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Ask These Questions to Hire the Right Person for the Job

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Interviews are not easy. For a candidate, they are stressful and filled with maddeningly pointless questions. For the interviewer, they can be so rote it’s impossible to remember which question goes with which candidate and can be tough to keep everyone’s names straight!

Sure, they are the ones asking the questions, but they have to somehow determine whether or not this person will fit into their company’s culture, just based on a few questions and their resumé. It doesn’t sound so easy now, does it? Luckily, there is one major thing that can be predicted during the interview process, and that is performance on the job. If you aren’t asking these questions during the interview, it’s time to start.

WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST CAREER ACCOMPLISHMENT?

When you ask this question, be prepared for a basic response, such as, “I developed a strategy that returned product line to profitability.” While this is quite an accomplishment, you probably already read about that on their resumé. Dig deeper. Find out the process they went through, starting from the very beginning to the very end. What turned the tide of the project? Why were they proud of it? What members of the team helped to make it happen?

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Asking this question tells you a lot of things about a candidate. For one, it tells you what the candidate considers to be an accomplishment. It also gives you a more insightful look on some of the skills they may have touched on in their resumé and how you can use those skills to better the company. You’ll get a good idea of whether they can share credit, what motivates them and whether they can see a project through to completion.

Tip: Looking at an entry level hire? Ask them about school projects or internships. Just because they haven’t had a “real” job yet, doesn’t mean they haven’t had work they can take pride in!

WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST FAILURE AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

Learning about your candidate’s biggest failure is more important than learning about their greatest accomplishment. Their failure is not the important thing in this question. It’s the way the candidate answers the question and what they learned from it.

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There are three different ways, according to SmartRecruiters, that a candidate can answer the question: avoiding the question, talking about a time they almost failed, but didn’t and finally, talking about a time in which they failed. Avoiding the question could mean that they are uncomfortable talking about it, and may keep failures they commit at your company from you in the future. If they talk about a time in which they almost failed but didn’t, ask them to go into detail about how they avoided failure and use that answer to determine their level of performance. If you come across a client who isn’t afraid to talk about failure, make sure they tell you what they learned from it and how those lessons have been carried into other jobs.

Warning: If your interviewee can’t think of a single failure, they’re either inexperienced or a liar. Candidates with real potential recognize failure and learn from it.

WHAT ARE YOUR SHORT AND LONG-TERM GOALS?

This question can be a bit deceiving to the candidates, as goals are always changing. The answer they give, however, can help determine how long they see themselves being at your company. If they answer, “My goal is to be at this company for a few months and then see where the wind takes me,” then they are not worth your time or money to hire. Onboarding a new employee is not cheap (around $1,200 per new employee, to be exact), so you want to make sure their goals include being with your company for longer than just a month.

Short term goals should definitely include the company with which they’re interviewing. It’s important they recognize that. However, the long-term goals can and should focus on where they want to be in their career.

Beware: Some hiring managers use this as a trick question. DON’T. So what if the marketing intern sees herself as the VP of Marketing in five years (and that’s your job)? There is nothing wrong with ambition and companies should focus on those who expect much from themselves.

TELL ME ABOUT A TIME IN WHICH A COWORKER GOT MAD AT YOU…

Asking this question to the candidate shows you how they work with other people. It also gives you an insight on how they deal with conflict. When you ask this question, find out all of the details about the situation, such as why the coworker was mad, how the candidate responded and how it was resolved. Getting to the bottom of how it was solved helps show you their problem-solving abilities, and allows you to see how they work with other people.

Be cautious if the candidate puts all of the blame on the coworker. A good employee will take at least partial blame for what went wrong, if not all the blame. If they don’t, it could be a sign that they aren’t a team player. 65% of performance problems are because of conflict in the workplace, so hire someone who won’t start problems at the drop of a pen.

Whoops! Keep in mind that workplace conflict can be upsetting. Make sure to tie the question into actual work product, rather than personality clashes.

TELL ME ABOUT A TIME YOU KNEW YOU WERE RIGHT BUT STILL HAD TO FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.

Chances are, you won’t agree with everything in the job you have. The important thing is how you power through it. When you ask candidates the question, the important thing about the answer isn’t the problem itself, but how they overcame the problem. Based on their answer, you can discover how well they follow their leaders. If they say that they ignored what they were told to do, then it may be a sign that they won’t work well in your environment.

In an ideal world, the candidate would tell you that they did what they were told, as well as motivated others to do the same. This shows that they are willing to listen and do what they are told, even if they don’t agree, for the good of the company.

Bonus: If the candidate mentions how they were able to both do the right thing and still follow directions, hire them.

Interviews can be difficult to determine whether or not an employee has what it takes to succeed in your company. Asking the right questions, however, will start you out on the right foot to finding the right candidate for the job. Remember, the answer to what they would do in the case of a zombie apocalypse is not important, it’s their ability to think quick on their feet. 

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