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The 5 Best Questions For You To Ask When Conducting A Job Interview

Updated on April 2, 2011

Don't waste your time and money on the wrong candidate. Ask these 5 questions and pick the right person from the beginning!

You’ve got your job prospect sitting in the waiting room, all suited up and looking great.  You meet her and she flashes you a 1,000-watt smile.  But how do you get to the real person behind the perfect facade?  Start by asking these 5 questions: 
  1. What do you bring to this job that I need?  You want to hear from her what her strong points are, and specifically how they relate to this job.  In short, how is she going to help you?  
  2. How have you used some of these assets in the past?  Don’t let her get away with generalities - “I’m always very patient”, “Everyone says I’m efficient”, etc - ask for specific examples of when her patience/efficiency, etc came into play and how.  If it is a candidate just starting out without a lot of job experience, ask for examples from regular life - i.e., with her kids or school.  
  3. What is one of your weak points?  Don’t force someone to tear themselves down - asking for one weak point is enough.  On the other hand, everyone has room for improvement in some areas, and you will learn a lot by what she chooses to tell you and how.  If she says, “I’m always late,” that may be true, but it is a very bad thing to say on a job interview!  On the other hand, something like “I sometimes get a little impatient when people aren’t up to speed” is still honest and yet something that’s not necessarily a deal breaker.  Also, it implies that she’s smart and driven, which are in fact good points.
  4. Why did you leave your last job?  Again, she may not tell you every detail, but what she tells you and how she tells it will demonstrate something about your job candidate as a person.  Does she have the common sense to avoid saying, “My last boss was mean”?  If she instead says “We had creative differences” or, better yet, “I felt I wasn’t challenged enough”, you’re getting not only (hopefully honest) background info on her, you’re also seeing how savvy she is around people.  That is a huge part of virtually any job.  
  5. What would you do if...?  Give her a scenario of something that could go wrong on the job (the printers are late with the marketing materials, a customer is screaming at her, etc.).  Ask her what she would do.  Make sure your example is general enough that she wouldn’t need specific training to answer it.  You’ll learn a lot about her from her answer.  
Look, you only have a relatively short amount of time to get to know a job applicant before investing serious time and resources to train them.  Try using these questions and you should be able to mine through to the gold that much faster.  

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