5_Essential_Interviews_Qs_body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.


Each employee plays an integral role in a small business’s success. When the time comes to hire, it’s critical that the new recruit has the motivation and skill to help move the company forward. “Employees can either help you succeed or create internal roadblocks,” says Ernie McGray, hiring and human resources manager at San Francisco-based startup Meta Co. “At a small company everyone needs to contribute and understand that their work impacts the company.”


During the interview process, a few carefully chosen questions, like the ones below, will help you separate A-plus talent from the average job candidate.


Why are you looking for a change? Knowing why a candidate applied for the job will help you determine if her goals align with the position and with company values. It also helps determine whether the candidate is serious about accepting a new position. “I want people that are comfortable and confident in sharing those experiences and won’t just say what they think I want to hear,” says McGray.


Why are you interested in this company? With this question, a business owner can quickly determine whether a candidate has done his homework and is genuinely excited about the company. “I want someone who’s really done their research,” says McGray. “I’ve interviewed people that didn’t even look at our website.”


5_Essential_Interviews_Qs_PQ.jpgWhat goals did you achieve at your last company? Go beyond a list of tasks to find out what the candidate accomplished. Ask for details, such as: Did you lead the project? Did you design the goals? Were other decision makers involved? “Truly understand their participation in the goal and why they are proud of it,” he says.


Do you have any questions for us? Rather than save this for the end of the discussion, McGray leads the interview with this question. “I want an unfiltered, honest starting point,” he says. “When you ask this question as the interview process winds down, you have already given clues as to what is important to you.”


McGray also steers away from behavioral questions, such as, “Tell me about a situation in which you had to deal with a difficult coworker.” “There are so many variables that are different at your company,” says McGray. “Behavioral questions don’t give the business owner a sense of whether the candidate can do the job. Instead, discuss the company, the role, and what problems the candidate plans to solve by filling this role.”


How would you do the job? Give details about the position and what problems the company intends to solve by filling it. Ask the potential employee, “How would you tackle these problems?” Problem-solving questions allow the interviewer and interviewee to brainstorm about how the candidate can fulfill the role. “I don’t expect them to have all the answers, but we get a sense of their experience and they get to understand who we are as a company. It’s a true discussion about what the candidate thinks he can accomplish.”


After determining that the candidate has the experience, personality, and critical thinking skills of an A-plus employee, check in with your gut instinct. Says McGray: “You want to be as excited about hiring someone as they are about getting the job.”

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