6 Important Interview Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Next Employee

May 19, 2021 | Business, HR, Leadership, Onboarding

As demand for products and services return to normal following the COVID lockdowns, the need for people to provide those things is only going to go up. Many industries are already desperate for workers (notice how many “now hiring” signs are in front of nearly every restaurant right now.) While it may be tempting to hire the first person through the door, you need to be ready to make sure you get the right person for your company. That’s why we’re bringing you some important interview questions to ask.

Most of us have been part of an interview where we were asked the expected “tell me about yourself” questions. But the best questions give the interviewer a glimpse into the candidate’s thinking process, their level of problem-solving skills, and an opportunity to see how they respond under pressure.

While the law prohibits employers from asking questions about age, race, religion, and a list of other things (covered well in this article by Business News Daily on “Illegal Job Interview Questions to Avoid”), here are 6 important interview questions to ask that we think you should be using to get the best possible people on your team.

6 Important Interview Questions to Ask

1. If you could live your life over again, what would you change?

Every job candidate shows up ready to show you the best version of themselves possible. This question goes beyond superficial presentations to reveal a little bit about the individual’s values. It also can give you a glimpse into significant moments in their history.

They may open up about moments where something happened to them, or they may be vulnerable about choices they regret. Either way, you’ll learn more about things that have shaped who they are today and will have the opportunity for plenty of natural follow-up questions.

2. Other than money, what gives you the most job satisfaction?

Earning money is the obvious reason to get a job, and you’ll certainly need to discuss salary at some point. However, use this question as a chance to learn more about what makes them tick besides money.

Candidates will give you a range of answers. Some will talk about the satisfaction that comes from helping people. Others will describe solving a difficult problem, taking part in a tight knit culture, or doing work that makes a difference in the world.

The point of this question is to discover if their personal motivations match your company goals. If your business is about changing lives and delivering hope and they answer this question with “crushing our competition”…they may not be the best fit for you.

3. What is the name of our CEO?

This question can be a bit of curveball, but that’s okay. Any committed candidate who is looking to be a part of your company will have spent time learning as much as they can about you prior to the interview. If they can’t tell you the boss’s name, they’re not a serious contender. Unless they are able to do a bit of verbal judo and recover quickly, failure here will probably make it clear to both you and the candidate that this interview is going nowhere.

4. Tell me about the first job you ever had, one that’s not on your resume. What did you learn from it?

The things people list on their resumes are there for one reason: to impress you.

Asking about smaller jobs that someone had early on in life can be much more interesting. Besides being a good ice breaker, it can also lead to some fun and interesting stories. The answers candidates give can give you some insight into things they think are important, and they are natural springboards into deeper follow-up questions.

For instance, if they tell a funny story about a disaster they dealt with while working as the dishwasher at a fast paced Chinese restaurant in high school, you can ask about how that experience shaped their work ethic.

5. Why should we not hire you?

While this question may seem counterintuitive (after all, aren’t we trying to get them to convince us that they’re the best for the job?), it’s another curveball that can show you several things:
a. How they think on their feet. Chances are, they’re not expecting it. They’re mentally prepared for the opposite question. So to answer this one well, they’ll need to alter their selling points on the fly.
b. How self-aware they are. Someone who thinks they’re the answer to every problem in the world is going to struggle to talk about potential flaws. However, someone who is humble and willing to learn will be able to speak honestly about areas where they have room to grow.
c. How your company may not be a good fit for them. They may very well say something like, “you shouldn’t hire me if you expect your employees to work 80 hours a week and never see their families.” If that’s how your company does it, you’ll know right away that this person isn’t going to do well with you.

6. Teach me something.

Kevin Morrill, engineering manager at Quizlet (a service that helps people learn faster) and former CTO at Mattermark (a company that uses data to help businesses make better deals), loves to use this question as a way to learn a lot of different things about a candidate.

Even though he primarily interviews engineers and programmers, this isn’t a technical type question. It gives the candidate an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to organize their thoughts and enlighten others with new information…all while talking about something they’re passionate about.

Kevin loves this technique so much that he put together a Google Doc on what he calls his “5 Minute Communication Question”. In it, he talks about how he frames the question and the things he’s looking for in a good response. We think it would be a great addition to your next interview.

The candidate can pick any topic they’re interested in–a hobby, a book, anything. They have 5 minutes to educate him from the starting point of a beginner who knows nothing to someone who understands what is most essential about the topic.

During that 5 minutes, he looks for:
a. Empathy – Is the candidate checking to make sure he understands?
b. Organization – Are they working through a logical train of thought or just rambling?
c. Focus – He’ll intentionally ask an unrelated question during the presentation to try and steer them off course. Does the candidate get derailed, or do they politely turn the conversation back to the original question?

Hiring Can Be Hard. We Can Help.

We get it. It’s tough to find quality team members to bring into your company. You’re passionate and focused, and you don’t have the time or money to waste on workers who don’t work out (For more on why, read our post, Why the Cost of a Bad Hire Is More Than You Probably Think).

That’s one reason why we go beyond just doing accounting and taxes. It’s why we wanted to give you these important interview questions to ask. We regularly partner with businesses, nonprofits, and ag operations of all sizes to help them grow and succeed in every area of business.

One of the ways we do that is through our HR & Payroll Services. The average small business owner spends close to five hours each pay period on payroll and human resource management. That’s 10 hours a month—15 days each year!—that could be spent growing your business instead.

Imagine having an extra 15 days to generate sales, prospect new business opportunities, improve products and services, take care of your customers, or just take a vacation!

Expect More From Your CPA.

If your CPA can only do your taxes once a year, you may be missing opportunities to save (and make) money the rest of the year.

In fact, we put together a free PDF to show business owners just like you the “9 Simple Accounting Mistakes That Are Costing Your Business Money” (See #5 on Hiring the Wrong Team Members!)

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We understand that your business faces challenges all year long, and we want to partner with you to help you face them and win the day. When you’re ready to learn more, schedule a call with one of our business experts.

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