14 interview questions that get to the heart of the candidate

panel interviewby Tim Stevens

Interview questions need not be tricky. But they do need to reveal the character of what might be the next person on your payroll. Below is a list of questions you should consider asking your next job candidate, and what their answers might reveal:

1. When were you excited about your work? This reveals what motivates your candidate. You want a person whose passions align with the job description.

2. What major mistakes from your past do you not regret? From great failures come big lessons, so look for employees who recognize the importance of messing up.

3. What’s your favorite movie? Remember, chemistry matters. It’s good to know what candidates enjoy doing. If not movies, perhaps they can tell you about books they have read or music they enjoy.

Hiring for Attitude D

4. What’s a misconception people have about you? You want employees who understand how they come across to other people.

5. How happy are you in your current job? Look for people who are very happy at their jobs, or if not, who don’t talk negatively about their work environments or current employers. It’s all about attitude, which, you may have heard, is a choice.

6. If you weren’t interviewing for this role, is there another role here you’d be interested in? You want to know if candidates are just trying to get their foot in the door, or if they really are passionate about this role.

7. If I were to ask your current boss what your greatest strengths are, what would he or she say? This is another way to ask about strengths without candidates feeling as if they are bragging.

8. If I were to ask your current boss what you do that drives him or her crazy, what would your boss say? This is another way to get at weaknesses or idiosyncrasies.

9. Do you have any fears about this position or work environment? If the candidate has none, he or she might be too cocky or unclear on what you are asking.

10. Describe the boss who would get the very best from you. This allows you to hear a little bit about the work environment they enjoy.

11. Tell me about a time you had to be especially bold or honest in a work situation, despite the potential risk. Maybe the candidate will be in your face all the time, or perhaps he or she will never speak up. You will want to know either way.

12. Let’s assume you take this job, and one year from now you go home after work feeling like this was the best decision of your life. What happened during that year to make you think that? This helps you get to some of the candidate’s unstated expectations or dreams.

13. Describe a time you were asked to do something you didn’t know how to do. Is this a person who needs step-by-step instructions for every task or someone who is self-motivated to find the answer?

14. Tell me about a time a boss asked you to do something you didn’t agree with, and how you responded. This will help you gauge the candidate’s interpersonal skills and ability to navigate conflict.

— Adapted from Fairness is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace, Tim Stevens, Nelson Books.