The Five Best Interview Questions
Here are the best interview questions I’ve found over the years, starting with my all-time favorite.
1. What is your colleagues’ biggest misconception about you?
In all likelihood, the candidate has never heard this question, but it is a question he should be able to answer with a little thought. Give him a little time to think-after all, that’s part of what you’re trying to uncover: how does he react when something new is thrown his way. This question can be used at any level of the organization or in any industry. It doesn’t require special knowledge about anything except himself-and your candidate should be an expert about himself! It does require self-awareness and willingness to think a bit differently. One frequent answer is “Nothing-I’m a very open person-what you see is what you get.” I generally probe a bit with that answer, but you have to judge based on the candidate’s reaction.
2. Case study : Technical Interview Questions
I love using case studies for positions where the candidate will have to make decisions with less than complete information and for positions where the candidate will be required to do analytical problem solving. The idea is to ask him to think about something in a way they’ve never thought about before. As long as the answer is reasonable, I don’t worry about it being “correct.” I am interested in how they think the process through and how they deal with the ambiguity of the situation. I suggest having them think out loud so you can follow the process and answer questions they might have. (No, they cannot use the computer, their iPhone, or anything else. They just have to think the problem through.) Some examples of case studies might include: How many pianos are there in New York City? How many eggs does the local coffee shop use in a day?
3. Please tell me about a time when you changed someone’s mind. What was the situation? What did you do? What happened?
This particular behavioral-based interview question is one of my favorites. As the ability to work in teams becomes ever more important in the workforce, influencing people and working in a collaborative manner are critical skills.
4. Please tell me about a time when you changed your own mind. What was the situation? What did you do? What happened?
Closely related to the previous inquiry, this question is designed to highlight whether the candidate is open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Depending on the position I’m interviewing for or the answer I hear, I may ask for a second example just to be sure that she has demonstrated real adaptive ability as opposed to changing her mind one time in a moment of weakness.
5. If you were going to convince a friend or colleague to apply for this position, what might you tell them?
Assuming you’ve done the prescreening well, you can be fairly certain that the candidate has the skills for the position. Hopefully, you’ve also figured out that she has a natural fit, the instinctive modus operandi, to be a good fit for the job and for working with the hiring manager. Now you need to know if she has desire to bring her passion for the position and the company to work every day. This question will help you understand how much research she has done on the company as well as give you some insight as to the attitude and zeal she’ll bring to your department.
The Five All Time Worst Interview Questions
Unfortunately, there are all too many bad interview questions that get asked all too frequently. Here’s my list of questions that should be retired to their own special Hall of Shame.
1. Tell me about yourself
Here’s how any candidate will interpret this question: “I didn’t have time to read your resume or if I did it wasn’t interesting enough to remember so why don’t you fill me in so I have a clue what we’re talking about.” It’s also so vague, it leaves many candidates wondering if you’re the type of manager who expects people to read your mind. If you must ask some form of this, at least make the effort to look professional by saying something like, “I’ve had the opportunity to review your resume, but I often find it helpful to hear people explain their own background. Why don’t you give me a short description of your career.”
2. Where do you see yourself in five years?
3. Tell me your strengths and weaknesses
Easily my least favorite question of all. First of all, everyone expects this question. If the candidate can’t answer this smoothly, they struggle with other questions so you can’t really use this to weed people out. Everyone knows to make the strength something generic enough not to be threatening, and to make the weakness something you’ve worked hard to overcome (and that wouldn’t really matter if you still suffer from-like working too hard). If you ask this question, you deserve the hogwash you’re about to be fed.
4. Do you like working in a team environment?
“Nope. Pretty much hate people. Hoping for a job in which I can stare at my computer all day long and growl at anyone who asks for help or information. I figure if I do this well enough, I’ll become the next Dilbert character.” If you want to know how they will work in a team, then that’s what you need to ask. For example, “Can you tell me about a time when you worked as part of a team to solve a big problem?” or “What role do you find yourself filling in a team setting? Is this a role you’re comfortable in? Can you give me an example of a time when you worked in a team in this kind of role?”
5. Do you work well under pressure?
What do you expect someone to say? “Er, not really.”? “Can I call use a lifeline?” “No, but I bring my mom to work every day and she’s great with pressure.” There is only one possible answer to this question, so why bother asking? The days of the high pressure interviews are gone with other unfortunate trends of the 1980s, so if you want to know how the person will respond to a high pressure situation, ask for an example of when they worked under pressure in the past. Of try something like, “Here at XYZ Diamond Cutters, we understand that cutting extremely large gemstones is an art that involves a lot of stress. What do you do to balance your environment so the stress does not become overwhelming?”
Remember that interviews aren’t conducted on either side of a one-way mirror. Just as you are evaluating the candidate, so the candidate is evaluating you. You are in fact marketing your company. You will interview far more people than you will ever hire. Be sure you leave those who are not offered a position feeling great about you and your company. You never know…