No Bad Hires: Interview Questions to Ask First!

SAN MATEO, CA - JUNE 07:  Job seekers wait for...
(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

For both employers and job seekers, the whole process of filling a vacant position rests on one thing — a great interview.

Much hangs in the balance, and the dialogue of the interview can be the deciding factor. Hiring the wrong employee—not just lacking skills, but a poor fit for the company culture—can cost thousands of dollars in lost time, effort and productivity.

Interview questions should be more than a routine discussion about experience, education and work history.

Great interviews go deep into the aspirant’s enthusiasm, drive, dependability and creativity. Focusing only on responsibilities and skills is a mistake; you have to decide who the candidate is—as a person.

Employees without drive, motivation and commitment to the company will eventually be indifferent and incompetent. That is unfair to the employee, co-workers and the company as a whole, as well as being a burden on resources—and a money drain.

Seven character questions to ask, and why they are crucial to find the right candidate. For job seekers, answer these questions and you will be ahead of the pack:

  • What interested them in the job, at first?

If a candidate genuinely cares about your business and understands the job, the answers will be detailed.  It reveals they have done their homework.

Anyone who applies for a job, without doing research on the company and the role, is someone who is not serious about the position.  The response to this question could tell if the person is a reasonable fit. Non-specific or general answers are a red flag.  They may be eager to find a job—any job.

  • Have they seen the company website? What areas did they enjoy?

Again, a candidate that does their research will have looked over the website, as well as navigated the site for a while. Vague answers show most likely they didn’t. Someone who applies to a job, without looking at the site at least once, is not serious about working there.

  • How much money do they need, to live comfortably?

This is not about the pay offered, or the beginning of a salary negotiation. The conversation should be framed about the needs of the candidate. This can explain character, as well as long and short-term career goals. How much money is needed to cover basic expenses and bills, and what would be an amount to be comfortable?

  • How much money would make them jump the ship?

What if the candidate is hired, at terms and a salary that is acceptable, and gets called back for another interview? How much more money will they need to consider leaving? Is it double, or triple, the amount they agreed upon?

Perhaps there is no amount that would make them consider leaving the company—they found their “home.”

The answer can be telling of what kind of person they are.  The perfect hire is someone not motivated solely by money, but with other things—he or she is passionate about their career. You want them on your team.

  • The day is over, but some tasks are still incomplete. What would they do?

Unfinished tasks—are they left for the next day, or is the workday over when all work is done?  This question is about work ethics; it determines whose interests are foremost in their mind—their own, or the company’s.

  • In a team situation, when a co-worker falls behind, how do they handle the workflow?

A team member misses a critical deadline, and a furious client calls. How would the employee handle the situation? Would they address the problem quickly and make the customer happy, or would they put it off until the offending employee resolves the situation on their own.

A great candidate would take charge, and make the customer happy in any way possible.

  • Here is a problem, how would they solve it?

The most compelling interviews incorporate problem solving abilities. Look for logical skills; beyond the normal experiences of the candidate. This question illustrates imagination and creativity.

Take a real-world problem the company faces—and ask for possible solutions. No wrong answers!

The interview should begin with a conversation incorporating these seven questions; this will weed out unqualified candidates quickly. After an initial dialogue, defining both character and personality, a more substantive analysis of skills and aptitudes can begin.

A final stage of the procedure is the post-interview follow-up.  This is where the most dedicated candidates shine! Unfortunately for many, this valuable step is neglected.

A committed contender will soon follow-up with correspondence—email is acceptable (and becoming more prevalent), but a mailed thank you card will always have more impact.

Published by @philammann

Put. That coffee. Down. Writer/editor/whatever it takes. @margaretj13 is my (much) better half. Website: Email: Twitter: @PhilAmmann

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