Hiring people is one of the most important things that leaders do. Period. Your legacy is established by the people you hire and develop. It’s easiest to develop people with great potential, and the best way to find people with great potential is to intelligently ask questions and think about their answers!
Great interview questions do two things:
1. Eliminate those candidates who are not good fits for the role
2. Highlight those candidates who are exceptionally right for the role
Below are some effective questions (in no particular order or grouping), and why you are asking them. Be sure you understand the why of a question, so you know how to evaluate the candidate’s responses. If you are interviewing more than one person for a position, ask the same questions of both to be able to make comparisons.
|Question||What You Aim to Learn|
|How did you prepare yourself for this interview?||Much better question than “What do you know about our company/our department?” – You will get better insights into how they prepare for any significant update or conversation.|
|On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being perfect), how would you rate yourself on _____, and why? Follow up their response with “What would it take for you to be [add 1 to their answer]?”||Gets at self-awareness, willingness to be self-critical, sense of confidence. Pick a strength area that is relevant to the position.|
|I’m going to outline a real situation we’ve had here, and then I’d like you to act as an outside consultant. [Give a short summary of a real world problem situation, something relevant to the position. Change names to protect the guilty.] So what would you advise ___ to do next?||See if they take notes, or make efforts to structure the situation into key points. Do they ask you any follow-up or clarifying questions (and are they insightful questions)? Do they seem to enjoy the “let’s make this better” opportunity? Is their recommended approach one of engagement and communication, or pushing the problem away?|
|Tell me about when you____. Pick something that stood out to you on the resume]||Broad, unstructured question. Gives you a sense of how they communicate – is their response cogent, organized? Do they relay information about the value of people, deliverables, or challenges and how they were met?|
|What was the first job you had, and what did you learn from it?||Provides insight about work ethic. Do they tell you about paper routes or babysitting jobs?|
|Tell me about a time when you did _______. How did you do it, and what were the results? [Pick something that matches the work that’s significant for this role, and/or something our group aims to do better at in the future.]||Past performance gives clues to operating approach, how they learn, what they’re capable of, and possible needs for coaching or help. Since this is an open question, watch for how they structure their communication/response.|
|Tell me a story about a time when you failed to meet someone’s expectations.||Real issue here: What did they learn or do differently next time? How do they handle awkward situations?|
|What where the qualities of the best person you ever worked for? The worst?||How do they view others and themselves in relationship to others? How to do they respond to authority?|
|What are the biggest challenges facing [people in roles like the one you’re interviewing for] today?||Do they think broadly? Can they articulate a few points? Do they ask any follow-up questions for your insights?|
|If I were to speak to your current/last supervisor, what would she say were the things you got better at over time? And what would she say were your core strengths?||Instead of asking directly, “What are your strengths?” we have observed you get more realistic answers by asking, “What do others see as your strengths?”.|
|For managers and project leaders: Tell me about an important assignment or task that you delegated. How did you ensure it would be completed successfully?||Gives insights into how they supervise others or work with peers.|
|How do you go about establishing a new working relationship?||Very common issue: You have someone new to work with on a project. Their response to this question gives you insights into working style and preferred communication approaches.|
|If you could ask me only two things about [company/me/our group/this position], what would they be, and why?||No wrong answers here, but how they answer tells you what might be top of mind. Also, do they ask broad or narrow questions?|
|What business news have you been following lately?||Do they mention anything specific about your company, your industry, key issues that are related? Gives you a sense of preparedness for this interview, too.|
|What’s the latest book you read, and what did you like or learn from it?[Alternative: which blogs do you follow, and why?]||Especially in leadership roles, successful people are readers. Sometimes this question gives you insights into hobbies or passions outside of the job.|
|What are you qualified to teach others about _____ [technical knowledge/expertise]?||Being able to teach others is a higher skill level than just executing on your own.|
Yes, this takes a little work up front. Yes, you will need to take some notes. But, you aren’t afraid of a little work if you find a great candidate, are you?
Two other suggestions:
- Scan resumes in advance, highlight key things that stand out to you. Don’t read the resume in front of them.
- A tip on checking references: Many companies don’t let people say much about past employees. Here’s a good question to ask: “Is this person eligible for rehire?” If there was a big problem, you will surface it.
What are your best interview questions? What tips do you have for others?