In today’s job market, employers are much like home buyers. The housing surplus allows buyers to be more selective when making a purchase. High unemployment allows companies to be more selective when hiring employees. Asking these questions (or seeking past experience) will ensure you find the right hire for almost any position.
1. Tell me about the most difficult or frustrating individual that you’ve ever had to work with, and how you managed to work with them.
An ideal answer would be one in which the interviewee relates an event where they initiated contact with the other person and attempted to focus on the task at hand. The interviewee should have sought input from the other person to determine which ideas they could act on as a team. A positive outcome can be rewarding, but an interviewee who relates a negative outcome, but with a learning experience can be just as valuable.
2. Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
A skilled interviewee will relate an incident in which they faced multiple deadlines with not enough assistance, little direction, and no information. An ideal answer would be one in which the interviewee indicates they prioritized the tasks in order of deadlines or importance. A successful time manager will always prioritize their tasks and seek information when directions are unclear. When deadlines aren’t going to be met, a team player is one who will ask for assistance from others while always keeping their supervisor informed of their progress.
3. Describe a situation when you demonstrated initiative and took action without waiting for direction. What was the outcome?
The answer could be as simple as, “I had no customers in line, so I cleaned the windows.” Or it could be complex, such as, “I completed the merger paperwork before the end of the day so I read the career highlights of the new company’s CEO so I could initiate conversation if left alone with him.” Either way, you want someone who does not waste time, but uses down time constructively without being given direction.
4. Give me an example of when you were responsible for an error or mistake. What was the outcome? What, if anything, would you do differently?
Everyone makes mistakes. A good answer would be one in which the interviewee talks about a mistake that was found and corrected, with minimal business impact. An interviewee should talk about why the mistake happened and what actions they took to minimize the risk of repeating the mistake. Think twice about hiring the interviewee who made a mistake that cost their company thousands of dollars or more.
5. When you disagree with your manager, what do you do? Give an example.
This question should get the interviewee talking about what kind of manager they like to work for. The answer may also reveal the reasons for them leaving, or wanting to leave their previous employer. A good answer would be one in which the employee assumes an open door policy and speaks to their manager about their concerns. Furthermore, an applicant who asks questions does not necessarily question authority, but may want to know the rationale behind decisions. Be cautious of the interviewee who indicates they never disagree with their manager. If that was the case, why are they searching for a new job?
These questions will stimulate the interviewee to recall experience, rather than answer questions with an “I would,” mindset. If you currently use these questions or have others that would be beneficial to add, please contact me. I’d love to add them to my interviews!