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Questions You Should Ask Every Potential Hire

by Michael Iverson

Interviewing job candidates can be a task dreaded by entrepreneurs.  Why?  Some have nagging doubts because of one disappointing hire.  Others don’t have patience for what they perceive to be a long, drawn-out process that may end in a compromise rather than a perfect fit.

Here are six interview questions that can help you improve your interview process.  These are the recommendations of a variety of Human Resource professionals from industry and recruitment agencies. The questions are intended to help you learn about the attitudes and thought processes of candidates, as well as the likelihood of a cultural fit with your business.  (Of course, they would have to be supplemented with questions specific to the functions of the position you seek to fill.)

  1. Why did you get into this industry/profession? 

    This question is a good starting point in terms of understanding the candidate’s values and level of commitment to (and affinity for) your line of work.  Some very talented candidates want to plug in their skill sets to the best-paying opportunity available.  Typically, their responses to this question lack the conviction of someone who has always wanted to be in your line of work.  There should be genuine excitement about the prospect of working for you.  If it’s not evident, take a pass.

  2. Tell me about your experience dealing with unhappy customers. 

    Whether the customer is external or internal, every member of an organization is responsible for meeting customer needs.   This question gives the prospective employee an opportunity to tell you how he or she turned lemons into lemonade.  Problem-solving skills and lessons learned should be your key takeaways from the interviewee’s response.

  3. Why are you leaving your current position? 

    The answer to this question helps you understand the candidate’s mindset regarding career change.  You might get the sense a candidate is always looking for greener pastures.  That could be an employee unlikely to find contentment.  On the other hand, you may find an employee whose skills are under-utilized at present, or one who has been unable to progress at the current workplace through no fault of their own.

  4. Tell me about the ideal position for you. 

    This request is open-ended for the purpose of giving the candidate a chance to express, in as much detail as he or she is willing to provide, what would make the candidate happy.  The response is likely to include a job title, expectations about daily or weekly duties, the extent of supervision deemed necessary or desirable, a salary and a description of company culture.  All this information can help you assess whether there is a likely fit.

  5. How much do you know about our company? 

    Has the candidate given serious consideration about the prospect of working for your company?  This is a chance for the prospective employee to show you how well he or she prepared for the interview.  A lack of preparation would suggest either a low-level of interest or a lack of initiative.  In either case, there is probably a better candidate for the position.  In contrast, a candidate who knows a good deal about your company may be a keeper.

  6. Describe your best boss and explain why the relationship worked. Describe your worst boss and explain why the relationship didn’t work. 

    The answer is likely to provide useful insights about the candidate’s personality, as well as the candidate’s maturity level and temperament.  You should get a strong sense about whether this is a person you like and how well they are likely to fit in with co-workers.