You know the classics. Why did you leave your former job? Why do you want to work for us? Where do you see yourself in five years? Logic dictates that, if you know them, so do all your potential employees. You may be sure they have witty answers that may or may not reflect reality. Therefore, we propose some interview questions they won’t be ready for.

7 Interview Questions to Ask Potential Employees

#1. Give me an example of a professional experience that you succeeded at but would prefer to never repeat?

This experience may be anything from a menial job like stuffing envelopes to something they found extremely difficult. It can may be something related to the team they were working with. If they tell you they did not have such an experience or cannot think of one at the present moment, tell them you will come back to the question.

Virtually everyone has had unpleasant and/or difficult work experiences. Understanding what the potential employee finds uncomfortable could guide you in deciding whether they will fit well into the available position.

If they recount a menial activity as an example, ask if they understood its importance. You can also question why they considered it to be menial. Was it beneath them? Was the activity not what they signed up for when they took the job?

If they point to something hard, why was it hard? Were they unprepared, was it poorly organized, did they not receive needed support?

Should it be team-related, you want to know whether the person is not good team material or whether it was an unfortunate grouping of people, lack of  support, or some other issue over which the employee had no control. Allowing some time and latitude in the discussion may reveal a lot more than the interviewee intended.

#2. Which of the following two do you consider to be better: Delivering a perfect job late or a good job on time? 

The answer will tell you a lot about the person you are interviewing both from a personal and professional point of view. Most companies prefer their employees to be good and on time rather than perfect.  Which do you want?

#3. Who is the most intelligent individual you know personally? Why do you think that is?

The answer to this question will give you insight into what the interviewed person considers to be ‘intelligence.’ There is no right or wrong answer here. They might choose a person who has an ability to think ahead, one that is book smart or even one that is street smart. The important thing here is that you find out what the individual values. It will also give you a sense of what they aspire to be.

#4. What is the one thing you would be happy doing every day for the rest of your professional life?

Request the interviewee to name one activity. It could be writing, reading, singing, painting, building houses, organizing things or anything else. Why is that important to you, the employer? Because if the thing they list is something they can do at your company, you’re in luck. A happy employee is likely to stay and preform well.

#5. If you had $100, 000 to start up your own company or business what would that be?

There is no right or wrong answer to this one. However, you need to read between the lines.  The type of business they choose will tell you a lot about their interests, hobbies, and dreams. It may also tell you how creative or innovative the person is.

You can also learn a lot about their business knowledge and whether it is useful to you. Is their concept something which might work, or do they want to sell land on Jupiter? Make sure you give them a specific sum of money to work with. It will provide you with information on how realistic they are.

You can also ask them to flesh out the concept. If they say they’d open a bakery, how large? what kinds of products? Café or not? What would be unusual about their business?

#6. In the past year, what is the biggest decision you have had to make and why?

Ask  if they were quick to make that big decision or if they took their time and considered every possible alternative.

How did they make the decision? Did they reach the decision alone or with input from friends, family or colleagues? Did they make a plan for it or did it happen on the spot? Did they perform some risk management on the outcome? (Risk management is considering all of  the things that could go wrong if they choose one option over another.)

#7. Is there something in this interview that surprised you so far?

This is an opportunity for both sides to ask follow-up questions.  Is there something they would like to add? Is there something they wish you hadn’t asked? If they could, would they do this interview all over again?


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