Hiring the right employees is critical to the success of your small business. But separating the right employees from the wrong ones during the hiring process can be an elusive task.
(article continues below)
Sometimes the interview is the only tool you have to guide your decision, so you'd better be prepared to go into it with questions that really matter.
In a way, there are no right or wrong questions to ask a job candidate during an interview. The interview is designed to provide you with more information about the candidate and any question that accomplishes that is a good one. However, there are some important bases that need to be covered. At some point in the interview, you will need answers to the following questions.
Could you describe your current job for me?
It's important to understand the candidate's role at their current position including the kinds of activities they do on a daily basis and the skills they use to do them. This question can also lead into a discussion about their current level of responsibility, which will give you an indication of how much responsibility they can shoulder in your business.
What major challenges did you face at your current job? How did you handle those challenges?
By asking the candidate about how they overcame major challenges at their current job you accomplish two things. First, you gain insight into what the candidate considers to be a major challenge. If getting along with their coworkers is a challenge, you have a problem on your hands. Second, this question provides you with a glimpse into the candidate's problem-solving skills - a major indicator of how capable they are at crunch time.
What was it like working for your supervisor? What were his/her strengths and shortcomings?
This is a trick question. The reason you are asking it is to determine whether or not the candidate will go out of their way to trash their current supervisor. If they do, it is only a matter of time before they begin talking badly about you to people inside and outside of the company. But if the candidate refuses to take the bait they will most likely be a loyal and trustworthy worker.
Why are you leaving your current job?
This is the question candidates dread so be prepared to cut them a little slack. People regularly change jobs for reasons of advancement, income, or simply to try something new. What you really need to know is whether the candidate is leaving their current employer or if their current employer is leaving them. If they have been fired from their current job, ask follow-up questions to learn the circumstances of the termination and if possible, verify their claims through references.
The Wildcard Question
Many interviewers favor using a "wildcard question" somewhere in the interview. A wildcard question is one that seems to come out left field and has no bearing on the job itself. An example of wildcard question would be something like, "If you could be an animal other than a human being, what would you be and why?" The answer to the question isn't really important. What is important, however, is the candidate's ability to take the question in stride and answer with a quick, yet rational, response.