If you want to hire the best employees, you need to ask the right questions.
From interesting challenges to hypothetical situations, here are the questions nine companies say you should be asking to identify the right candidate.
1. “What do you believe strongly in that most people would disagree with?” --Brandon Baker, co-owner of Loveletter Cakeshop
When you ask this question, you’ve put yourself in a win-win situation. No matter the response, you are going to find out if the person is honest or not, strong minded or not, interesting or not, and most importantly, willing to take the time to give you a proper answer. Most potential hires rush through this one and tell me something they think I want to hear. But the real special ones dig deep in their minds to think of something unusual about themselves that they are proud of. It’s these kinds of people I want to do business with.
2. “Tell me about a time you disagreed with someone and you saw things from their point of view. Were you better able to resolve the issue?” –-Steve Gibson, director at JotForm.com
We need to each and all understand the needs of others from their points of view. People’s businesses, hobbies, and livelihoods depend on us. It’s crucial our staff is able to understand their issues from their point of view.
3. “What does your closet look like?” –-James Runkle, owner of Drummond St. Strategy
In my very first post-college job, the interviewer asked me that question. After an internal "uhhhh…what?" moment, I described how I kept all the shirts hanging the same direction, and with all the blue shirts together, all the white shirts, together, etc. After I got the job, she explained to me that question was to A) throw me a curveball to see how I would compose myself, and B) provide a clear example of my organization skills. To this day, I always ask that question of every candidate I interview. It’s best to ask a creative question that you know the candidate hasn’t rehearsed. Make them think on their feet and see how they react--because you definitely want employees who can remain calm and clear in ever-changing situations.
4. “Where do you go to read up on the latest design trends, tips, and ideas?” –-Sujan Patel, VP of marketing at When I Work
This question might seem simple, but it’s incredibly important. It helps me determine if the person I’m interviewing is proactively trying (on their own) to advance their skills. I only hire people who are hungry to learn and willing to go above and beyond to help us be the best.
5. “What are five uses for a stapler, other than stapling papers?” –-Jared Shimoff, director at NetWaiter
Obviously, there aren't any wrong answers to that question (although it can generate some very interesting responses). It's a simple test for creativity, but most importantly, you know whom NOT to hire when they give you only three answers and then say, "I don't know any others." If they give up answering the question, you know they aren't a good fit.
6. “We require that each person at the company work reception for half a day every two months. Would you be OK with this?” –-John Fallone, head of talent at Tilt
Here's a few reasons why:
- You can almost instantly gauge the candidate’s reaction. Some even come off as disgusted…big red flag for us.
- The level of excitement in the answer shows us if they will always remain positive.
- The body language lets us know how they will work outside of their comfort zone.
- The actual words and tone used in answering the question will key us in to whether they would be willing to jump in wherever needed.
- The speed to answer shows us how quick a candidate can think on his or her feet when something unexpected occurs.
- We want people who are humble. If a person isn’t willing to help four hours every two months, they probably aren’t humble.
By the way, we don’t actually have a requirement that everyone work reception for a half-day every two months.
7. “If you could start any business in the world right now, what would you start?” –-Nathan Resnick, Yes Man Watches
This gives me insight into what the interviewee is passionate about and where his or her head is at. It can show a person’s creative ability, and enables you to understand his or her interests. I usually then move on with the "why haven’t you/have you tried to start it?" question.
8. “What about your education did you find to be complete [bologna]?” –-Jordan Menashy, co-founder of Bench
We’re a new tech company focused on challenging the status quo. In order to overhaul accounting systems the way we plan to, we need to be skeptical of traditional process and critical of normalized systems. We value educated candidates, but we want to know that we’re hiring someone who sees opportunity for change and is bold enough to identify it.
9. “What was the last book you read?” –-Kat Engh, marketing manager at Azazie
It may not seem like an important question to our interviewee, and the title or type of book doesn’t matter. Much of our customer base reaches out to us online, so we are looking for people who excel at reading comprehension. That’s not to mention that a study shared on PLOS ONE shows that people who read books tend to be more empathetic--a must for customer service members dealing with stressed-out brides and bridesmaids!