QUESTIONS FOR INTERVIEWING
by M.D.Smith, IV
June 18, 1984
NOTE TO INTERVIEWER
The following questions are obviously designed to let you
find out as much meaningful information about a prospective
employee as possible, before you make your final choice. It
is an attempt to standardize the questions you ask all em-
ployees and let you evaluate the types and nature of their
answers. You should not appear to be reading each question
and any notes you take should look very casual. In this
manner, you will hopefully not make the applicant too ner-
vous or aware of the kind of answers they are giving. This
phase should sound very "chatty" and informal and should
give you easy, off-the-cuff kinds of true and meaningful
answers as opposed to the candidate trying to give you the
"right kind" of answers.
You might want to circle certain questions that apply more
to the position you are trying to fill. Asking questions
that would apply to a salesman would not be very meaningful
for a maintenance engineer. You might want to design your
own set of questions for different kinds of jobs.
Before you even get to this stage, however, you should have
fully qualified the candidate as to experience, abilities,
references and generally have done "your homework." This in-
terview is to really "tell you what this person is about,"
what makes them "tick," what their real attitudes are, how
they will fit in with the rest of the staff, what things are
the positives and/or negatives in their lives and thinking.
You, the manager, must determine what these answers mean to
you and the position you are filling.
Finally, you should make your own notes and comments as to
what would be the best and worst answers to each of the
questions you intend to ask. You may have to probe a bit to
get to the meat of the answer, but be CAREFUL NOT TO LEAD
the applicant to the answer you want to hear. Talk as lit-
tle as possible and listen a lot. Especially, do not fill
in the silent periods too quickly since some of the best
answers will come after this time. Encourage the applicant
to talk freely and try not to write very much. After they
have left, make extensive notes around each question while
the interview is fresh in your mind.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICANT
1. Tell me about yourself...your background...your inter-
ests in life in the past as well as now.
2. What do you do for recreation and entertainment off the
job? What kind of books and magazines do you read? (Probe
for many answers) (This will tell you about personal inter-
3. What was the thing you liked best about your last job?
4. What was the thing you liked least about your last job?
5. Think of something you have accomplished in your life
that you are especially proud of....what was it and how did
you go about accomplishing that thing?
6. Does it bother you to make a mistake? How do you feel
about mistakes? What is your feeling when others make a
mistake? How about when others make a lot of mistakes?
7. What do you know about this company and this job that
8. What is it about yourself that makes you believe you
could do a good and effective job in the position we are
9. Why did you leave your last two jobs? What would your
immediate supervisor say about you and your work at those
two companies?(You should already know what the supervisors
said, but if you don't, find out and compare the answers.)
10. Are you currently involved in club or community activi-
ties? Please tell me about them. (Too much or too little
might be a problem area. You can also discover what is im-
portant in this person's life and what motivates him/her to
do things that he/she doesn't HAVE to do.)
ll. If you were to leave your present job, how long would
it take to replace you? Why? (Does this person keep all
important work to themselves and not delegate or build sup-
port people? The "loner," good as he is, may not be what
you are looking for. On the other hand, a "loner" who will
have to accomplish much virtually on their own in an isolat-
ed environment may be just what you are looking for.)
12. What is the single hardest job you've ever had to do?
How did you do it?
13. If you are working with another employee and you are
doing the bulk of the work and they are "goofing-off" but
still getting half the credit, how would you handle it?
What would you do about it?
14. How do you handle criticism? (Probe, don't settle for
the short, quick answer like, "I welcome it." We are not
likely looking for someone who ignores it, nor are we likely
to want someone who seems to like regular abuse with whips
and chains either.)
15. How do you feel about emotional outbursts on the job?
When others do it, do you feel sympathy, anger, or ignore
16. (VERY IMPORTANT) What questions do you have about this
company, the job in particular, company policies, benefits,
and opportunities? (Look for questions about advancement
policies, latitude to try new things and ideas, freedom to
grow INSTEAD OF questions about retirement, vacation poli-
cies, sick leave, insurance and other pure benefit pro-
17. (If person is from out-of-town, ask this one.) What do
you like best and least about where you live now? What do
you think you will like best and least about moving to
_______? (Some people or their families never adjust to a
drastic change in location. You must decide if this might
be a problem for this person. Also, the things they did not
like about their old town, they may find even more of a
problem here...i.e. "unfriendly people.")
18. If you don't get this job, how will you feel? (This
question can tell you a lot about the applicant's personali-
ty if you know how to read between the lines of what they
say. Do they cover real feelings? Do they try to impress
you with their answer? What's really going on as they reply
to this one?)
19. What else can you tell me that would further your
chances in getting hired for this position with this
company? (This is a catch-all, but probe for personal qual-
ities and attitude since they are more likely to respond
with training and experience in past jobs.)
20. (This is not a question, but is material for the inter-
viewer to observe that is just as important as what you ask.
You should have been noting all along:
How the applicant was dressed
How they sat
Do they maintain good eye contact
Are they out-going or shy or loud and noisy. Do they have
that "gleam-in-the-eye" that tells you they want the oppor-
tunity to perform rather than "just a job for the income
they need." Are you sure it is a "gleam in the eye" or is it
more of a "burned-out" look? Will this person fit in well
with fellow employees and is this person a significant cut
above the person who had this job previously?
Perhaps the overall best use of the personal inter-
view is your "gut-reaction." If something is "just
not right" about the person, even if you can't put
your finger on it, better to pass them up. It is
probably that they responded to some of the above
questions with something you can't prove is wrong or
untrue, but you just don't have a "good" feeling
about how or what they said. You get a "false"
feeling. This kind or person may be devious and un-
trustworthy... so go with your feelings, and pass
them up. However, don't confuse the above with
someone who doesn't fit your personal lifestyle
(neat, order, choice of music, etc.) when making