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Weed Out the Wrong Hires Fast: 7 Interview Questions

It's tough to find the right employees. It all starts with asking the right interview questions.

If you want to fit the right candidates into your open positions, you need to take charge of the interview process.

It's imperative to come up with interview questions that dig deep into a potential hire's passion, drive, commitment, and problem-solving skills. Focusing just on job responsibilities and skills isn't the right approach--you need to find out if the candidate is a strong fit as a person first.

An employee without drive and commitment to your company will just wind up unmotivated and unproductive. That's not fair to you or him.

Here are the seven character questions you must ask:

1. What did you initially find interesting about this job?

This question will help you determine if the candidate really cares about your company and understands the job. If the answer is detailed and reveals he has done research on your company and the role, you may have a good fit. If instead a candidate gives a generic answer that shows no comprehension of what your company does or what the position entails, he may just be desperate to find any job--and you don't want to hire him.

2. Have you visited our website? What intrigued you about it?

Pay close attention to how detailed a candidate is when answering this question. If he seems caught off guard or stumbles through his responses without giving specifics about the website, chances are he probably didn't do his research. If a candidate couldn't bother to pull up your website once before the interview, chances are he's not truly interested, detail oriented, or well prepared.

3. What salary do you need?

You're not inviting a salary negotiation. You just want to know what salary the employee needs to cover his bills, what it takes to make salary the least of his concerns. This helps you take the focus away from money and lets him know that salary is not what's important about what you have to offer--it's the actual job that matters. Learn what the employee wants, and then direct the conversation back to the job itself. 

4. How much money would you leave us for?

Present the candidate a hypothetical situation: He gets the job, with the exact salary he asked for, and loves everything about the company and position. Then, he gets a job offer from another company. How much money would he need to be offered--on top of the salary he requested--to take the other interview? This is hugely important, because a great candidate will say a job he loves is truly worth more than money (as long as it covers his expenses). A mediocre candidate will say double or triple the salary, and a bad candidate will say a dollar amount that's less than double. You want to hire someone who doesn't work just for money, someone for whom money isn't a top priority if you take it off the table.

5. Has there ever been a time when your workday was over but your tasks weren't finished? What did you do?

This question, originally suggested by Inc. columnist Jeff Haden, will reveal if your candidate is truly a dedicated employee. A bad prospect will say he left the tasks until the next day; a great candidate will say the day isn't done until the work is. You want someone who cares about helping your company, not someone who loses focus and skirts off at the very first opportunity.

6. How do you pick up the slack if a co-worker doesn't finish a task?

Leigh Buchanan, Inc. editor-at-large, has suggested this question to determine an applicant's commitment. Set up a scenario: Suppose the candidate is working on a project at 10 p.m. on a Friday and gets a call from a customer who's angry because someone on your team missed an important deadline. A great employee would take ownership of the task and do it himself. A mediocre one would write down the details and refer it to the co-worker, to be handled later. It's important that an employee be able to take initiative--even if it means picking up the slack--for the good of the company.

7. Can you solve this problem?

Google's interview questions tackle work obstacles. They help you assess a candidate's problem-solving and analytical strengths, even if the scenario is not something he has experience with. Ask your candidate how he would handle a problem your company actually faces, so you can find out how he'd tackle it. You're not looking for a right or wrong answer; you're looking to get a sense of how the candidate processes and thinks about a question. Ask him to think out loud. 

Once you've asked a candidate these important character questions, you can finally ask him about specific job experiences and skill sets.

After the interview, it's important to pay attention to whether the candidate follows up to convey how much he wants the job and how passionate he is about it. Identifying the perfect candidate isn't easy; it starts with asking smarter interview questions. 

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