mediocrity? In most cases, the response will be High-Medium or Medium-High – the blind spot between Excellent and Mid-Level performers.

  2. What were the challenges you faced in performing better?
    This is again another quick question that helps you assess the intent of the candidate to take responsibility. If the candidate tries to externalize the factors for non or low performance, then there is a possibility that the person is a finger pointer than someone who is focussed on doing the best and improving

  3. What is the support you require to be high performing?
    This question helps reveal the sense of ownership & self-dependency of the candidate. Typically, an emotionally responsible person will ask for clarity on goals and how they are measured, real time feedback, etc. A person who is needy is going to ask for Manager’s help, team members support, employee motivation programs etc.

  4. What were some qualities that made your peers standout performers?
    Despite all odds, the ability to see the better qualities in others is the key here. Yes, I may be in intense competition with you in my path of ambition, but if I can identify and acknowledge you are better in such and such aspects, then in one go I identify my areas of development and the immediately available benchmarks for myself.

  5. How often did you reach out to Seniors, Peers or juniors for feedback?
    Feedback is key in performance fine-tuning. If offered voluntarily by others, it’s a gift. But more often, if the person reaches out not only to seniors but right across the team to get feedback, it shows the openness of the individual to transcend one’s ego and focus on performance improvement.

So, there you go. Get answers to these questions and check back whether our pointers are helping you assess and identify the best candidates for the job.

More great job interview questions

If you’re looking for more great interview questions that will help you assess candidates in a job interview, check out our useful additional resources:

About the author

The article was produced by GroSum, a continuous performance management software that helps build a goal-oriented and continuous feedback-based work culture. 

Frequently asked questions

What is the importance of assessing past job performance in interviews? 

Assessing past performance provides insights into a candidate's capabilities, work ethic, and potential fit, offering a more comprehensive evaluation than resumes or interviews alone.

How can past job performance predict future success in a role? 

Past performance, when assessed correctly, can be a reliable indicator of a candidate's future behavior, work quality, and adaptability in similar situations.

What are the top questions to assess past job performance? 

Questions about past achievements, challenges, support needed for high performance, qualities of standout peers, and frequency of seeking feedback can reveal much about a candidate's past job performance.

Why is it important to assess the emotional responsibility of candidates? 

Emotional responsibility indicates how candidates handle pressure, adapt to changing circumstances, and maintain productivity, crucial for predicting their performance in challenging roles.

How can past performance assessment impact the hiring decision? 

A thorough assessment of past performance helps in making informed hiring decisions, ensuring that the candidate not only fits the job requirements but also aligns with the company's culture and values.

backgound backgound
The Ultimate Guide for Conducting Job Interviews

The Ultimate Guide for Conducting Job Interviews

Use this guide to master your skills as a job interviewer, and make sure that you always hire the best job candidates!
Get your eBook

Further reading

55 Best Job Boards in 2024 (Free + Paid) 55 Best Job Boards in 2024 (Free + Paid)
Welcome to the ultimate cheat sheet for navigating the jungle of job boards! At this time, the space of job boards is almost endless, ranging from widely recognized...
How to Create a Hiring Plan That Works How to Create a Hiring Plan That Works
Imagine working in tourism, and you start posting ads for seasonal jobs a month before the beginning of the season? We all know it will be a disaster. Because we...

By topics

Attracting Candidates
Best HR Blogs
Candidate Experience
Careers Page
Collaborative Hiring
Conducting Interviews
Coronavirus (Covid-19)
Company Culture
Employee Management
Employee Onboarding
Internal Recruitment
Employer Branding
Hire planning
HR Software
HR Tech Trends
Interview Questions
Job Advertisement
Mobile Recruitment
News & Updates
People Analytics
Recruiting Stats
Recruitment Agencies
AI in Recruitment
Recruitment by Industry
Recruitment Content
Recruitment Marketing
Recruitment Process
Recruitment & HR Software
Recruitment Trends
Remote Work
Resume Screening
Candidate Assessment
Social Recruiting
Talent Sourcing
Successful Recruiter
Talent Acquisition
Tech Recruiting
Employee Retention
Video in Recruitment
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Your hiring teammate

TalentLyft is an intuitive recruitment app made for successful hiring.