SmartRecruiters Blog

The First Job Interview Question

The first interview question is a chance for the candidate to give their 1-2 minute elevator pitch and an effective first interview question asks something like, “Please tell us about yourself.” It’s key because it is often the first impression a candidate gives. I have seen hiring managers and recruiters try to get fancy on the first question, but I recommend to keep the first one simple and straightforward.

I’m the VP of HR for HireVue, provider of OnDemand Video Interviewing. In an OnDemand Video interview, it can be tough for both the employer and candidate because there is not another person to interact with via video, but look at an OnDemand video question in the same light as the first question in a face to face interview.  Really, the first question of an OnDemand video interview is not that much different than it is when talking face to face.

For candidates, be brief, be bright and be gone. Tell a story about yourself and be interesting. Hit the highlights of your professional background and a little of your personal background. Treat this question like you just met someone new at a networking event and tell them about yourself. The people watching your interview will be more excited to watch the rest of your interview if you nail the first one. But do not worry if you flop the first one, keep going and get better on the next question. You can’t erase the past.

First job interview question

As for hiring managers and recruiters…If a candidate flops the first few questions and you know they are not a fit, then pass. That will save you time and energy so you can focus on finding who you need. I know you have several people to screen.

Many times the recruiter will prep the candidate a little before they take the interview. Some candidates need more prepping versus others, but the point is to make candidates feel comfortable taking the interview. Additionally, there are instructions and tips the candidate will receive before they begin the interview to help them make it a success. But once the interview starts, it is live and candid.

Before the interview, I recommend the recruiter and candidate align on what to wear (informal or formal dress) and also the candidate should send any documents (i.e., resume, LinkedIn profile, work samples, etc) to the recruiter in advance. That way there is no confusion or follow-up once the interview has been complete. This helps a recruiter get a deeper look at the skills and qualifications of the candidate and also the candidate to better tell their story.

If the candidate gets on video, so should the hiring managers and recruiters. One of the best ways to make an OnDemand digital video interview interactive and effective is to have the hiring manager record an introduction at the beginning of the interview and a closing. This makes it more interactive, sets expectations and lets the candidate hear from the hiring manager. This method works well when an employer has several candidates and the hiring manager does not have time to meet and screen every person.

In short…The first interview question is important. The employer and candidate should treat it that way. The employer can try to get tricky or fancy with the question, but I recommend keeping the first one simple. Use the more advanced and technical questions for later in the interview. Ask powerful and authentic questions and you will increase your chances of getting powerful and authentic responses.

BenMartinezNew-220x146Ben Martinez is a self-proclaimed family guy, exerciser, and HR journeyman. He has successfully worked in various HR leadership roles around the US and Mexico for Fortune 500 companies (specifically Pepsi, Sears, Honeywell, and Energizer Holdings Inc.). Currently he is the Vice President of HR for HireVue, where he works with incredible people in the HR technology space who have rallied around a cause to bring HR out of the dark ages. He also blogs at HRHound.  Photo Credit Classes and Careers.

SmartRecruiters is the hiring platform with everything you need to source talent, engage candidates and make the right hires. Check out more interview tips on our blog.


Ben Martinez