5 job interview tactics to tell if you’ve got the right candidate


Hiring the right team members can make or break a start-up or any small business–– particularly in its first year. Naturally, if you want to be successful, you need to hire employees that are passionate, competent, honest and eager to grow.

So what are the interview questions, topics and tactics that that’ll give you the solid data you need to make the best decisions for your business? Five key areas can help you tell the difference between winner and loser, star and slacker, fab and phony.

1) Ask the Easy Questions

Start by helping a potential employee to relax into the interview process. This will allow you to build some initial trust and help you elicit more truthful responses. Questions that build the candidate’s confidence are a great way to begin. Try the following five questions to initiate the conversation:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • What are your best qualities?

  • What are you most passionate about?

  • What have been the greatest successes in your career so far?

  • What are your career goals?

  • Why do you think you’re a good fit for this job?

2) Ask the Difficult Questions

Not challenging to answer, but rather ask questions that might make a candidate feel a bit uncomfortable. Or, better yet, ask about the times the candidate herself faced difficult situations and had to resolve them. These types of questions can reveal a potential employee’s true character. Here are eight to throw into the mix of your next interview:

  • What was the most difficult situation you’ve faced at a job. And how did you resolve it?

  • Tell me about time when you had to have a difficult conversation.

  • How would you deal with a difficult co-worker?

  • If you and your boss disagree, how would you most likely respond?

  • It’s said that a customer is always right. Do you agree with this statement? And how would you deal with an irritated customer?

  • Were you ever fired from a job? If so, what were the circumstances?

  • What was the biggest mistake you ever made on the job, and how did you fix it?

  • Which of your personality traits do people most complain about?

3) Is the Candidate a Team Player?

Depending on your business, you may not want a team player. You may want an independent, pro-active go-getter. It’s best to know if the candidate is a leader, a follower, or both. And, before you ask, you should know the type of personality that would best suit the particular position you’ve got open. Here are some sample questions to ask:

  • If you’re working on a project with others, how do you facilitate coming to an agreement?

  • When working in a team, would you be inclined to take over as leader? If so, how would you go about doing that?

  • Which do you like better: to work alone or in groups?

  • Give me an example of how you independently solved a problem at your last job.

  • What part of your personality makes you a great team member?

  • How do you define collaboration?

  • Tell me about an instance when you were proactive or took the initiate on the job.

  • What type of work environment do prefer?

4) Offer Constructive Criticism

It’s something every boss has to deal with: giving employees constructive feedback. Whether it’s daily guidance or an annual performance review, criticism can become a quagmire. That’s because you never know how an employee will react: with confrontation, avoidance, sensitivity, denial, excuses or, they could view it as an opportunity to grow. Find out how a potential employee might respond ahead of time by dishing out some criticism in the interview. For instance, here are a few choice examples that could also give you insight into the person’s character:

  • I notice you tend to focus on your positive traits. When you’re wrong, how do handle it?

  • You seemed a bit uncomfortable with a few of my questions, how do you handle pressure on the job?

  • I noticed you have a difficult time with eye contact. Do you realize that about yourself?

  • You say “umm” a lot. Do you think you have difficulty communicating?

  • You seem fairly confident. That can work against you if you tend to think you know it all. In what areas do you need to grow the most, or learn the most?

  • You haven’t asked me any (or many) questions yet. What do you want to know about the position? The company? The team? Our process? Me? Etc.

How a person responds to these types of questions reveals a lot about his or her temperament. If the candidate is open to criticism, a positive response might be something like, “Thanks for the feedback. I’m always open to learning and growing...” If the person gets defensive, it’s a red flag.

5) Put the Ball in Their Court

Naturally, you need to take some time to consider the value and appropriateness of a potential employee, even one you’re excited about. Offer the candidate the same opportunity to think. Do not offer the job! At least not during the interview. You may want to say, “I’d like you to think about whether you believe you’re right for this position. I’ll also consider whether I think you’re a right fit. Let’s sleep on it and we can talk again tomorrow morning.”

This works in your favor in a few ways:

  • One, it allows the candidate to be sure she really wants to work for you––and, in fact, is committed and passionate! The last thing you need is a vacant position in six months.

  • Two, it eliminates any desperation on your part to fill the position, and may even create more demand for the job in the mind of the candidate.

  • Three, it puts you as a boss in the power position, yet shows respect for the potential employee. It’s a smart way to start a work relationship.

These are just examples of job interview tactics and questions that can help you as a business owner or manager weed out the fakes from the favorites. Adjust the questions for your own circumstances and job positions for the very best results.


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