For author and consultant Suzy Welch, this question reveals a lot about a candidate’s likelihood of success on the job. If a potential new hire has “stalked” the company and its key members online and has learned enough to speak confidently about the business, this isn’t creepy – it’s thorough. On the other hand, if the candidate printed out his resume and stopped there, that might be an early sign of an underwhelming hire. Continue reading What did you do to prepare for this interview?
So this question is categorized in the “Ask A New Hire” category but it was actually introduced to me by my friend Vicky who is the volunteer coordinator for a faith-based humanitarian organization. She asks the question like this when interviewing potential long-term international volunteers:
“Author James Baldwin, writes ‘The questions which one asks oneself begin, at last, to illuminate the world.’ Please share two questions that you have wrestled with during the last couple years, one that is personal in terms of your own life and issues and the other that is more global and/or about contemporary issues.”
Most good questions are good because they direct you very intentionally to a particular subject. But this question, on the other hand, is great because of how it OPENS up space and holds it open for the interviewee. Potential volunteers have used this question as an opportunity to wear their hearts on their sleeves, to speak passionately about what keeps them up at night, and to bring up personal details they want to share about their family backgrounds, religious views, even sexual orientation. These are important things to know. And you won’t know them unless you ask some questions that open up space! Continue reading What are two questions that you’ve wrestled with during the last couple years?
This is one of Wharton professor Adam Grant’s go-to questions for finding and hiring trailblazers and unique talents. His words are best: “I find this question powerful for a couple of reasons. One, it’s an opportunity to see if they’re willing to speak up. Two, it’s a window into their thinking process. When they encounter something that they don’t like, do they have the instinct not only to raise why it may be broken but also suggest how it can be better? It’s a chance to learn about their tendency to share opinions that might be unpopular but beneficial. It gives you a little bit of perspective on their ability and inclination to improve their environment.” Continue reading How would you improve our interview process?
This is a favorite of my good friend and talented entrepreneur, Ari, who’s done his fair share of hiring. Here’s the setup: Say you work at a factory that makes refrigerators. Due to an assembly error, it’s suspected that the little light inside the fridge is not turning off as it should when the door is closed. But nobody knows for sure. What are all the ways you can think of for finding out if the light turns off? Ari says that 1-2 ideas is average. 3 is above average. And 4-6 is excellent. If what you need from your new hire is someone who can solve problems creatively and find a way forward even when plans A, B, and C all fail, then you want someone who can think of 4+ methods of checking if the light turns off. (Set your smartphone camera to record video and put it in the fridge. Test the front hinge/switch that is supposed to turn off the inside light. Cut a hole in the fridge door. Put a person small enough inside the fridge. Wait a minute with the door closed and then see if the bulb inside is hot as soon as you open the door. Etc…)
This might be a touch too dramatic. But I still like the question. And they guy who’s been asking it built AirBnB so he’s definitely doing something right in terms of finding the right people to join his cause. If you had a team composed of even just 3 other people who all answered this question in the affirmative, can you IMAGINE the kind of work you’d get done every week?! Continue reading If you had 10 years left to live, would you take this job?
This one is particularly good if you’re hiring for a communications role, a client success role, or a programming/developer role. It’s a challenging question so you get to see how the candidate thinks under a bit of pressure. You also get to see how adept she is at thinking through complexity and communicating effectively. Finally, the way the question is structured also allows you to learn something about the candidates judgement. You’re not asking her to tell you about the most complicated thing she’s ever come across in her life, you’re asking her to choose the most complicated thing that she could get you to understand. Does she choose something impressive but ambitious when it comes to teaching you about it? Or does she go with something simpler that she’s sure she can get you to wrap your head around? Continue reading What is the most complicated thing you could explain to me and get me to understand?
Obviously this is a possibility for your opening question only. The rationale behind this abrupt interview start is that it’s surprising enough and nebulous enough to show you how a potential new hire deals with uncertainty and the unexpected. Richard Funess explains his question best:
“It’s a question that asks for a creative response. It’s an invitation to the candidate to play the game and see where it goes without worrying about the right answer. By playing along, it tells me a lot about the character, imagination, and inventiveness of the person. The question, as obtuse as it might sound to the interviewee, is the beginning of a story, and in today’s world of selling oneself, or one’s company, it’s the ability to tell a story and create a feeling that sells the brand–whether it’s a product or a person. Continue reading So, (insert name), what’s your story?
Oh man, if our little star rating system had SIX stars, this question, for me, would get all six. You get so much from a response to this. You get to watch someone’s “creativity gears” turn in real time. You find out how self-aware the person is. You learn about her strengths as well as her ability to own them. You’ll inevitably learn a bit about her sense of humor (it’s just that kind of question). You’ll find out about a person in her life whom she respects. And you won’t be bored to death having to ask another interviewee something hackneyed like “What was a challenge you faced in your last job?” This one is a gem! Continue reading If there was an award named after you, what would the award be for? And who would you award it to?
Few things are as disruptive to a team as having someone join the company in a full-time position only to move on 3 months later. If someone is learning at work then they’re much more likely to stick around. That’s why this is such a great interview question. Use it to double-check that your job description and the day-to-day realities line up well with how the new hire wants to grow professionally. Alignment here can help you find the perfect candidate and keep you from having to hire again for the same position just a few months down the road. Continue reading What would you most like to learn by working with [Company] that would help you in the future?
By the time you’re done with a job interview you should have answers to three main questions: 1) CAN this person do the job? 2) WILL this person do the job? 3) Will this person be a good fit with the rest of the team and with our culture? This question about movies is aimed squarely at helping you with that third piece. Does this person have a similar sense of humor? Similar interests? Would they be fun to hang out with? This is important to know – especially on a small team where 1 hire could represent 25% of the company (or even more). Continue reading What was the last movie that you LOVED and told someone they should see?
Disagreeing productively is a skill. And not everyone has it. When someone disagrees with leadership do they silently go along anyway? Do they silently drag their feet? Do they confront directly? Are they able to disagree in a way that brings important new perspectives into the room while not putting people on the defensive? Or do the veiled ultimatums start flying? You want a fighter. But he should know when to fight. And he should fight fair. Continue reading Tell me about a time you felt leadership was wrong (a boss, board member, professor, etc…). What did you do?
This question does darn near everything. You find out if the person reads regularly (it’s my strong bias that they SHOULD). You learn a bit about his personality. You get to check if he really gets the company ethos and the culture. You can start to gauge whether or not he’d mix well with the existing team. And you get a book recommendation out of it whether or not you hire the person or not! Win^5 Continue reading What book do you think everyone on the team should read?
This state is known as “flow” — a concept popularized by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (yeah, I have no idea how to pronounce that either). A person in “flow” engages in an activity while “fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus.” Joyful. Productive. In the moment. Anyone worth hiring goes to this place often. And it’s extremely valuable for you as the boss to know what kind of activity and what kind of setting puts a potential new hire into this state of working. You’ll know if the person’s temperament and interests make her a good fit for your company and your culture. Continue reading What were you doing the last time you looked at a clock and realized you had lost all track of time?
The particular situation and eventual decision don’t matter here. It’s the process that’s most telling. Insist that the interviewee literally walk you through the process step by step. Are they more analytical? Did they write out pros and cons on a piece of paper? Are they more emotional? Did they have confidence in a gut feeling and go with it? Are they more relational? Did they call up a trusted mentor? Did they own the ultimate decision? And are they able to communicate all of this lucidly to you? Love this question. Continue reading What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last year? How did you make it? Please walk me through your process.
In an interview, the best candidates are not just there to be interviewed, they’re also there to do their own evaluating of the company and its people. Anyone worth hiring has done their homework and has thought realistically about the things that may not fit. Ask this question and you’ll know if you’re talking to someone who will get things done (and enjoy working) despite challenges at the company. Continue reading What concerns do you have about potentially working for (the company)?
You’re checking for a few things here. Was/is this person irked by things that will be present in the new job? Does the candidate have a good grasp of what he really needs in a workplace to be happy? Is he a culture fit? And how does he talk about previous teammates? Maliciously or with a spirit of generosity? Continue reading What would you change about your current job? (or what would you have changed about your last job)
This will give you a sense of the kind of work this candidate has done, for sure (scope, in what area, with what kind of team). But the real value in asking is to see how much detail you can get out of a person when it comes to the “why”. If she stops at “because I had to be very organized” or “because the team worked well together” then she may not have been the instigator – the person really making things happen. But if she can get very detailed – “Because I recognized the project was more complicated than I was used to so I found and learned how to use Trello” or “because I noticed my colleagues Jim and Jack were not working well together so I put Jim in charge of X and had Jack work with Jill on Y” then that’s when you know you’ve found someone who makes things happen. Continue reading What accomplishment, project, or work outcome are you most proud of and why?
Get to the heart of someone’s strengths with this question. And as an added bonus, how a job candidate answers it (hesitantly vs. directly) will also tell you a lot about their self-confidence and self-awareness. Continue reading What are you better at than 90% of the people you know?