But there's a lot less advice available on how to evaluate a candidate's answers. (Although I've given that a shot, too, especially with behavioral interview questions.)
That's why Steph Curry asked Bill Gates to pretend he was interviewing for a software engineering job at Microsoft and answer a few of the common interview questions.
How Gates answers clearly reveals what he thinks is important--and can also help you gain better perspective on how to evaluate candidates for your next job opening.
"Why should we hire you?"
Why is this question so popular? Rarely do candidates come to the end of an interview feeling they've done their best.
The conversation may have gone in an unexpected direction. The interviewer may have focused on one aspect of their skills and totally ignored other important attributes. The candidate may have started the interview nervous and hesitant, and now wishes she could go back and better describe her qualifications and experience.
So how does Gates answer?
You should look at the codes that I've written. I write software programs way beyond any classes that I've taken. I think I've gotten better over time, so take a look at how ambitious I've been there.
I do think I can work well with people. I might criticize their code a little harshly, but overall, I like to be on a team. I like ambitious goals. I like thinking through how we can anticipate the future.
Software is cool, and I want to be involved.
Short. To the point. Shows that he's not only accomplished but focused on continuing to improve. Admits he's not the perfect team player--especially since he's a bit of a perfectionist--but he likes to work on teams that are trying to do important things.
And he clearly loves what he will do for you.
Sounds pretty darned good for a junior software engineer. Or a candidate for any position.
(Quick note: If you don't like this question but still want to learn as much as you possibly can about the candidate, here are a couple better ones: "What do you feel I need to know that we haven't discussed?" Or, "If you could get a do-over on one of my questions, how would you answer it now?" Same premise, but a little more focused.)
"How do you define your strengths and weaknesses, and how would you incorporate them into a team?"
I'm not sure why interviewers ask for strengths; the candidate's résumé and experience should make their strengths readily apparent.
As for weaknesses, every candidate knows how to answer this question: Just pick a theoretical weakness and magically transform that flaw into a strength in disguise. Ugh.
So how does Gates answer?
Well I'm not somebody who knows a lot about marketing. I wouldn't enjoy being a salesman.
For a position where you're actually creating the products and thinking through what those features should be, I'm fascinated by that.
I followed the history of the industry, read about the mistakes that have been made. So product definition, product creation, very strong.
If you have a team that understands the customers, the sales, the marketing, I'm not going to bring that, but I would enjoy working with them.
Gates doesn't try to turn an actual strength into a weakness, like struggling with work-life balance because he's such a hard worker.
Instead he admits an understandable shortcoming. He's a programmer, not a salesperson. But he enjoys creating products people will actually use--and that can make the company successful.
"What are your salary expectations for this job?"
First things first.
What a prospective employee earned at a previous job has no bearing on what you should pay them. Maybe they took that job to gain experience. Maybe they liked the short commute. Maybe they didn't recognize their value.
Whatever the reason, it's their reason--the pay level they were willing to accept at their last job has no bearing on what you should be willing to pay them.
Ultimately, an employee's pay should reflect their value to you. So consider not using questions like "What did you earn at your last job?" to help determine the salary you will offer a potential employee.
But if you feel you must...here's how Gates answers:
I hope the option package is good. I'm able to take risk and I think the company has a great future, so I prefer to get stock options even more than cash compensation.
I hear some other companies are paying a lot, but treat me fairly and emphasize the options.
Savvy answer. Gates shows he knows the market; you won't be able to low-ball him unless you're willing to provide significant ownership stake, since Gates is willing to bet a portion of his financial future on the success of the company.
As Curry says, "I like the little leverage play there. That was nice."
Most small businesses aren't in a position to offer stock options. But you can find ways to tie company success into an employee's total compensation: bonuses, profit-sharing, commissions, etc.
In a broader sense, his answer shows he's done a little research. A quick Google search is enough to show the ideal Microsoft employee loves technology, loves to learn, and loves being able to act in a quasi-entrepreneurial way inside a corporate giant.
Which is exactly what you want your new hire to be.