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There are a number of great questions you can ask a prospective employee, and there are number of not-so-great questions as well. The kind of questions you should avoid as an interviewer are those which permit a one-word response, such as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This tells you very little about the candidate, and forces you to ask a lot more questions in order to find out anything relevant.

On the other hand, questions which are far more useful are those which encourage the interviewee to open up, and provide a much broader response about her experience, personality, and career goals. Here are some of the most important questions you can ask of any prospective employee.

Opening questions

As simple as this is, it can be extremely revealing to begin an interview by simply asking, “Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?” This can tell you an awful lot about a person, no matter where they start from chronologically. This may in fact, be the single longest response you elicit from an interviewee during the entire session, so it’s a good time to pay attention to not only what is being said, but how it’s being said, and how she presents herself.

Conflict management questions

It’s no exaggeration to say that conflict happens pretty regularly on the job, and that practically all employees will be pulled into it at some point or other. Have a conflict scenario ready to spring on your interviewee which is relative to your kind of work, and ask her to describe how she would handle the situation. If you can’t think of a really good conflict scenario, try using the old standby scenario where there’s a conflict with another employee, and ask your candidate how she would handle that.

Questions about teamwork

Since most jobs require heavy interaction between employees, it’s worthwhile to ask your candidate a question or two about teamwork. But don’t just ask whether or not she has worked as part of a team before, ask her something about that experience. For instance, you’ll get a lot of good information by asking a question like, “Could you describe for me a project that you worked on with other team members, and how you achieved your project objectives?”

Questions about career objectives

It’s hardly worth asking those old textbook questions about ‘where you see your career going in five years’, because most of the time any responses you get will simply be tailored to what an employer expects to hear. Far better would be questions which call for genuine revelations about career development to this point, and what might be achievable in the future. For instance, you might gauge a candidate’s development by asking what her greatest achievement has been so far in this field, what were some moments where valuable lessons were learned, and how knowledge and experience gained now and in the future will contribute to her career objectives.

Final question

Yes, it’s old and it’s been done to death, but there’s a good reason for asking, “Do you have any questions for me?” This will tell you whether your candidate has researched your company at all, and whether or not she has investigated the opening for which she is being interviewed.


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