May 06

Four Interview Questions to Help You Shortlist Job Applicants Faster

Competition among SME’s anywhere has never been tougher. And these days, if you want to get ahead, you need to hire good people.

But finding – and attracting -top talent can be tricky. They don’t exactly show up on interviews with labels on their shirts that say, “Top Pick.” And if you do manage to find them, chances are, they might already be working for someone else.

But don’t get discouraged. Sometimes, there are diamonds in the rough or top performers looking for new opportunities among a pool of candidates.

So, how do you spot them? For starters, you can narrow the list down by asking each candidate these four interview questions:

“Was there a time when you received feedback that hurt your feelings?”


Listen carefully to the answers that follow this question.

Top performers are usually honest when it comes to expressing their emotions. Many of them are able to communicate their side of the story pretty well too.

Observe the nuances in their body language and facial expression as well. If the candidate can tell the story in a balanced way, that’s a good sign that they can communicate effectively – and probably can process their emotions in a healthy way when things don’t go as they should.

Conversely, when a candidate doesn’t have anything to share, that may be a telltale sign that s/he is not experienced enough. Worse, if that candidate exhibits defensiveness, indignation, and disengagement, that might be a sign to steer clear of them and move on.

“Can you recall a time when you had a strong win at work?”

Can you recall a time when you had a strong win at work

Previous work contributions matter.

When evaluating applications, check out which candidates had significant achievements in their past jobs. Listing down previous job responsibilities isn’t enough. It’s also important to determine if they were able to do them well, and this is where strong wins come in.

You would want a distinct and specific answer. It can be about a successful project they handled or an important issue that they managed to resolve.

Pay attention to how they describe how they managed it too. Did they take all the credit for themselves? Or were they quick to acknowledge the role their other colleagues played?

Obviously, we all want someone who can work well, both on their own and with others.

“Why did you apply for this job?”


It’s common for applicants to send out their resumes everywhere to increase their chances of landing a job. But top performers are different.

Instead, they’re more intentional and prefer to apply to companies that resonate and align with their personal values and long-term goals.

By asking why a candidate is applying specifically for your company, you’ll determine if the candidate took time to get to know your brand and what you stand for. This will also clue you in on whether there’s a match between the job position they’re applying for and their career goals (i.e., whether you’d be a good fit for each other in the long run).

“Did you ever feel demoralised at work? What was that like?”

Did you ever feel demoralised at work What was that like

Regardless of how much we love what we do, no job is without its bad days. And how we deal with them says a lot about our resilience.

So, this question probes how an applicant copes when things don’t go their way.

Top performers usually display strong soft skills such as emotional intelligence, problem-solving, communication, and leadership. If they can share specific instances that exhibit these, that’s a good sign.

Whatever you do, avoid hiring people who won’t admit their shortcomings. They’re more likely to quit when things get tough. Moreover, it could point to a victim mentality which they inevitably bring to their next job.


At the end of the day, your company is only as strong as the weakest person on your team.

So when candidates walk through your door (or enter your Skype/Zoom interview), don’t be afraid to ask hard questions. The top performers that you’re looking for won’t shrink from them.


Too busy to shortlist candidates for an urgent position?

Remote Staff has been helping AU SMEs and entrepreneurs like you do just that for the past 15 years and counting. We have helped countless clients scout and hire more than 8,000 skilled remote talents from the Philippines, so when it comes to choosing top performers, we can make it as quick and painless as possible.

Call us today or schedule a call back so we can get started.


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Disclaimer: The above article was written according to the information available as of press time.
All opinions and beliefs expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Remote Staff's, its employees, subcontractors, clients, and affiliates.

About The Author

Serena has been working remotely and writing content for the better part of the last decade. To date, she's written for and Mabuhay Magazine, among others, and has churned out more than a thousand articles on everything from The Basics of Stock Market Investing to How to Make Milk Tea-Flavored Taho at home. Hermits, aspiring hermits, and non-hermits with interesting project propositions may email her at

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