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What’s the best interview question you’ve ever asked?

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in Human Resources,People Management,The HR Specialist Forum

I need some help coming up with good interview questions. We’re hiring and—because the economy is so slow—we’re getting tons of applicants for every job we post. Many are equally well-qualified, so we have the luxury of looking for people with the intangible qualities we seek: initiative, collaborative skills, entrepreneurial spirit, pride in a job well done. I use the standard “Tell me about a time when you…” questions, but I’d like some fresh questions that really get at what kind of person the applicant is. What questions have you asked that revealed stellar personal traits?—Theresa, Chicagoland

See responses below

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

tom June 30, 2009 at 6:45 pm

whats the best answer you have gotten from that question?


JWG June 29, 2009 at 10:56 am

When were you asked to compromise your integrity? What were the circumstances? How did you respond it?

I asked this question to see how tactful they were in sharing sensitive/delicate information during a critical discussion (interview), to see what they are/are not willing to compromise, to see how they handled the situation in its entirety, and especially to see if they shared with the requestor why they didn’t feel comfortable doing XYZ.


JWG June 29, 2009 at 10:50 am

When recruiting for a bank, I asked this question all the time. Some of the things that I always looked for were 1) accountability; 2) ownership; 3) honesty, and 4) growth. Whether I agreed with the interviewee’s approach or not, I was always looking for those 4 things. If it was determined (by asking follow-up questions, for example) that any of the 4 were missing, the hiring manager and I (HR) were not 100% convinced of the person’s integrity. And working in any company, especially a bank, integrity was essential and it wasn’t something that we were willing to teach.


JWG June 29, 2009 at 10:43 am

Wow. Great question. Although there are no right or wrong answers, the answers given will definitely let the organization know whose thoughts are/are not aligned with the agency’s mission and values. To your point, yes, very telling.


Nicole June 16, 2009 at 4:53 pm

The one that I get the best feedback from is:
“What is the most useful criticism you have ever received?”

It helps me see the growth in people if they answer honestly.


Kelly June 16, 2009 at 2:56 pm

GREAT question!


Anissa June 16, 2009 at 2:31 pm

I like these questions! It takes the focus off of “sell yourself” mode. I give my “all” at my jobs and the sell yourself questions are not for me. I don’t like beating my chest, and this seems like it would be a good way to bring out what you want from the applicant who is not comfortable with the “I’m so great” answers.


celt365 June 12, 2009 at 12:56 pm

The best one I’ve ever heard is:

“Do you smile often?”

The answer (and whether the person smiles while doing so) will tell you alot about a person. Most friendly, easy-going people (the kind you want to work with) will unconsiously smile when answering.


Liz June 10, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I find these two questions to be helpful..
“What, if any, processes did you improve?” this can be very helpful if you seek continuous process improvement in your company. We are a small firm and are always happy to hear how we can do things better.

Also “Who was your least favorite (or most favorite) boss…and why” this can really bring out some interesting information.


E Luppert June 9, 2009 at 4:36 pm

What is the biggest work disaster you’ve been a part of? What role did you play? What did you learn? Looking back on it, what would you do differently.

If I can’t get a straight answer I learn a lot. If I can get an honest answer, I learn even more.


Anonymous June 9, 2009 at 3:52 pm

It’s a cliche question, but I like to ask “What accomplishment are you most proud of?”

Parents will often tell you my kids, yadda, yadda, yadda, so you might amend it to what professional accomplishment are you most proud of. Then you can follow up with more detailed questions about how they accomplished that.

I look for folks who don’t set themselves up as the star (even if they are) and who give credit to the efforts of everyone on the team. I also look for evidence that they can accomplish goals (and care about doing so) through influence and not just hierarchical power.

One thing that sets off a red flag for me is when someone tells me (even though its colloquial) something like “I can sell ice to Eskimos.” Ignore the condescending tone for a moment and just focus on the fact that it is not very sound business for building relationships to sell someone something that they don’t need.

Anyhow, that’s the way I look at it.


Steven H. June 9, 2009 at 3:46 pm

What would your biggest fan say about you? Likewise, who is your biggest critic and what would s/he say about you?


Kris June 9, 2009 at 3:46 pm

I work for a non-profit organization that works primarily with low-income, inner-city residents. One of the standard interview questions asked when hiring direct service staff is “Why do you think people are poor?” I started asking that question when hiring admin staff as well several years ago. Even if this person is just going to be crunching numbers as an accountant, we still want to make sure they are in tune with the agency’s mission and values. The answers to an unexpected question can be very telling.


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