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Effective Job Interview Questions

Great Interview Questions To Ask Candidates

What circumstance brings you here today?

This is one of the best opening interview questions ever. This open ended question surprises many candidates. If they do not respond quickly, just sit quietly and wait for the response. Some candidates reveal problems with their current employer, potential insubordination, and both positive or negative character traits.

How would your best friend describe you?

In most cases, the response to this question indicates how the candidate wants you to feel they are perceived by friends. Take notes on the response and then ask, "May I call your best friend and see how they describe you?" You may or may not be interested in talking to the best friend. However, the response and body language after the follow-up question can indicate if you received a truthful response. I suggest asking this question near the beginning of the interview. It helps you get truthful responses for the rest of your time with the candidate.

What would you say are your 2 greatest weaknesses?

This classic interview question reveals the candidate's ability to identify the need for personal improvement. The best responses include a plan on how the candidate is addressing the weakness. Some candidates also do an effective job turning their weakness into a positive, which indicates the candidate has good alternative thinking or good sales skills. Watch out for candidates who are unaware or will not admit that they have weaknesses

How do you alleviate stress?

Every job has stress. So if someone says they are not stressed or claim to not do anything about it, then they are either lying or they do not know how to control it. Look for positive activities or hobbies, rather than substance use or dangerous activities as stress relievers.

What are your short and long term goals?

The response to this question usually reveals if the candidate has personal or professional goals. If they do not have a quick response, it may indicate they do not plan ahead. I especially like responses which indicate drive, planning and good work/life balance. You may also need to ask for more details about certain goals to gain insight into whether or not the employee intends to stay for awhile or just gain a little experience and move on. Consider asking the follow-up question, "What are 3 goals that you have achieved in the past year?"

What type of work environment do you prefer?

When choosing potential employees, it is helpful to know what type of environment in which they prefer to work. If the company is very professional and usually quiet, someone who likes a loud, casual environment might not be the best fit. It is sometimes good to hire someone who does not fit the mold, but it is usually best to hire people who fit your work environment.

What is your typical way of dealing with conflict?

As with stress, conflicts are something we deal with frequently. Conflicts may range from differences with a supervisor, to differing lunch preferences. Most employers look for someone who can deal with an issue without getting frustrated. Either ask for a real-life example or build a hypothetical scenario and ask how they would handle the conflict. Some managers, who prefer a more confrontational interview style, intentionally create conflict and stress in the interview to see how the candidate responds.

What tools or habits do you use to keep organized?

Instead of asking are you an organized person, this makes the interviewee prove and describe their organizational skills. Most hiring managers expect that their employees have some type of system to stay organized. Whether it is using a planner, or electronic calendar, these tools confirm that the potential employee is reliable and responsible.

Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond to get a job done.

This is another open, excellent interview question that lets a potential employee really sell themself. In doing so, the hiring manager can see what type of person they are really interviewing. They can also measure how out of the way this candidate had to go in order to complete their duty. This gives a clearer picture about the work ethic of the potential employee.

What was a major obstacle you were able to overcome in the past year?

Problem solving is the major topic covered by this question. What kind of thinker is this candidate? Can they do projects on their own or does their manager need to hold their hand. It also confirms how determined they can be toward a project.

In what ways do you raise the bar for yourself and others around you?

This question gives the interviewer an idea of who is and is not an above average performer. It also demonstrates leadership potential and the willingness to be a team player.

Tell me about two memorable projects, one success and one failure. To what do you attribute the success and failure?

Asking this question helps determine the candidate's ability to learn from successes and failures.

What unique experience or qualifications separate you from other candidates?

Some candidates have interesting characteristics and experiences that will not be exposed without asking a question like this.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Save this one for the end of the interview. A good response should be consistent and defined when you asked about short and long term goals. Beware of candidates who plan to be the same position five years from now. My favorite response is, "I plan to have either your job or your boss' job."

Tips On How To Conduct An Effective Job Interview

The virtual stack of resumes in your inbox is winnowed and certain candidates have passed the phone screen. Next step: in-person interviews. How should you use the relatively brief time to get to know — and assess — a near stranger? How many people at your firm should be involved? How can you tell if a candidate will be a good fit? 

Prepare Your Questions

Before you meet candidates face-to-face, you need to figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a new hire so that you’re asking the right questions during the interview. Begin this process by “compiling a list of required attributes” for the position, suggests Fernández-Aráoz. For inspiration and guidance, Sullivan recommends looking at your top performers. What do they have in common? How are they resourceful? What did they accomplish prior to working at your organization? What roles did they hold? Those answers will help you create criteria and enable you to construct relevant questions.

Reduce Stress

Candidates find job interviews stressful because of the many unknowns. What will my interviewer be like? What kinds of questions will he ask? How can I squeeze this meeting into my workday? And of course: What should I wear? But “when people are stressed they do not perform as well,” says Sullivan. He recommends taking preemptive steps to lower the candidate’s cortisol levels. Tell people in advance the topics you’d like to discuss so they can prepare. Be willing to meet the person at a time that’s convenient to him or her. And explain your organization’s dress code. Your goal is to “make them comfortable” so that you have a productive, professional conversation.

Involve (only a few) others

When making any big decision, it’s important to seek counsel from others so invite a few trusted colleagues to help you interview. “Monarchy doesn’t work. You want to have multiple checks” to make sure you hire the right person, Fernández-Aráoz explains. “But on the other hand, extreme democracy is also ineffective” and can result in a long, drawn-out process. He recommends having three people interview the candidate: “the boss, the boss’ boss, and a senior HR person or recruiter.” Peer interviewers can also be “really important,” Sullivan adds, because they give your team members a say in who gets the job. “They will take more ownership of the hire and have reasons to help that person succeed,” he says.

Assess Potential

Budget two hours for the first interview, says Fernández-Aráoz. That amount of time enables you to “really assess the person’s competency and potential.” Look for signs of the candidate’s “curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination.” Sullivan says to “assume that the person will be promoted and that they will be a manager someday. The question then becomes not only can this person do the job today, but can he or she do the job a year from now when the world has changed?” Ask the candidate how he learns and for his thoughts on where your industry is going. “No one can predict the future, but you want someone who is thinking about it every day,” Sullivan explains.

Consider "cultural fit" But Don't Obsess

Much has been made about the importance of “cultural fit” in successful hiring. And you should look for signs that “the candidate will be comfortable” at your organization, says Fernández-Aráoz. Think about your company’s work environment and compare it to the candidate’s orientation. Is he a long-term planner or a short-term thinker? Is he collaborative or does he prefer working independently? But, says Sullivan, your perception of a candidate’s disposition isn’t necessarily indicative of whether he can acclimate to a new culture. “People adapt,” he says. “What you really want to know is: can they adjust?”

Sell The Job

If the meeting is going well and you believe that the candidate is worth wooing, spend time during the second half of the interview selling the role and the organization. “If you focus too much on selling at the beginning, it’s hard to be objective,” says Fernández-Aráoz. But once you’re confident in the candidate, “tell the person why you think he or she is a good fit,” he recommends. Bear in mind that the interview is a mutual screening process. “Make the process fun,” says Sullivan. Ask them if there’s anyone on the team they’d like to meet. The best people to sell the job are those who “live it,” he explains. “Peers give an honest picture of what the organization is like.”