The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that a bad hire costs your company at least 30 percent of the position’s first-year salary. The Undercover Recruiter, Jörgen Sundberg, points out that the true cost can be much more — up to $240,000. Getting it right the first time means saving that money for your company. So what are the best questions for employers to ask during a job interview? Here are 15 suggestions to help you find the right fit without the added cost, financially and culturally.
Questions They Probably Expect (But That Work Well Anyway)
1. Do you enjoy the work for the position you’re interviewing for? If not, what would be your dream job?
This question uncovers how well candidates would enjoy the role your company is filling. It’s important to find someone who loves what they’re doing and is trying to excel in their field of study. If they’re just taking the job because there’s nothing else to do or because they can’t perform their dream job, then you might want to pass on that candidate.
2. What’s the biggest decision you’ve made in the past year and why?
This reveals candidates’ decision-making process. Consider how they came to the decision, how long it took, if they made a plan, and what resources they used. It might even help you get a glimpse into the person’s mind as they struggle to articulate something that might be challenging for them to talk about.
3. Describe your most significant career accomplishment so far? How about personal accomplishment?
The answer to this one will clue you into candidates’ professional goals and their sense of ownership. Do they credit others, mention teamwork, or claim glory all for themselves? Humility is a key to a good hire, and this question does a good job at drawing that out of them. Find out what the accomplishment meant to them?
Regarding the personal accomplishment, it might give you a much-needed glimpse into their personal life.
4. Tell me about a difficult goal you set for yourself. What was your process and the result?
This question will let you know what they consider difficult, what kind of effort they’re willing to put into their work, and if they stick it out to completion. Goal-oriented people will obviously like this question, but that is beneficial for you to know whether this person likes to accomplish things through goal setting. People that fail to plan, plan to fail.
5. How would you pitch this company to me if I were a customer or investor?
You’ll know if candidates have done their research with this one. They’ll need to know not only what the company does, but also how your company benefits the industry when they pitch to potential investors. A salesperson or marketing candidate might find this question easier, but adding the investor aspect will challenge even a born salesperson. If someone can nail this question… you know you’ve got a winner on your hands!
Questions They’ll Cringe At (But That Give You Great Insight)
1. What professional experience have you succeeded at but don’t want to repeat?
Think about this one for a moment. The answer candidates give will usually fall into one of three categories:
- Menial work. Not necessarily a bad thing as long as they understand the importance of menial tasks. If they think they’re too good for menial work, watch out.
- Something difficult or unpleasant. The important part of the answer here is why they considered it that way. Was it poor planning or execution? Are they placing blame?
- Team-related tasks. Ask about their role on the team and why they wouldn’t want to be in that position again.
2. Which is better: good and on time or perfect and late?
You want to encourage employees to use their skills, but if they’re paralyzed by perfection, your company could suffer. An “it depends” answer followed by an explanation will show you where their priorities are and if they can get the job done despite deadlines. It also gives them an opportunity to explain how they will deal with deadlines. Do they understand that “done is better than perfect?” Do they understand the concept of “under promise and over deliver?” Do they find a happy medium in which they explain their thought process on dealing with a bad situation? What do they do? Call the client and smooth things over or go dark?
3. Of all the people you’ve worked with, how many aren’t your fans and why?
People don’t like to talk about negative experiences, but they need to recognize that you can’t always please everyone. This question will highlight whether candidates alienate a healthy number of people with their conviction and drive or if they alienate the entire staff — not a good thing for any company culture.
4. What’s your worst work screw-up?
Again, interviewees won’t want to highlight their weaknesses, but their answer will reveal their self-awareness and whether they own up to their own mistakes and strive to get better.
5. When I contact your previous employers, what do you think they’ll say about you? Tell me about your last boss as well.
Without fail, every person that I have hired that spent time trashing their old boss has turned out to be a nightmare of an employee. This interview question might give you the best insight into whether they’re going to be a problem in the future. These people, I have come to learn, have no freaking clue. (You can tell I’m irritated just at the thought.) You can bet on that employee finding a way to find fault with you and eventually trashing you at their next job interview after you spend thousands training them and then firing them or them leaving because everything wasn’t just perfect for them.
Questions That Get People To Think
1. What will keep you with this company for 20 years?
You won’t just learn their long-term goals, you’ll also garner insight into the future of your market with this one. If they can’t see your company lasting that far into the future (or sticking with you that long), their goals might not coincide with the company’s.
2. Would you be willing to read a book before we offer you the position?
I may have a bias on this one but I feel as if no one likes to read anymore. Reading has changed my life. I consume books on a regular basis. You want to hire book readers. It makes them better writers, better thinkers, and wiser in their decision making with your clients and coworkers. Find out if they’re willing to invest the time in a good book even before you offer them a job. Then bring them back for a follow-up interview and see what they learned. Reader comprehension is a big deal, and the ability for one to articulate what they’ve learned is a skill worth hiring someone for.
On a side note, I’d suggest giving them a book called “Leadership and Self Deception.” Ask them if they think they can live outside of their box if they were offered the job. Read that book and you’ll know what I’m talking about. 🙂
3. What kind of oversight helps you perform your best?
They may not be able to choose their manager, but this question will tell you if candidates are more self-directed or need constant direction and how they view the management process.
4. What would you change about this interview process?
The answer to this think-on-your-feet question provides insight into how well candidates give feedback. See what they observe and how they process the interview function.
5. What questions do you have for me?
It might seem boring, but don’t leave it out. This one tells you where their head is and gives you one last chance to see what’s important to them and how they’ll contribute to your company.
Hiring the right people is a big deal. I would ask more questions on follow up interviews that pertain to their personal life if your culture is important to you or worth preserving and protecting. For us… culture is everything. One of our executives will always take a candidate and his family or significant others out to lunch or dinner before making a decision.
So… with all that being said, what other questions would you ask?