Interview Questions to Ask

For any business, interviews are an important part of the hiring process. Small business owners can make the most of interview opportunities by considering good interview questions to ask far in advance of the actual meeting. In addition, it's necessary to consider what types of responses to look for and think about how you will evaluate candidates' answers.

Five Good Interview Questions to Ask

The following are five good interview questions to ask of prospective employees:

  1. "What interests you about this job, and what skills and strengths can you bring to it?" Nothing tricky here, but it's a good interview question to ask all the same. Note that the question is not "What are your skills and strengths?" but "What skills and strengths can you bring to the job?" The answer is yet another way to gauge how much interest applicants have in the job and how well prepared they are for the interview. Stronger candidates should be able to correlate their skills with specific job requirements. (E.g., "I think my experience as a foreign correspondent will be of great help in marketing products to overseas customers.") They will answer the question in the context of contributions they can make to the company.
  2. "In a way that anyone could understand, can you describe a professional achievement that you are proud of?" This is an especially good interview question to ask when you're hiring for a technical position, such as an IT manager or tax accountant. The answer shows the applicants' ability to explain what they did so that anyone can understand. Do they avoid jargon in their description? Do they get their points across clearly? Failure to do so may be a sign that the individuals can't step out of their "world" sufficiently to work with people in other departments, which is a growing necessity in many organizations today.
  3. "How have you changed the nature of your current job?" A convincing answer here shows adaptability and a willingness to take the bull by the horns, if necessary. An individual who chose to do a job differently from other people also shows creativity and resourcefulness. The question gives candidates a chance to talk about such contributions as efficiencies they brought about or cost savings they achieved. If candidates say they didn't change the nature of the job, that response can tell you something as well.
  4. "What sort of work environment do you prefer? What brings out your best performance?" Probe for specifics. You want to find out whether this person is going to fit into your company. If your corporate culture is collegial and team-centred, you don't want someone who answers, "I like to be left along to do my work." You also may uncover unrealistic expectations or potential future clashes. ("My plan is to spend a couple of months in the mailroom and then apply for the presidency of the company.") People rarely, if ever, work at their best in all situations. Candidates who say otherwise aren't being honest with themselves or you.
  5. "I see that you've been unemployed for the past months. Why did you leave your last job, and what have you been doing since then?" This question is important, but don't let it seem accusatory. Especially in challenging economic times, it isn't unusual for highly competent people to find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own and unable to prevent gaps in their employment history. Pursuing the issue in a neutral, diplomatic way is important. Try to get specific, factual answers that you can verify later. Candidates with a spotty employment history, at the very least, ought to be able to account for all extended periods of unemployment and to demonstrate whether they used that time productively – getting an advanced degree, for example.

Reviewing these five good interview questions to ask will help you prepare for the interview process. Brainstorm others and browse our other tips on interviewing to conduct a successful meeting.