Interview Questions Every Manager Should Know by Heart … and Ask!

It’s spring! That time of year when colleges, universities, trade schools and community colleges across this great nation of ours release a fresh new crop of graduates eager to start working full time and pay off those student loans (you know … around the year 2075!). Many of them will be popping up during your hiring search to fill spots in your office. So … do you know what interview questions to ask them?

Fear not, oh hiring manager. We have assembled a veritable cheat sheet of interview questions that you, and every other manager, supervisor and team leader in your company, should ask to find the best candidates. People looking for jobs today have plenty of help on social media for faking their way through interviews. Throw in some nice clothes and a polished demeanor practiced via YouTube® videos and it’s easy to fool even veteran managers.

However, you don’t want to be THAT PERSON who hired the nutbag that shows up drunk to meetings. Or the slacker who makes your sister’s 27-year old kid living in her basement look like a fiery go-getter. Or, more seriously, someone with severe hidden quirks that will destroy the terrific work environment you and your team have worked so hard to create.

If you’re one of those managers who rarely goes through the hiring process, then read on. We put together some tips used by the best hiring professionals around. Do these things and ask these interview questions to stay on solid legal ground while finding the best candidates for your job opening.

First, before you have a candidate in front of you, do these two steps:

  1. Prepare! This is the critical first step in the hiring process. Dissect the job description … or write one if it doesn’t exist … and identify the qualities and skills that are essential to performing the job daily. (Here’s a great resource from Indeed.com if you need help writing job descriptions.) If it’s an existing position, identify current employees who were successful in the role and analyze what qualities made them effective. These are the traits any prospective hire must have.  Pick their brains about hidden skills the job requires that you may not have thought about. Problems with new hires happen when you assume they’ll “grow into” the requirements for the job.
  2. Develop questions based on the job functions and the qualities you’re looking for. Write the questions down so you can treat each candidate consistently. Hopefully, you’ll have two or three excellent choices by the time you’re finished with the interviewing process. Making the questions consistent enables you to evaluate them side-by-side better.

When it’s time for the interviews, remember:

  • Candidate comfort: The less anxious your candidates are, the more information you will get. Do this by explaining your interview plan, i.e., “First, I’ll tell you a little bit about the company and the job; then I’ll ask you some questions about your work history and experience; and then you’ll have a chance to ask me any questions you have.”
  • Embrace silence: Candidates need time to process questions. It’s ok if they take 20-30 seconds considering the question. Be patient. Don’t try to fill this void with another question or helpful suggestions.
  • 80/20 rule: The candidate should be doing 80 percent of the talking. Guide this by making sure your questions are open ended. Your questions should start with: who, what, when, where, why, how, tell me about …, describe ….

Here are a few interview questions to add to your list. These can be used regardless of the age and experience of the person in front of you. While an older worker can answer using past jobs, younger candidates should be able to answer using school or part-time jobs they held as teenagers as examples.

  • In what ways do you work to make yourself better in your career?
  • What motivates you?
  • What do you do when you’re working on several projects at the same time?
  • Tell me about a successful relationship you’ve had with a customer. How did it become a good relationship to begin with?
  • Tell me about a difficult customer you’ve dealt with. What was the problem? What was your role in handling the situation? How did you decide on this course of action?
  • What departments did you interact with in your last job? Tell me about a difficulty you encountered with this department and how you resolved it.
  • What is the most difficult or frustrating project you have worked on?
  • What do you do when you don’t agree with your manager?
  • Describe a project or idea that was implemented primarily because of your efforts. What was your role? The outcome?
  • Have you ever worked in a situation where the directions weren’t clear? How did you feel about it?
  • We’ve all worked on assignments that weren’t successful. Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish didn’t work.
  • Give me an example of how you successfully changed someone’s mind.
  • Why are you leaving your current job?

Remember, all your interview questions should be related to job requirements. If you’re not sure that asking a particular question during an interview is legal—DON’T! Many people are shocked at what is considered OK to ask and what isn’t. Plus, even if you’re in a hurry to fill the vacancy, don’t open yourself up to lawsuits. You can always check with your HR department later and ask the question in a follow-up conversation with the candidate.

Interviewing can be a challenging task, but one that can be enjoyable … yes, enjoyable … for everyone involved.

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