With success, you will hire a lot of employees in the next few years. You may wonder what questions you should ask to get the best information from the people you are interviewing. Your goal is to get not only the most qualified employee but also to get one that has good judgment, is a good problem solver, and will fit in well with your team.
In behavioral based interviewing, you ask the interviewee to tell you about a time when they had to do something. I am very biased toward this type of interviewing, instead of asking the typical, “What would you do if…” type question. Anyone can hypothetically answer of what they should do in a situation. Your job as the hiring manager is to determine what they actually will do in a given situation. You’ve heard the axiom, “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” This is generally true if the person hasn’t learned anything from their past actions.
My favorite interview questions often start with, “Tell me about a time when…” This allows you to hear what has actually happened vs. the textbook response that they know they should give.
Here are my favorite five questions and why I like them:
- Tell us about a time when you encountered an irate customer (or coworker). What was the situation? What did you do and what was the result?
This question may not apply if the person works in isolation, but otherwise it allows you to see how the potential employee handles conflict.
- Tell us about a time when you were asked to do something you had no idea how to do. What was the situation, what did you do and what was the result?
I like this question because it tells you if the individual is resourceful and if their style matches with yours. If you are the type of boss who likes to have people ask you questions and ask you for help rather than do it wrong, you’ll learn that. If on the other hand, you like a person to try to figure it out and not run to you for every little thing, you will also find out if you are interviewing someone who will match your style.
- What was your greatest professional failure that resulted in your greatest professional learning?
I absolutely love this question. I once heard a manager at the college where I worked ask it. This question gives you so much information. First of all, it is hard to answer, and it gives you an idea of the candidate’s ability to be introspective and learn from mistakes.
4. Given your current understanding of this job, what professional development opportunity would you like to have within the first year?
I think this is better than asking the candidate’s weakness. It gives you insight into what she thinks is important in the job and what she thinks she needs to learn. It also may give you an idea of the person’s primary motivation in the job. If she identifies an area you don’t think is important, that is key information.
- If we were to call one of your co-workers (or your employee) and ask what they think of you, how would they answer?
While this may seem like one of those hypothetical questions that may not be answered honestly, it generally takes the interviewee by surprise and he will come up with some surprising answers. Unless he is completely out of touch with his impact on other people or a pathological liar, you often get either an honest response or you get clear discomfort. Either way, you have an answer that tells you a lot about the candidate.
And keep in mind, there are some things you just cannot ask. Check out this list from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.