In life and in business, he who asks the best questions wins.
Here are some tried and true conversation starters I’ve used over the years. Some I created, others I gathered from colleagues and books. I hope you find them helpful.
- What does your manager need to know about you in order to help you produce your best work? (The response will demonstrate applicant’s level of self awareness.)
- Tell me about a defining event in your past – either professional or personal – that affects the way you work today.
- Think back in your career to a time when you worked with someone you found energizing. Tell me about that person. What did he/she do that made you feel so good? (Did they learn new habits that continue to serve them? Is that person a mentor to them?)
- Think back in your career to a time when you worked with someone who sapped your energy. Tell me about that person. What did he/she do that made you feel that way? What were your coping strategies? (Were they proactive, and understand the role they played in the relationship or did they take a victim stance – innocent and wronged?)
- Tell me about your most memorable mistake – one that you were responsible for. (Admitting to and learning from mistakes shows leadership promise.)
- What strategies do you employ to deal with conflicting priorities and deadlines? (This will tell you how much responsibility they accept — do they ask their supervisor to decide what’s to be done first — do they negotiate for new deadlines — do they not worry about it and do their best and leave at 5pm as usual?)
- Tell me about a time when someone on your team disappointed you. (Speaks to their emotional intelligence and conflict resolution skills.)
Tell me some of the things you do in your current job that is above what is expected on a daily basis. (Once answer is complete – ask part 2) If you didn’t do those things, would anyone really notice or care? (This question seeks to determine whether these are indeed extra tasks, or really just a normal part of the daily requirements. Shows applicants viewpoint on how much to give.)
- Does your employer do regular performance reviews? If yes — say: That’s great to hear. What did your supervisor record as your greatest area for growth? If no — say: That’s too bad. It’s so important to have regular reviews so that we can set development and growth targets. If you they had done reviews, which areas do you think your supervisor would have cited as most important to work on for personal and professional growth?
- What are you looking for in your next employer? How will you know when you’ve found the right opportunity?
- Let’s pretend that we’re several months in the future. You were selected for this role and it’s time for your 90-day review. You and I agree that this was not the right position for you. Use your imagination to come up with the most likely reason for us to come to this conclusion.