When the screening of the candidates is done,
you will bring the top two or three in for an interview. What
questions should you ask them? What answers should you be
looking for? How will you know which one to hire? Whether you
work for a large company with a Human Resources department and
volumes of procedures or are a small business owner with a few
employees, the questions you want to ask are the same.
The Questions to Ask
You want to ask questions that, in increasing
order of importance, tell you 1) whether the person has the
skills to do the job, 2) how they function under pressure, and
3) how well they will fit into the team.
Can They Do the Job
These are perhaps the easiest questions. You have
seen the person's resume so you know they claim to have the
Ask a few questions to
verify what they claim.
- "I see you managed the payroll for three
subsidiaries. What was the most difficult part of
integrating all of them?"
- "When you were the Marketing Manager for
ABC company what were the steps you took when planning the
annual marketing budget?"
- "I see you program in (whatever
language). How would you link an indexed field variable to
display on mouseover?"
Notice these questions ask how or what. They can not be answered
yes or no. Listen to the answer to see how quickly they answer,
how complete/correct their answer is, and whether they actually
answer what you asked or go off to something with which they are
How Well Do They Function Under Pressure
This may be the area where most managers have
trouble asking good questions, but they are more important than
the job competency questions above. We are reluctant to be the
"bad guy", to put someone under pressure. However, there are
very few jobs, and certainly none that report to you, that don't
place the employee under stress from time to time. Anybody can
do well in calm times. You want people who can function well
when things get confusing or difficult. To identify which
candidate will perform best under pressure, ask tough, stressful
- "What makes you think you are better for
this job than all the other candidates?"
- "Tell me about a stressful situation that
occurred repeatedly on your last job and how you handled
- "Which co-worker at your last job did you
get along with least well? What did you do about it?"
Again, the important thing here is how quickly, directly, and
completely they answer your questions. If a candidate says he
has never been under stress, avoid that person. Either he is
lying or he is out of touch with reality. If a candidate says
she get along with all her co-workers and never has a conflict
with anyone, press for more information. She is either a saint
or a doormat.
One question I like to ask
here is "What did you think of our website?" I tells me whether
the person has taken the time to visit our website to learn
about the company, but it also tells me how they will respond to
the pressure of being put on the spot.
How Well Will They Fit In
Among equally qualified candidates, this is the
most important attribute. You need someone who will fit with the
team and be a productive member, someone who will add to the
team and not be a distraction. Be careful, though. You aren't
looking for the "nicest" person. You are looking for the best
fit. In addition to personality, you need to evaluate work
habits, a complementary skill set, and where the team needs
In a very low key office, a loud, boisterous
new hire would probably decrease the team's production, because
the team would be so busy staring at the new comer and quietly
discussing among themselves why the person is so loud. On the
other hand, someone moderately outspoken could be just what the
team needs to get them fired up and producing again at top
If everyone in the group comes in between 8:30
and 9, but works until 6 PM or later, it will be difficult for a
new hire to fit in if they always come in at 6:30 or 7 so they
can leave at 3.
Manage This Issue
When you interview candidates for a job opening, you need to ask
questions to be sure they can do the job, but it is even more
important to ask questions to make sure they can handle stress
and that they will fit in with the team.