Growth Strategies

Eight Interview Questions You Need to Ask

These queries limit the job seeker's ability to exaggerate or lie -- while cluing you in to the person's character.
4 min read
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The jobless recovery can be a blessing and a curse for businesses looking to hire.

On the one hand, rarely have there been so many people vying for employment at your company.

On the other hand, most of those people don't necessarily want to work for your company as much as they want to work for a company. Any company.

That means there are overqualified, under-qualified and simply desperate candidates looking for a position to hold them over until a better opportunity beckons. Mixed in there somewhere are people who actually covet the job at hand.

Merely sorting through resumes is a good first step, but it's hardly comprehensive enough to ensure you hire the right person. You need to conduct interviews to differentiate where resumes can't. But what kinds of questions should you ask?

The best queries limit the job seeker's ability to lie or exaggerate, while eliciting responses that clue you in to the person's character and fit at the company.

  1. How about those Yankees?
    Conversational questions like this one will break from the formality. "It helps nervous applicants calm down and builds a sense of trust," writes Brian Libby, which garners "much more honest responses."

    In short, questions like this help make the candidate comfortable. Unless, of course, you're hiring for a job with the Red Sox.
  2. If I called three people who have worked with you, how would they describe you?
    Teresa A. Taylor, COO of Qwest, loves this question because candidates "usually end up telling a negative story [...] it's almost like they're afraid you're actually going to do it."

    And, if you were interviewing Taylor, you might want to ask why it's so far-fetched to assume you're checking references.
  3. What makes you stand out from others?
    Jeff Wuorio, explains that this question is great because "most people get a little uncomfortable boosting themselves." Good candidates will walk the line between excessive self promotion and "a lack of gumption."

    The whole reason you're conducting interviews is to determine which candidate is better than the rest. Might as well let the interviewee do that work for you.
  4. Tell me about a time when you initiated a project that resulted in increased productivity?
    "In actuality you're not really asking someone if they have done something," explains Janis Whitaker, author of Interviewing by Example. "What you're doing is asking them to explain to you how they have done it. So it's very, very difficult to exaggerate or fake this interview."
  5. What's the toughest feedback you've ever received and how did you learn from it?
    Ben Dattner, the founding principal of organizational consulting and research firm Dattner Consulting, likes this question because it offers insight into a candidate's flaws and shortcomings while giving them the opportunity to show what they've learned.

    This can be an alternative to the dreaded "what's your weakness" question, which probably deserves its own story counting all the reasons why it's not effective.
  6. When have you been most satisfied in your career?
    Asking this question, according to renowned interview coach Carole Martin, is crucial because it offers employers a clue as to what motivates the interviewee -- and whether he'd be happy working with the company.
  7. If you were in this job tomorrow, what are the first things you would do and in what priority?

    George F. Franks III, president of Franks Consulting Group, advises hiring managers to use this question because it indicates "whether the candidate has some understanding of the Company's mission, vision and values," all while offering "an opportunity to show off their initiative."

    It also shows how practical the candidate is. No one can expect to solve the company's major problems on their first day. But the answer can provide insight into how long or short your leash will need to be during the potential employee's first few weeks.
  8. Do you have any questions?
    Just about everyone agrees that this interview staple is truly a good question. And in this case, there is such thing as a stupid question. Especially if the question is, "what's the salary?" The best candidates will ask probing questions about the company in particular to show that they prepared for the interview.

Better questions equals better results. Time to put those flawed, though well-intentioned, interview questions to rest.

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