Interview questions to ask candidates

Christian Madsen

Written by Christian Madsen

Managing Director of 11 Recruitment

Away vs. towards candidates

Many employers and recruiting professionals have a favourite interview question. I have mine too - it's simply "why are you sitting here today?". But to understand why this is my favourite question, you first need to understand the difference between away and towards candidates.

The away candidate wants to get away from a painful situation that is causing them stress or discomfort. They may be unemployed or at risk of getting fired, or the company they are working for may be struggling to remain viable. These candidates tend to look at things negatively, as they are focused on alleviating their pain. As such, they may say:

  • "My current employer doesn't understand what the job requires."
  • "We've lost so many staff because of my manager."
  • "It's such a negative atmosphere."
  • "The company's going down and management doesn't care."
  • "The company keeps changing the goal posts"

The towards candidate, on the other hand, is drawn towards something better. They are not trying to escape a painful situation, so their motivation is very different to the away candidate. These candidates focus on what they could get in a new role, and how it will make them even happier than they currently are. As such, they may say:

  • "This sounds really interesting, tell me more."
  • "What benefits and rewards do you offer?"
  • "Tell me about your career options, work-life balance and pay."
  • "I have always wanted to learn more about this."
  • "It is an area I would like to pursue."

Interview questions to explore

To determine whether a candidate is an "away" or "towards" candidate, it is recommended to ask questions related to their current situation, urgency, and impact expectancy. Some of the questions that can be asked include:

  • "What are the consequences if you don't get the job?" This question can reveal whether the candidate is in a negative situation they want to escape (away candidate) or is content with their current situation (towards candidate).
  • "What is your time frame?" The away candidate will want to change their situation as soon as possible, so their time frame will be immediate. The towards candidate, however, is happy with where they are currently, so there will be no time pressure.
  • "What does it take for you to accept a new position?" The willingness of the candidate to accept a new position can indicate whether they are an away candidate (willing to make a horizontal move) or a towards candidate (needing a significant improvement to make a change).

An article for First Round Review details the favourite interview questions from a range of employers. Some that I found of interest include:

  • "What do you want to do differently in your next role?"
  • "Imagine yourself in three years. What do you hope will be different about you then compared to now?" 
  • "For the last few companies you've been at, why did you leave and why did you choose the next company you worked for?" 
  • "Among the people you've worked with, who do you admire and why?" 
  • "What’s something great about your current or previous job? Why?" 

These questions can reveal the candidate's ambitions, values, and whether they have a history of running away from pain or running towards something positive.


Why are you sitting here today?

This takes me back to my own favourite interview question - "why are you sitting here today?". The answer you receive will tell you why the candidate is looking for a new job. And from this, you will be able to establish whether they are an away or a towards candidate. 

If you are considering an "away" candidate, who is leaving their current job due to self-inflicted pain (such as poor performance), you should be cautious. You need to consider whether this pain will carry over into their new job. If so, it may be best to reject them. However, if their pain is not their fault, offering them similar conditions to their current role may convince them to accept the job.

On the other hand, "towards" candidates, who are seeking to improve their career and move forward, are typically more expensive to hire. If you believe you are interviewing a "towards" candidate, you should be prepared to offer at least 30% more than their current salary. If they are willing to accept the same conditions as their current role, it's important to investigate further and determine if there are any underlying issues causing them to consider leaving their current job.

So, next time you prepare your list of interview questions, you should ask the candidate about their motivation. This will make it easier for you to determine whether you should make an offer of employment, and what you will need to offer the candidate to get them to say "yes".


Top Talent

Want to recruit top talent?

Now that you have some interview questions to ask candidates, you may be interested in learning more about 11 Recruitment's permanent recruitment services.

11 Recruitment is the leading perm and temp recruitment agency for white-collar staff. We source high achievers for jobs in Perth and throughout Australia.

At 11, we typically get involved in the recruitment process when a client is either seeking a high achiever to elevate their business, recruiting for a role that is hard to fill, or having difficulty sourcing or attracting suitable candidates.

We provide the following recruitment services.

Click the button below to learn more about how 11 Recruitment sources top talent for businesses throughout Australia.



Christian Madsen

What are your thoughts?

I'd love to have a conversation with you about this topic - please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or opinions πŸ™‚

Christian Madsen

Managing Director of 11 Recruitment

  • Warren Davis says:

    I appreciated your article.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Warren, thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the article πŸ™‚

      • John Smith says:

        Sounds good. Great questions

        • Christian Madsen says:

          Hi John, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m happy to hear you liked the article πŸ™‚

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Siraj, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article interesting πŸ™‚

  • Craig Mist says:

    Thanks for sharing – Great post

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Craig, you’re most welcome. I’m glad you found it valuable πŸ™‚

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