Perman Technical Search Group

Interviewing Questions for the Hiring Manager

Interviewing Questions for the Hiring Manager

The Complete Reference of Interviewing Questions for the Hiring Manager

Getting Things Started 25 Questions to Get the Ball Rolling

The purpose of a job interview is so that the interviewer and the job candidate can get to know each other.

A job interview is an inherently stressful experience. The business of two people getting to know each other is never enhanced by anxiety, so the first order of business is for the interviewer to establish rapport and put the candidate at ease. As an interviewer, that’s your first responsibility. The first few minutes are also hardest part of any interview.

Your job as interviewer is simple. You control the flow of the interview and its tone. For the most part, the applicant controls the content, because, after all, he or she decides how to answer your questions. But the order of the interview and its formality is your choice.

The easiest way to establish rapport and to set the tone of the interview is to call the candidate by name. But how formal should you be? The culture of your own organization will dictate whether you elect to call the candidate by the candidate’s first name or surname. Ask yourself, “Do I call my supervisor ‘Charlie’ or ‘Mr. Simpson’?” If the accepted practice at your company is to use first names to address superiors, then by all means use the candidate’s first name during the interview. Encourage the use of your first name. Use the candidate’s first name often. Most people appreciate people who remember and use their names and they will be put at ease by the gesture. At the same, whether the culture is formal or informal, you will subtly communicate something about the style and culture of the organization.

Besides creating a more pleasant environment for the interview, a relaxed candidate will tend to give you more complete and authentic information.

A point about note-taking: If you are going to take notes, it is often useful to say a word about why you are doing so. “Richard, I hope you don’t mind me taking notes. It’s the best way I know to make sure I won’t forget the important matters we are discussing today.” Many people are intimidated by having their utterances recorded, so be as upfront and relaxed about what you are doing as possible.

The initial questions you ask will determine the success of the interview. The general principal is to start with general issues that relate to the reason both of you are meeting: the job interview itself. It’s best to avoid substantial, specific questions about the candidate or the requirements of the job. There will be plenty of time for that. Right now, you want to get some housekeeping details out of the way. The first order of business is to welcome the candidate and thank him or her for coming. Having reviewed the requirements of the job you are trying to fill and the candidate’s resume or application, you can begin to get a general picture of the candidate.

  1. How has your day been?
  2. Did you have any trouble finding us?
  3. Please call me ______________. What would you like me to call you?
  4. How do you know about this job and organization?
  5. What kind of work do you want to do?
  6. How would you friends describe you? Your professors?
  7. What else should I know about you?
  8. What are your expectations of your future employer?
  9. What two or three things are important to you in your new position.
  10. What goals have you set for yourself?
  11. How are you planning to achieve them?
  12. Who has had the greatest influence on the development of your career interests?
  13. Would your supervisor be surprised to learn that you are seeking newemployment?
  14. How long have you been looking for a job?
  15. Why do you want to leave your current position?
  16. Have you received any offers so far?
  17. How far can you advance with your current employer?
  18. If you are so happy where you are, why are you looking for another job?
  19. Do you know much about our company, department, team?
  20. Why would you like to work for us?
  21. How does this job compare with others you’ve applied for?
  22. What is the ideal position for you in any company?
  23. Based on what you know about our industry right now, how does your ideal job stack up against the description of the job you’re applying for?
  24. Describe a great day at the job of your dreams,
  25. If you could make a wish, what would be your perfect job?
  26. What causes you to lose your temper?
  27. What two adjectives best describe you?
  28. What are your best professional skills?
  29. If you were me, would you hire you?

What Have You Done Up Till Now? 50 Questions on the Candidate’s Work History

The single best predictor of success in one assignment is the applicant’s performance at his or her last assignment. This truism is the basis for most job interviews. Interviews that probe for past job behavior as an insight into future job behavior have been found to be most reliable. The most successful human resource managers agree that the way in which an applicant handled a specific situation in the past gives the best indication of how they will approach a similar situation in the future. If an applicant has been able to adapt to change quickly in the past, he or she most likely will be comfortable with change in the future. If an applicant has demonstrated a good track record in sales, you can predict he or she will continue to be an effective salesperson in the future.

This is the basis of behavior-based interviewing. As the interviewer, your challenge is to understand the requirements of the new position and to present the applicant with individual questions that will most specifically inform his or her past functioning in those areas.

  1. In your capacity as a __________ at X company, what did you actually do? Please provide details.
  2. What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing this field? This industry?
  3. Tell me about your last (or present) job.
  4. What do you think it takes for a person to be successful in your particular area?
  5. How long have you been looking for a position?
  6. How have previous jobs equipped you for greater responsibility?
  7. What aspects of your current job would you consider to be crucial to the success of the business? Why?
  8. What was the least relevant job you have held?
  9. How long will it take for you to make a contribution?
  10. What did you enjoy most about your last (or present) job?
  11. What did you enjoy least about your last (or present) job?
  12. What were the biggest pressures on your last (or present) job?
  13. Have you held other positions like the one you are applying for today?
  14. If yes, describe how you expect the positions to be different.
  15. In what ways do you expect them to differ?
  16. What is the most important thing you learned that from your previous experience that you will bring to this job?
  17. If there were two things you could change in your last (or present) job, what would they be and how would you change them?
  18. Why did you leave your last job? (or Why do you want to leave your present job?)
  19. Why do you think you were successful in your last job?
  20. How has your last (or present) job changed since you’ve held it?
  21. Please describe your last (or present) supervisor’s management style.
  22. If you could make one constructive suggestion to your last (or present) CEO, what would it be?
  23. What aspects of your work do you consider most crucial?
  24. Of all the work you have done, where have you been the most successful?
  25. Describe to me how your job relates to the overall goals of your department and company.
  26. What are the most repetitive tasks in your job?
  27. To what extent have you automated your last job?
  28. What technical decisions did you have to make?
  29. What decisions or judgment calls did you have to make in these areas?
  30. What were the most important projects you worked on at your last job?
  31. Can you give a ratio to the amount of time you worked alone to working with others?
  32. How effectively did you boss handle evaluations?
  33. Tell me about a method you’ve developed to accomplish a job. What were its strengths and weaknesses?
  34. How many hours a week, on the average, do you find it necessary to work to get your job done?
  35. Can you describe a situation where a crisis occurred and you had to shift priorities and workload quickly.
  36. How do you feel about your present workload?
  37. In what ways has your manager contributed to your choosing to leave your present job?
  38. How do you think your supervisor will react when you tender your resignation?
  39. Describe the most significant report or presentation you had to prepare.
  40. What idea have you developed and implemented that was particularly creative or innovative?
  41. Take me through a project where you demonstrated _____________ skills.
  42. Tell me about a team project of which you are particularly proud and your specific contribution.
  43. Tell me about a difficult decision you had to make.
  44. What made it difficult? What did you learn?
  45. Describe the way your department is currently organized?
  46. Why are you thinking about leaving your current job?
  47. Are you still employed at the last firm listed on your resume?
  48. What are the most difficult aspects of your current job, and how do you approach them?
  49. What has been your most important work-related innovation or contribution?
  50. What caused you the most problems in executing your tasks?
  51. How do you organize and plan for major projects? Recall for me a major project you worked on. How did you organize and plan for it?

What Do You Bring to the Table? 100 Questions to Determine Fit

Most employers hire on competence and fire on job fit. Employers need their employees to have specific skillsets because they need specific tasks accomplished.

One of the main challenges of any screening process is to ensure that applicants are minimally qualified to address the challenges presented by the position for which they are applying. A concern about a candidate’s abilities is obvious. Thankfully, this is not too difficult, especially when the asserted skills can be easily tested. Reference checks represent another way claims of expertise can be verified. But the job interview is a first line process to determine that the candidate truly has the minimal skills required to succeed in the job.

This area lists questions to determine levels of preparedness in such specific areas as finance and administration, sales and marketing, information technology. This chapter offers more general questions to determine an applicant’s ability to function in your organization. These questions are designed to show that the candidate will fit into the work environment. Included in this chapter is a list a questions in the form “Tell me about a time when you. . . ” Many interviewers find questions phrased in this way to be particularly powerful.

    1. Please take me through your professional career.
    2. Why have you chosen this particular field?
    3. What aspects of your education/job do you rate as most critical?
    4. What would you greatest business champion say about you?
    5. What would your greatest business adversary say about you?
    6. What are your long-range goals?
    7. If we hired you, what are the top three goals you would like to see this company (department, team) achieve?
    8. What can you do for us that someone else cannot?
    9. Have you done your best work yet?
    10. What do you like most about this job?
    11. What aspect of this job is the least appealing?
    12. How do you plan your time?
    13. What are three reasons for your success?
    14. What kind of leader are you? Please provide an example. 15. What is the title of the person you report to and what are his or her responsibilities?
    15. Think back to a time when you trained a new employee. Tell me exactly what you did to train that employee and bring the person up the job’s performance standards.
    16. What were the biggest decisions you have made in the past six months?
    17. How did you go about making them and what alternatives did you consider?
    18. Can you describe a major project with which you encountered problems?
    19. How did you resolve them and what were the results?
    20. Describe one of the best ideas you have ever sold to a peer or supervisor. What was your approach and result?

vWhat kinds of obstacles to completing assignments on time do you most frequently encounter at work?

  • What strategies have you devised to handle such obstacles?
  • How do you know you are doing a good job?
  • How do you prefer to measure performance?
  • Can you recall a time when you were less than pleased with your performance? 27. Can you describe some projects that were a result of your own initiative?
  • What prompted you to begin such projects? How did they end up?
  • What qualifications do you have to make you successful in this field?
  • Do you prefer to speak with someone or send a memo?
  • Describe your leadership style.
  • How do you motivate people?
  • Give an example of a situation in which you failed, and how you handled it.
  • What characteristics are the most important in a good manager? How have you displayed these characteristics?
  • What two or three accomplishment have given you the most satisfaction?
  • Describe a leadership role of yours and tell me why you committed your time to it.
  • Have you been in charge of budgeting, approving expenses, and monitoring departmental progress against financial goals?
  • What suggestions did you make in your last job to cut costs, increase profits, improve morale, increase output, etc.
  • What results did you get? How do you know? How did you measure results?
  • What would you like to have done more of in your last job?
  • What specific strengths did you bring to your last job?
  • What would you consider the three most significant accomplishments in your business life?
  • Think of something that you consider a failure in your career. What did you learn from it?
  • Can you think of an example of what you have learned from a mistake of another?
  • What risks did you take in your last few jobs? What was the result of those risks?
  • What languages do you speak?
  • What do you think differentiates you from the other applicants for this job? Why?
  • Why do you think you’d be a good fit for this job?
  • What do you do when you are having trouble solving a problem?
  • What interests you most about this position?
  • Have you ever hired anyone?
  • On what basis do you select a new hire?
  • Describe the people that you hired on your last job. How long did they last, and how long did they work out?
  • Have you ever fired anyone? On what basis did you fire them?
  • How would you describe your management philosophy?
  • What kind of references do you think your previous employer will give you? Why?
  • If you have complaints about your present company, and they think so highly of you, why haven’t you brought your concerns to their attention?
  • The successful candidate for this position will be working with some highly trained individuals who have been with the company for a long time. How will you fit in with them?
  • What is the most difficult situation you have faced? How did you handle it?
  • How did your supervisor get the best performance out of you?
  • How do you use deadlines in your work?
  • How would you do this job differently from other people?
  • What personality traits do you think are necessary to succeed in this field?
  • Have you thought about why you might prefer to work with our firm as opposed to one of the other firms to which you’ve applied?
  • When some managers make a decision, they often feel a need to defend it. Can you describe a time when you changed a stated decision or opinion because you were persuaded you were wrong?
  • What would you do differently in your life? your career?
  • If you could eliminate one responsibility from your last job, what would it be? (for applicants with long tenure at one company)
  • After being with the same company for so long, do you think it will be hard to adopt to a new organization?
  • Some people feel that spending so much time at one job demonstrates a lack of initiative. How do you respond to that?
  • What are the advantages of staying at one job a long time?
  • Since you were in the same job for such a long time, you’ve probably grown very comfortable in it–maybe even a bit stale. How would you cope with a new job in a company such as ours?
  • How do you explain the diversity of jobs you’ve had. The positions don’t seem to be in a logical progression? (for job hoppers)
  • You’ve changed jobs quite frequently. How do we know you’ll stick around if we hire you?
  • How do you explain the diversity of jobs you’ve had? The positions don’t seem to be in a logical progression.
  • You’ve been with your current employer for only a short amount of time. Is this an indication that you’ll be moving around a lot throughout your career?
  • How long will you stay here at this company? Tell Me About a Time When You . . . For some candidates, a particularly revealing set of questions comes in the form, “Tell me about a time when you . . .” This is a form of open-ended question that makes some candidates feel more comfortable with sharing specific information. For example, some applicants find it less aggressive to be asked “Tell me about a time when you made a mistake” as opposed to “Have you ever made a mistake?” The latter is accusatory, while the former seems to offer applicants permission to share an experience. The interviewer may consider adding a few questions of this form to the interview template. Tell Me About A Time When You . . .
  • Worked effectively under pressure.
  • Handled a difficult situation with a co-worker.
  • Were creative in solving a problem.
  • Were unable to complete a project on time.
  • Persuaded team members to do things your way
  • Had to take a stand on an unpopular position.
  • Wrote a program/report/strategic plan that was well received.
  • Anticipated potential problems are developed a proactive response.
  • Had to make an important decision with limited facts.
  • Were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  • Had to implement an unpopular decision.
  • Were tolerant of an opinion that was radically divergent from your own. 91. Were disappointed in your behavior.
  • Used your political savvy to push through a program you really believed in.
  • Had to deal with an irate customer.
  • Delegated a project effectively.
  • Surmounted a major obstacle.
  • Set your sights too high.
  • Set your sights too low.
  • Prioritized the elements of a complicated project.
  • Got bogged down in the details of a project.
  • Lost (or won) an important contract or sale.
  • Had to fire a colleague.
  • Hired (or fired) the wrong person.
  • Turned down a good job.

 

What Do You Want From This Job? 25 Questions to Determine Motivation

The questions in this chapter go to what motivates a candidate. Every candidate is motivated by money-that is a given-although in the puzzling choreography of job interviews, money matters are relegated to the end of the interview (see Chapter 9).

But some candidates are clearly motivated by other values: technical challenge, the opportunity to travel, the opportunity to learn new skills, the chance to work with a particular individual, etc.. It is always useful for the interviewer to determine just what motivates a candidate, especially given the fact that a number of candidates are unclear about their motivations themselves.

  1. What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
  2. Describe your “dream” job.
  3. What is the most important feature to you in a job?
  4. Please rank the following from most important to least: job duties, hours, distance from work, pay, work environment.
  5. What has been your greatest accomplishment in a work environment and why?
  6. How important are external deadlines in motivating you?
  7. What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
  8. How do you feel about your present workload?
  9. Give me an example of a situation where you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get something done.
  10. What do you do when things are slow at work?
  11. What have you learned from your mistakes?
  12. What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction. Why?
  13. How can we best reward you for doing a good job?
  14. Why do you think you’ll be successful in this job?
  15. What makes you proud of work?
  16. Tell me about a time when you went “out on a limb” in a job.
  17. How do you like to be managed?
  18. What kind of supervisor is likely to get the best performance out of you?
  19. How important is it for you to learn new skills?
  20. What new skills would you like to learn?
  21. Do you consider yourself successful?
  22. What are the most important rewards you expect out of your career?
  23. What is more important to you: the salary or the challenge?
  24. What do you think determines a person’s success in a firm?
  25. What would you say are some of the basic factors that motivate you in your work?
  26. Tell me about a project that really got you excited.
  27. Do you generally clear your desk at the end of each day?

So, Tell Me About Yourself 25 Background Questions

We have all grown up with the adage “actions speak louder than words.” But the way we see the world–the way we deal with the major and minor challenges of life, the way we communicate, the way we learn, and the way we play–remains consistent throughout our lives. Everyone has a preferred way of doing things. Some people are more intuitive, others more sensing. The realization that people bring different modes of problem-solving to bear on corporate challenges has been a positive influence on organizations which often boasted bosses with the attitude, “It’s my way or the highway!” In recent years, much attention has been focused on behavioral “types.” Some companies actually ask final candidates to take such personality tests as the Myers-Briggs inventory, the MMPI, or the Kolbe Conative Index to get a sense of their styles or approaches to teamwork and problem-solving. These firms report avoiding the stress and frustration that grows out of the misplaced expectations that result when mismatched contributors are placed on a team.

A battery of personality tests can reveal a candidate’s problem-solving style. But tests are expensive, time-consuming, and some applicants resist them. The following questions are designed to offer a more limited set of insights into how a candidate approaches inter-personal communications, risk management, creativity, and working with others. In other words, they let an applicant showcase what they mean by “doing what comes naturally.”

  1. What distinguishes a great employee from a good one?
  2. Do you set performance standards for yourself?
  3. How do you cope with stress on the job?
  4. How do you know if you’re doing a good job?
  5. What do you need from your supervisor?
  6. How will you communicate your frustration when those needs go unmet?
  7. Would you rather formulate a plan or carry it out?
  8. What was the last business or management book you read and what did you learn?
  9. Where or to whom do you turn to help? What resources do you look for in completing a task?
  10. What strategies do you use when you have a great deal of work to accomplish and not much time to it?
  11. Describe a time when you used your intuition to good result in support of a project.
  12. Where would you like to go from here in your career and how do you plan to accomplish your goals?
  13. In what ways do you and your supervisor think alike?
  14. How did you handle a relationship important to your organization when it was threatened?
  15. How do you react when someone criticizes you?
  16. What do you do when you have to make an important decision?
  17. What does the word “success” mean to you?
  18. What does the word “failure” mean to you?
  19. How do you go about making important decisions?
  20. What have you learned about working well under pressure?
  21. Do you anticipate problems or react to them?
  22. Would you describe yourself as a risk taker or someone who plays it safe?
  23. What problems do you have getting along with others?
  24. Rate yourself on a scale of one to ten.
  25. What is your greatest strength?

All For One and One For All 30 Teamwork Questions

The ability to work in teams is emerging as the fundamental criterion of success in today’s flattened, cross-functional, virtual organizations. The questions in this chapter help the interviewer elicit information about the applicant’s attitude toward teamwork and their experience working with others in teams.

  1. Define cooperation.
  2. What kinds of people do you prefer to work with?
  3. What kinds of people do you find it difficult to work with?
  4. Can you tell me about your management style?
  5. Tell me about a time when you said no to someone who asked you to drop everything to help them.
  6. Tell me about a time when a team fell apart. Why did it happen and what did you learn?
  7. Tell me about a job or project where you had to gather information from many different sources and then synthesize the information in support of a business challenge.
  8. How do you schedule and commit to quiet time?
  9. How do you operate as a team player?
  10. How do you deal with people with different backgrounds and value systems from your own?
  11. Do you prefer working with others or working alone?
  12. What good/bad work habits did you pick up from your first job?
  13. How do you know when a team has met its objectives?
  14. Describe your approach to evaluating risk?
  15. What is one thing a teammate can say to you that is guaranteed to make you lose confidence in him or her?
  16. How do you get along with superiors?
  17. How do you get along with co-workers?
  18. How do you get along with people you’ve supervised?
  19. What are your team-player qualities? Please be specific.
  20. What have you learned about guarding against groupthink?
  21. Have you developed any special techniques for brainstorming?
  22. Are you able to predict a person’s behavior based on your reading of them?
  23. Tell me about a specific accomplishment you have achieved as a group member?
  24. What difficulties do you have tolerating people with different backgrounds and interests from yours?
  25. Tell me about a time when your team made emotional decisions about the project. What happened and how did you handle it?
  26. Tell me about an occasion when the team objected to your ideas. What did you do to persuade them of your point of view?
  27. As a team leader, how much tolerance do you have for mistakes or false steps? In other words, if a team member wanted to do something in a way you were convinced was a mistake, how do you weigh letting the team member learn from protecting the project?
  28. Have you ever been in a team where people overrule you or won’t let you get a word in edgeways? How do you handle it?
  29. In any team, there will always be a range of aptitudes. The spread of talents is not only obvious, but team members are in remarkable agreement about the distribution. Put any ten people in a room and they will sort themselves out from top to bottom in short order. My question is, do you believe it is useful to the organization to formally rank team members?
  30. As a member of a team, how do you see your role as a team member?
  31. As a member of a team, how do you handle a team member who is not pulling his or her weight?
  32. Tell me about a time when you had to confront a team member?
  33. When it comes time for compensation, do you believe that all team members should be compensated equally or do you favor a more individual determination?

Can You Take the Heat? 25 Stress Questions

At first blush, these difficult questions may seem to fraternize with the stress interview. Not so. The stress interview is a discredited technique which generally has its goal the object of seeing how the applicant reacts to being placed in a highly stressed and uncomfortable position. Stress interviews generally consist of long periods of silence, an argumentative interviewer, provocative challenges, and other techniques.

No, there’s a difference between a stress interview and asking difficult questions. Most interviews include a certain amount of stress by their very nature. The questions in this chapter are stressful only to the same degree that reality presents managers with stressful situations they are expected to address. These questions are designed to be very difficult and thought-provoking, much like the problems the applicants will be expected to encounter. They are most appropriate for senior managers who will be function in fast-moving environments characterized by high stakes and high risks.

Remember that there are no right or wrong answers to these questions.

Interviewers should resist the temptation to favor applicants whose responses happen to be aligned with their own. Rather, they should pay attention to the quality of the applicants’ logic and communications skills. Were they thoughtful or did they barge into an answer? How organized were their responses? After considering their initial response, did they ever change their minds?

  1. What cherished management belief have you had to give up in order to get where you are?
  2. Tell me about a time when your employer was not happy with your job performance.
  3. Who is the toughest employer you ever had and why?
  4. Have you ever had to work with a manager who was unfair to you, or was just plain hard to work with? Please give details.
  5. What’s more important to you, truth or comfort?
  6. When is it better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission?
  7. Have you learned more from your mistakes or your successes?
  8. Is honesty always the best policy?
  9. How has your tolerance for accepting mistakes from your subordinates changed over the years?
  10. You want to go swimming in a pool. The water is a little colder than comfortable. Are you the type of person who jumps in or do you wade in?
  11. Where do you think the power comes from in your organization? Why?
  12. What aspect of the job I’ve described appeals to you the least?
  13. How will you handle the least interesting or least pleasant tasks of this job?
  14. What have you heard about the company , department, (me) that you don’t like?
  15. If you were going to be fired, how would you like your supervisor to handle it?
  16. On what occasions are you tempted to lie?
  17. How have you been an agent for change in your current (or last) position?
  18. Your supervisor tells you to do something in a manner you are convinced is dead wrong. What would you do?
  19. What would you do if everyone in your department called in sick?
  20. Say your supervisor left an assignment for you in your Inbox, then left town for a week. You can’t reach him and you don’t fully understand the assignment. What do you do?
  21. There are two applicants for one job. They have identical qualifications in every respect. How do you decide?
  22. What do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news?
  23. Have you done the best work you are capable of doing?
  24. What are some of the things your supervisor did that you disliked?
  25. If you were on a magazine cover, what would the magazine be and what would the headline say?

Can You Think On Your Feet? 25 Thoughtful Questions

Jobs today require the ability to think clearly. The volatile business environment means knowledge workers must be able to synthesize information rapidly and take responsibility for making difficult decisions. Moreover, many jobs demand that company representatives be able to articulate those decisions to important constituencies such as shareholders, the media, or government regulators. When all those requirements are essential elements of a position, the following questions may be helpful to interviewers as they attempt to assess the ability of candidates to think on their feet.

These questions are designed to test a candidate’s ability to think clearly, to make decisions quickly, and to communicate their responses. They are especially useful for applicant’s who will be expected to articulate or explain corporate policy, to be a spokesperson for the company, or to respond to crises.

  1. What was the last product or service you saw that took your breath away?
  2. What’s the most significant compliment anyone has ever paid you?
  3. How has your perspective of quality evolved over your career?
  4. Is the customer always right?
  5. How would you finish this sentence: Most people are basically , , ,?
  6. If you could organize the world in one of three ways–no scarcity, no problems, or no rules–how would you do it?
  7. Who has been a major influence in your life?
  8. If you were going to be fired, how would you like your supervisor to handle it?
  9. How has your tolerance for accepting mistakes from yourself changed over the years?
  10. How has your tolerance for accepting mistakes from your subordinates changed over the years?
  11. Have you learned more from your mistakes or your successes?
  12. What’s the unwritten contract between you and the people that report to you?
  13. How have you benefited from your disappointments?
  14. Can you provide three reasons why manhole covers are round?
  15. We are sending you to an assignment in Santa Barbara, California. You have an unlimited expense account. What kind of car are you going to rent?
  16. Are you the type of person that likes to make lists or strike items off lists?
  17. What would you do if your boss gave you a direct order to pursue a policy that you disagreed with?
  18. What if the board of directors was reviewing a policy that would make such an activity improper but they hadn’t ratified it yet?
  19. What would you do if you saw a peer taking office supplies home?
  20. Describe a situation where you work or an idea was criticized.
  21. The business world is full of euphemisms? What’s your current favorite?
  22. Should all business relationships have fixed terms; that is, expiration dates
  23. Is there anything positive to be said about conventional wisdom?
  24. What did you accomplish at work the day before yesterday–in detail?
  25. What’s the difference between a manager and a leader?
  26. What is your philosophy of mentoring?
  27. Describe your management philosophy.
  28. This is a role-play question. You are a consultant hired to assess me and the organization. Based on your observations at this interview, describe my operating style and those of all the other people you have met. Finally, tell me how I could improve the organization.

Money Matters 25 Questions About Money

It’s a paradox. The first question that virtually all employers and candidates ask themselves is “How much money will I have to pay?” and “How much money will I get?” So one would think that a job interview would attend to the money issue straight away. But no one likes to talk about money. There is a great deal of pretense around money that relegates it to the end of the interview. This may be inefficient, but that’s the way it is. The result is that every employment guide recommends that candidates avoid discussing salary requirements before securing real interest from the employer. The universal rule that job candidates learn is that they should do two thins before even talking about money. First, they should persuade the interviewer that the are the best person for the job. Second, job candidates must get the interviewer to tell them the salary range of the position before they reveal how much they are making or how much they expect to earn. Experienced job candidates will offer all kinds of diversions designed to distract interviewers from talking about the applicant’s current earning situation or expectations.

At the same time, however, the interviewer is keenly interested in getting a sense of the applicant’s monetary requirements. Interviewers may be within their rights to insist on direct answers to straight questions such as “What are you earning now?” or “What’s the minimum salary you will accept?”, but framing the questions in such a naked fashion can blow a blast of cold air on an otherwise amiable interview.

The following questions offer alternatives to get to the same information. This chapter, in addition, lists some questions related to non-cash compensation.

  1. Can you review your salary history for me?
  2. What salary, excluding benefits, are you making now?
  3. How can we best reward you?
  4. What kind of salary reviews or progress would you expect in this company?
  5. In your professional opinion, how much do you think a job like this should pay?
  6. What do you think you’re worth?
  7. Why do you think you’re worth that?
  8. How do you think your compensation should be determined?
  9. What value can you add to our organization?
  10. How much money do you want to be making five years from now?
  11. How much did you make on your last job?
  12. What sort of salary are you looking for?
  13. Would you be willing to work for less?
  14. What was the last raise you got? Were you satisfied?
  15. How would you justify a raise to your current supervisor?
  16. The salary you’re asking for is near the top of the range for this job. Why should we pay you this much?
  17. How would you feel if a person reporting to you made more money than you?
  18. Is money the most important aspect of the job for you?
  19. What do you think of a process where subordinates have a say in the compensation of their supervisor?
  20. What salary do you expect to make in this position. What do you base that figure on?
  21. Have you ever worked on commission? Tell me about it.
  22. Why aren’t you making more money at this point in your career?
  23. How much are you worth?
  24. What is the lowest pay you will take?
  25. How important are stock options or deferred payment plans to you?
  26. What non-cash aspects of your compensation are important to you?

Appendix

Top 10 Best Questions

  1. Tell me about yourself using words of only one syllable.
  2. Have you done the best work you are capable of?
  3. What was the most useful criticism you ever received?
  4. Describe the best person you ever worked for or who worked for you.
  5. If your last boss were able to wave a magic wand over your head, what aspect of your performance would he or she fine tune?
  6. If you had the opportunity to do the last ten years of career over again, what would you do different?
  7. Describe the most difficult decision you ever had to make. Reflecting back, was your decision the best possible choice you could have made? Why or why not?
  8. If I were to speak with your current supervisor, what would he or she say are your current strengths and weaknesses?
  9. Take as a given that you got this job and you have been doing it for three to six months but things are just not working out. We are sitting here discussing the situation. What do you think you would say about what went wrong?
  10. When you’ve had a really good day at work and you go home and kick back and you feel satisfied, what was it about that day that made you feel really good? When you have had a really bad day at work and you go home and feel upset, what was it about that day that made you feel really upset?

Top 10 Toughest Questions

  1. What cherished management belief have you had to give up in order to get where you are?
  2. What’s more important to you, truth or comfort?
  3. Have you learned more from your mistakes or your successes?
  4. Is honesty always the best policy?
  5. How has your tolerance for accepting mistakes from your subordinates changed over the years?
  6. Where do you think the power comes from in your organization? Why?
  7. On what occasions are you tempted to lie?
  8. Is the customer always right?
  9. How would you finish this sentence: Most people are basically , , ,?
  10. If you could organize the world in one of three ways–no scarcity, no problems, or no rules–how would you do it?
  11. What’s the unwritten contract between you and the people that report to you?
  12. What would you do if your boss gave you a direct order to pursue a policy that you disagreed with?
  13. Should all business relationships have fixed terms; that is, expiration dates?

Ten Off-the-Wall Questions

  1. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  2. Give me three reasons why manhole covers are round.
  3. If you were on a magazine cover, what would the magazine be and what would the headline say?
  4. When is it better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission?
  5. You want to go swimming in a pool. The water is a little colder than comfortable. Are you the type of person who jumps in or do you wade in?
  6. There are two applicants for one job. They have identical qualifications in every respect. How do you decide?
  7. What do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news?
  8. We are sending you to an assignment in Santa Barbara, California. You have an unlimited expense account. What kind of car are you going to rent?
  9. Are you the type of person that likes to make lists or strike items off lists?
  10. The business world is full of euphemisms? What’s your current favorite?
  11. This is a role-play question. You are a consultant hired to assess me and the organization. Based on your observations at this interview, describe my operating style and those of all the other people you have met. Finally, tell me how I could improve the organization.
  12. Do you believe a person’s handwriting can tell you something about their performance?

Five “Tired” and “Wired” Interview Questions

  1. Tired: Tell me about yourself. This so-called “killer” question suffers from two defects. First, every candidate has rehearsed an answer to this predictable question. If you want a rehearsed answer, ask away. Second, asked at the beginning of the interview, the question gives the candidate too much power in determining the content of the interview. Wired: Tell me about yourself using words of one syllable.
  2. Tired: Where do you expect to be in five years? These days, no one can think that far ahead. Wired: Six months from now, when you look aback at your performance here, what specifically do you want to have accomplished?
  3. Tired: How long would you stay with our company? No one can predict job continuity. Not the candidate. Not the interviewer. Why not acknowledge reality? Wired: When will you know it’s time to leave this organization?
  4. Tired: Will you eventually want your boss’s job? What do you expect them to say? Who really wants that job, anyway? Wired: How important is it for you to move up in management?
  5. Tired: What is your greatest drawback? Most candidates will reply with a variant of, “Well, I probably work way too hard and put in way too many hours!” Wired: What is the most useful criticism you ever received?

Ten Questions for Entry-Level Candidates

  1. Based on what you know of the job market, which of your courses are directly transferable to this job?
  2. Do you feel your grades are an accurate reflection of your work? If not, why not?
  3. In college, how did you go about influencing someone to accept your ideas?
  4. Have you ever been put on the spot by a professor or advisor when you felt unsure of yourself? How did you handle it?
  5. What competitive activities have you participated in? What did you learn from participation in competitive activities?
  6. What’s one management lesson you learned in college?
  7. Why do you want to get into this field?
  8. What are your career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
  9. I see that you do not have very much organizational work experience. What qualities do you have that especially qualify you for this position?
  10. What specifically have you done that shows initiative?

25 Additional Questions Interviewers Should Expect to be Asked

  1. Would you mind if I took notes during the interview?
  2. What are your plans for company expansion?
  3. How many employees would I supervise?
  4. To whom would I report?
  5. What management style is most prevalent here?
  6. How many employees have held this position in the last three years?
  7. Is this a newly created position?
  8. What have you liked most about working for this company?
  9. How much supervision will I get as a new employee?
  10. Can you briefly tell me about the people I will be working with most closely?
  11. Does this company typically have a reactive or proactive strategy to dealing with problems?
  12. Imagine that I excel in this position. Where would I go from there?
  13. What are the company’s plans for the next five years?
  14. How would you describe the corporate culture at this location?
  15. Describe the performance evaluation procedures you use.
  16. What tasks will fill a majority of my time?
  17. What challenges do you think I will face in this position?
  18. Describe for me the staff I will supervise.
  19. Could you show me a formal job description?
  20. Does this position involve any travel?
  21. What will be my first assignment?
  22. Does this company typically promote from within?
  23. How does this position/department fit into the organizational structure?
  24. You said I could expect to make more money down the road? When will I get a review and what exactly will I need to do to be successful?
  25. When can I expect to hear from you about the next stage in the interviewing process?

25 Acceptable Personal Questions

The bottom line is this: all interview questions should be job-related.

If you’re not sure about a question, apply this test: Does the question go to business necessity? Does the question relate to this individual candidate’s ability to perform the tasks for which he or she is being considered?

Contrary to popular belief, federal employment laws do not expressly proscribe interviewers from asking questions about an applicant’s gender, color, religion, or national origin. On the other hand, state laws are more specific, often publishing for employers’ guidance lists of “acceptable” and “unacceptable” questions. In any case, it makes sense for a number of reasons to avoid any questions that have no legitimate direct link to the performance of the job in question.

The EEOC enforces laws against job discrimination, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Americans With Disabilities Act. It publishes the Uniform Guidelines for Employee Selection Procedures. Over 30 states also have non-discrimination laws. The laws governing the hiring process are complex and outside the purview of this book. It is the responsibility of anyone in a hiring position to understand these laws and how they affect your firm’s employment procedures and practices.

The basic point is that while the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the various state agencies are not particularly interested in the questions asked by an employer, they are vitally concerned about how the employer uses the answers to the questions. Asking dubious questions leaves companies vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits. The very act of asking such questions sets up an inference that the company will use the answers discriminatorily. It is for this reason that the human resources departments of many companies enforce rules against company interviewers asking certain questions

  • Acceptable: What is your name?
    Unacceptable: What is your Maiden name?
  • Acceptable: What is the address of your residence?
    Unacceptable: Do you own or rent your home?
  • Acceptable: Are you over 18 years of age?
    Unacceptable: Are you over 40 years old?
    Unacceptable: How old are you?
    Unacceptable: How many years has it been since you graduated from college?
    Unacceptable: Would you have any difficulty working for a boss who is younger than you?
  • Acceptable: Can you, after employment, submit verification of your legal right to work in the United States?
    Unacceptable: Where were you born?
    Unacceptable: Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • Acceptable: What languages can you speak or write?
    Unacceptable: That’s an interesting accent. What country do you come from?
    Unacceptable: What was your first language?
  • Acceptable: Describe the role of your family in your career.
    Unacceptable: What does your spouse think about your career?
    Unacceptable: Are you married, divorced, separated or single
  • Acceptable: Were you ever convicted of a crime?
    Unacceptable: Were you ever arrested?
  • Acceptable: Are you capable of performing the essential responsibilities of the job?
    Unacceptable: Do you have any physical disabilities?
    Unacceptable: Have you ever received worker’s compensation?
    Unacceptable: Do you have problems with alcohol or drugs?
    Unacceptable: Do you have HIV or AIDS?
  • Acceptable: What are you currently earning?
    Unacceptable: What is your economic situation or status?
  • Acceptable: Statement by employer of regular days, hours, or shifts to be worked.
    Unacceptable: Does your religion prevent you from working weekends or holidays?

These questions are usually acceptable:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. What was your favorite subject in school?
  3. Did you have a favorite teacher?
  4. How do you get along with people?
  5. What kind of person do you get along with best?
  6. What magazines do you read regularly?
  7. Describe your character?
  8. What’s the last book you’ve read?
  9. What’s the last movie you saw?
  10. What do you do to stay in shape?
  11. Do you have any physical problems that may limit your ability to perform this job? 12. What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
  12. What hobbies do you have that might help you perform in this position?
  13. Are you satisfied?
  14. What makes you angry?
  15. How would your co-workers describe you?
  16. How do you generally handle conflict? 18. How do you behave when you’re having problems with a coworker?
  17. Describe your best friend and what he or she does for a living.
  18. In what ways are you similar or dissimilar to your best friend?
  19. Do you like to travel?
  20. What are your hobbies?
  21. Are you an overachiever or an underachiever? Explain?
  22. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Explain?
  23. Do you set goals for yourself?

75 Unacceptable Personal Questions

Questions Dealing with Age

    1. How old are you?
    2. When were you born?
    3. When were you married?
    4. How old are your children?
    5. When did you graduate from high school?
    6. When did you graduate from college?

 

Questions Dealing with Age

    1. What health problems do you ave?
    2. Do you have any disabilities?
    3. Are you physically fit and strong?
    4. Is your hearing good?
    5. Can you read small print?
    6. Do you have any back problems?
    7. Have you ever been denied health insurance
    8. When were you hospitalized the last time?
    9. Is any member of your family disabled?
    10. Do you have AIDS?
    11. Have you ever been addicted to drugs?
    12. Have you ever filed for workman’s compensation
    13. Do you see a physician on a regular basis?
    14. When was your last medical checkup?
    15. Do you have large prescription drug bills?

 

Questions Dealing with Ethnic Origin

    1. This is a Christian (or Jewish or Muslim) company, do you think you would be happy working here?
    2. What’s your nationality?
    3. Is that an Irish (or whatever) name?
    4. Would working with people of another race be a problem?
    5. Where are your parents from?
    6. What was your first language?
    7. What languages do your parent’s speak?
    8. Are you bilingual?
    9. What’s the origin of your name?
    10. What language do you speak at home?

 

Questions Dealing with Marital Status

    1. Are you married?
    2. Are you a family man (or woman)?
    3. Do you intend to get married soon?
    4. Do you have children?
    5. Are you a single parent?
    6. What do you do about birth control?
    7. What are your long-range plans for family?
    8. How many people live in your household?
    9. Do you live by yourself?
    10. Can you travel?
    11. Do you have someone who can take care of a sick child?

 

Questions Dealing with Religion

    1. Is that a Jewish name?
    2. Is there any day of the week you’re not able to work?
    3. What church are you a member of?
    4. Do you sing in the church choir?
    5. Do your children go to Sunday school?
    6. Can you work on Friday evenings?
    7. What do you do on Sundays?
    8. Are you active in your church?
    9. Are you a member of any religious group?
    10. Are you born again?

 

Questions Dealing with Sexual Preference

    1. What’s your sexual orientation?
    2. Are you a member of any gay or lesbian groups?
    3. Are you straight?
    4. Do you date members of the opposite or same sex?

 

Questions Dealing with Personal Finances

    1. What’s your economic status?
    2. What kind of car do you drive?
    3. Who paid for your education?
    4. Do you have debts?
    5. Do you own or rent your home
    6. How much insurance do you have?
    7. What is your net worth?

 

Miscellaneous Unacceptable Personal Questions

  1. How much do you weigh?
  2. What ties do you have to your community?
  3. What social or political organizations do you belong to?
  4. How do you contribute to the community?
  5. Are you living with anyone?
  6. How tall are you?
  7. What ties do you have to your community?
  8. How do you contribute to the community?
  9. Have you ever served in the military?
  10. Do you think you can work for a younger person?
  11. Have you ever been arrested?
  12. Do you drink?

Written by John Kador For additional information, please contact Gary Perman at Perman Willits and Associates 360-835-2205 or by email below:

Gary Perman is President of Perman Technical Search Group, a national search firm that specializes in recruiting Executives to Engineers in the technology industry since 1996.
If you have questions about this article, feel free to contact him at gary@permantech.com

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