Interview Questions

The One Question Burger King's CEO Asks Job Candidates Is Much Harder Than You Would Think

It's all about having the right attitude.
The One Question Burger King's CEO Asks Job Candidates Is Much Harder Than You Would Think
Image credit: David Woolfall | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Founder of The Home Service Expert
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

To be honest, I'm a bigger fan of McDonald's than Burger King. But, when Burger King's CEO Daniel Schwartz talks, I listen. (After all, he turned things around for his restaurant chain, and brought it to the same league as McDonald's.)

Related: 9 Questions to Ask Candidates' References

In a New York Times interview, Schwartz shared the one question he poses to job candidates, to find out if they would make great hires: "Are you smart or do you work hard?"

Now, this feels like a no-brainer: Surely the right answer is to say that you work hard. Right? But, according to Schwartz, a lot of his candidates actually say this: "I'm smart, so I don't need to work hard."

Big. Mistake.

Now, you shouldn't just hire people who say they work hard. That's not the point.

It's about having the right attitude: As a business owner, I sure wouldn't want to hire employees who think they are too smart for the job. While they might get results, their mindset just isn't good for any company's culture in the long run.

Related: 7 Interview Questions That Determine Emotional Intelligence

So, how do you hire top performers who are humble and willing to learn? Apart from Schwartz's excellent question, here are a few other interviewing tricks which you can use:

1. Ask them about how their ex-bosses would rate them.

Get your candidates to tell you how their last three bosses would rate their performance, on a scale of one to 10. Then, ask them to elaborate on each rating.

You'll want to look for people who remain respectful and fair, even if they might not have agreed with all the choices their bosses had made. Great employees often can see problems from another point of view, which is a good sign of their people skills.

After the interview, be sure to actually call your candidate's ex-bosses to verify the information. This will help you gauge how honest your candidates are.

Related: The 25 Trickiest Questions Apple Will Ask in a Job Interview

2. Get them to talk about how they screwed up on the job.

Everyone makes mistakes, but how we respond to mistakes is what our character is made of. Here's how I'd phrase the question: "Can you tell me about an occasion or two that you screwed up in your previous job?"

You're looking for candidates who take responsibility for their mistakes, and improve from there. Ditch candidates who blame other colleagues or external circumstances. If they refuse to take ownership of their past mistakes, they will do the same when they join your company.

If your candidates remain tight-lipped about what didn't go well in their last job, ask them in a more roundabout way instead: "What are some things you would change about your past job?" Then just wait for them to share.

Related: The Key to Hiring the Best Candidate Is Deciding What's Most Important

3. Push their buttons and see their reaction.

Put some stress on your candidates, so that they show their true colors. Here's what I would say: "Thank you, this sounds good, but I'm not getting the impression you're a superstar."

Some might start speaking passionately about their past projects that they championed -- which is awesome -- but you'll definitely get a few people who will blow up under pressure, i.e. become overly aggressive or defensive. Boot the latter out of the door.

If you're not comfortable with calling out your candidates so directly, ask them this question instead: "Why do you think you're a top performer?"

Hiring smart jerks might be awesome for your short-term ROI. But, trust me, a few months down the road you risk running your company into the ground. What you want instead are A-players who can get shit done, and also excel as team players. Yes, you can get both; both your employees and culture deserve a higher standard.

Related Video: 6 Easy Ways to Attract Your Perfect Hire

More from Entrepreneur

Kathleen, Founder and CEO of Grayce & Co, a media and marketing consultancy, can help you develop a brand strategy, build marketing campaigns and learn how to balance work and life.
Book Your Session

For a limited time only, get this bundle of Entrepreneur PressĀ® titles for less than $30 (60% OFF) on our bookstore when you use "LEAP" at checkout.
Buy Now

Are paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.
Get Your Quote Now

Latest on Entrepreneur

My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.