Interview essentials – Stripping the Guesswork out of Hiring

Mission, vision, and values

If you can’t establish congruence with the Big Three, there’s no point in continuing the interview.

  • How does our mission statement sound to you? What do you like about it? How do you feel when you think about it?
  • How could you help us reach our vision- statement goals?
  • Which of our values resonate with you and why? Which of our values are you uncomfortable with?
  • Can you give me two examples of the role these values play in your life?

Job history

Start with the basics and add a twist. To understand a prospect’s experience, ask about her last three jobs.

  • What was your job description, and what did you actually do?
  • What did you love about the job, and what did you hate?
  • How would you rate your boss, and why?
  • Did you leave the job or did the job leave you? What exactly happened?

Drive and ingenuity

These questions determine a job seeker’s capacity to work hard and be smart.

  • Walk me through a typical day at your most recent job (or the one most relevant to the position under discussion). How did you feel about each part?
  • What were your biggest contributions to your last employer?
  • What are some on-the-job examples of your going beyond the call of duty?
  • Tell me about the times you underperformed. What did you do about it?
  • What is your understanding of what this job requires?
  • How many hours did you work at your last job, and how many do you expect to work at this job?


Don’t pass up the opportunity to stress zero tolerance for bad ethics. People with integrity deficits assume that everyone else shares their twisted concept of right and wrong. That’s how they rationalize ethical shortcuts. Pick out the bad apples with these questions:

  • Are all rules valid?
  • If you felt a rule was unfair, what would you do about it?
  • Have you ever broken a rule to satisfy a customer? If so, how?
  • Which is more important, customer service or making a profit? Why?


These four questions help judge the candidate’s maturity and the quality of her decision-making.

  • Tell me about a few good decisions you made recently.
  • What was the toughest work-related decision you’ve made?
  • Describe the result of the biggest calculated risk you’ve ever taken.
  • Why would this be a good place for you to work?


My eyebrows rise when a prospect makes even a modest attempt to define her career dreams. It makes me more confident that she’s selective about the job she wants. Suddenly, an image of a hardworking, productive employee snaps into focus. These questions help you glimpse a candidate’s career vision.

  • What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and why?
  • How are you going to accomplish them?
  • What alternative careers are you pondering, and why?
  • Why did you apply for this position?
  • How does this job help you meet your career goals?

Lastly, comment

My hiring philosophy is simple—avoid surprises. With the interview now more than halfway through, remind her that the more you know about each other the better. Agreement secured, ask a series of tough, unorthodox questions to gauge her emotional and psychological maturity.

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