More on Hiring and Interviewing…

When I’m interviewing, I don’t tend to stick to a rigorous format — I like to get to know the person and assess them within the scope of the three key points I mentioned in a previous post:

A) Can the candidate do the job?

B) Will the candidate do the job?

C) Will the candidate fit in with the rest of the team/company

But sometimes it helps to have a list of useful interview questions to fall back on.  This is something I’ve
compiled from several different sources over the years.  To be quite
candid, I don’t recall where all of it came from, so apologies in
advance to those that contributed along the way.

So here are 26 sample interview questions, along with bullets to
guide you as to what areas specifically to explore. Not all questions
are appropriate for all positions, but this list should get you well on
the way to finding out about a candidate and whether they are a fit for
the open position.

1)  Tell me about yourself.

  • Years of experience in relevant industry or function
  • Most recent experience
  • Strengths
  • Accomplishments or distinctions relevant to the job they are being interviewed for
  • Watch for rambling and inconsistencies

2)  What can you offer our company?

  • Success in solving problems that relate to the needs of this position
  • Insight into your company and its products (did the candidate do some homework?)

3)  What are your core strengths?

4)  What have you accomplished?

  • There are two parts to this: general accomplishments and accomplishments in the positions they’ve held to date.

5)  What are your limitations?

  • How realistic are they?
  • Are they citing real weaknesses or just BS’ing to sound good?

6)  Where do you see yourself in the future?

  • Do they have a goal in mind?
  • Do they have a particular ambition
  • Are they viewing this job as a
    stepping stone to something else? If so, are they prepared to really do
    the job and gain the experience, or is it just a way to “get in” to the

7)  Why do you want this position?

  • This is another chance to see if they understand what it will take to do the job.
  • Did they do their homework on the company

8)  What do you find the most attractive about the position?

  • Again, you’re testing to see if they understand the scope of the job and their role

9)  What do you find the least attractive about the position?

  • Every position has components that
    are less appealing. In addition to testing that they understand the
    job, you need to be sure that the part they don’t like isn’t 95% of the

10)  What did you think of your previous manager?

  • There are bad managers out there, so
    don’t be surprised if you get a list of faults. But what you are
    looking for is their general demeanor while answering the question.
  • Are they realistic? 
  • Are they a complainer? 
  • Does it sounds as though they interacted well with their manager?
  • Can they take direction?

11)  Describe a situation in which your work was criticized

  • How defensive are they
  • How did they resolve the situation
  • Can they take (and learn from) constructive criticism?

12)  What would your previous manager say about your strengths and weaknesses?

  • Look for honesty and realistic answers

13)  How would you describe yourself?

  • A general “get to know you” question
  • Save this one until well in to the
    interview when the candidate has relaxed a bit, otherwise you’ll get a
    really short meaningless answer.

14)  What attracted you to our company?

  • Look for passion about your company and products
  • Did they do their homework on the company?

15)  If you could choose any job, what would you do?  What are your long-range goals?

  • Does the person have a long term interest in a related field
  • Do they have a longer term plan in mind

16)  Are you applying for other positions?

  • Of  course the answer is probably yes, but it’s good to get an idea if there is likely to be competition for this person.
  • If the answer is “no”, are they
    serious about looking for a new job, or are they just looking to get
    their current employer to increase their salary?

17)  What sort of relationships do you have with your associates, both those at your level and those below you?

  • How do they manage and lead subordinates
  • How do they handle performance issues with subordinates?  Get them to give examples.
  • How do they contribute to a team?
  • How do they work with varying personality styles?

18)  Why are you looking to leave your current job?

19)  What is your management style?

  • Do they have a management philosophy?
  • How do they bring out the best in people?
  • How do they resolve disputes?

20)  Why do you feel you are a good manager? (or management candidate if they haven’t managed before)

  • Past achievements, responsibilities and relevant experience

21) Have you received any work related recognition, such as
letters of achievement, special bonuses or awards for outstanding
achievements? (Note: often only big companies do any of the above,
although small companies might do a special bonus)

22)  How often do you take work home and why?

  • Watch for indicators of poor time management
  • Are they good with deadlines?
  • Risk of burnout (okay, in a small
    company, everyone will be close to burnout at some point, but you want
    an employee that’s not already fried).

23) Talk about the most difficult interpersonal situation you’ve
had with a client, manager or co-worker or subordinate. How did you
handle the situation?

  • Everyone with any work experience has had problems.  Did they learn from the situation or just pass the buck?

24)  If your manager is assigning you too much work with urgent deadlines, how do you handle the situation?

  • How do they work under pressure
  • Can they communicate with managers
  • Can they assess their workload and ability to complete it?

25)  What has been your most critical error in professional judgment?  What did it cost the company?

  • Look more to how they answer this than what they say. 
  • Do they seem honest in their assessment?
  • Have they learned from their mistake?

26)  How do you define success?  According to this definition, how successful have you been in your career?

  • Do both halves of the answer correlate well?

Good luck!