How to spot a pro-active candidate during an interview

Recently I asked HR Expert Bishwabandita Guru the following question “How do you spot a pro-active candidate, someone who is a self-starter and takes initiative?  This is what she had to say with regard to how to spot a pr0-active candidate during a job interview.

How to spot a pro-active candidate  

It is imperative for any recruiter to find out in his/her candidate whether the candidate is a self-starter, takes initiative and is pro-active. Out of my personal experience, I’d suggest to scale and evaluate it through a set of behavioral questions for each of these categories.

How to spot a pro-active candidate –> Being a Self-starter:

Self-starters are the people who don’t need to be probed, constantly encouraged or closely monitored. They are bursting with energy and eager to take on responsibility. In order to judge if the candidate is a Self-starter, I’d ask few questions like:

  • Would you consider yourself as a self-starter?
  • Can you narrate on an incidence? and if the candidate quickly gets on his feet to answer smartly instead of sitting back and staring at you, then there are far more chances of his being a self-starter.

His answer should be like “Yes, I initiate plans and discuss with my immediate superior to give a go-ahead to it.”

There are also some who talk in numbers like how many days they took exactly to get the ball rolling. Answers like “I discussed my ideas with my superior, got the go-ahead to start and followed up on so and so project which took only 30 days and the result was amazing”, clearly indicate their energy level as a go-getter.

Sometimes the answer comes like “I’m not sure how to answer to this question” or something like “I have done many things in my career that proves me as a self-starter” but no valid example attached to it proves the point that he is not a self-starter.


How to spot a pro-active candidate –> Taking Initiative:

To evaluate whether a candidate takes Initiative, I’d ask him a question like “Could you narrate an instance where you did something you weren’t required to do, but you felt the need to be done?” In this case, if the answer comes like, “Once I felt that the marketing inquiries were distributed in a haphazard manner. I set up a system and segregated them in accordance with different regions of marketing. This approach enabled the entire team to come up with a more creative solution to their problem.” This instance indicates that the candidate is willing to take initiative.

How to spot a pro-active candidate –> Being pro-active:

In order to evaluate if a candidate is pro-active, I would listen to his views by asking few behavioral questions like “Describe me an instance when you took initiative in a project.” or “Tell me of an instance when you voluntarily handled a project that everyone else in your team was not much convinced about.”

Most of them would give examples of tasks they were delegated either by their bosses or other seniors. This I would not consider as an initiative. Here, I would follow my instinct after some careful listening and direct questions like “How did you figure out what to do and what you did exactly?” I would easily cap off the exaggerations or lies if any, before evaluating and deciding on any course of action.

Thank you very much Bishwabandita for sharing your hiring approach and analysis with my audience, it’s always a delight.


bishwabandita guru Bishwabandita Guru is a seasoned HR Professional and presently the Founder of “HR-Revamped”, a Startup Co., that provides strategic HR solutions to SMEs pan India. She is a Freelance Business Content Writer and Author of two books on HRM titled as “The Ultimate Quotebook for Human Resource Managers” and “Demystifying the HR jargon wagon”. After an MBA in HR, she is currently pursuing her Ph.D in Human Resource Management. Her public profiles can be accessed on the following links: and


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Author: Karin Schroeck-Singh

Karin Schroeck-Singh is a trilingual Career Optimizer at She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Her passion lies in creating multilingual, high-quality content in career matters, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping job seekers to optimize their career by providing professional coaching. She is the author of several ebooks, among them “44 Tips for a successful Video Interview” ( She has written several career and business articles for international HR and Marketing companies. Her favourite motto is “Learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime!” Follow her on Twitter @CareerHeads.

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