Hiring qualified and highly productive individuals is key to growing your business. Doing so these days can be tricky, however, as the national unemployment rate--at 4 percent--remains staggeringly low. 

Even so, you do have options and you should be choosy if possible. You should also attempt to get the most out of those you interview with more pointed interview questions. Inc. recently tapped CEOs at some of the fastest-growing private companies in America--selected as part of the 2018 Inc. 5000--to get a sense of how they approach the all-important job interview. Here are some of their go-to job interview questions. 

1. "Can you type without looking at the keyboard?" --Brent Oxley, Ox Ranch, No. 246 on the Inc. 5000

"Their answer will typically tell you how technical of a person they are and if they can handle basic tasks on the internet such as ordering, finding answers, etc.," says the Oxley CEO of the Uvalde, Texas-based hunting adventure company. He has a point. Even at a hunting ranch, employees these days must be able to navigate digitally without breaking a sweat. 

But Oxley also acknowledges the difficulty he has had finding potential new hires, so his ability to be choosy is inhibited. As such, he advocates expediency. "I pretty much verify if they have a pulse and simply ask them how soon they can start," Oxley says. 

2. "What's 2 percent of 100?" --Eric Garrett, The Garrett Companies, No. 10 on the Inc. 5000

"You'd be shocked, when somebody's hit with that question in an interview situation, how flustered they get and how few people can answer it," says Garrett, the CEO of Greenwood, Indiana-based real estate development firm the Garrett Companies. If you want new hires who are quick on their feet and can remain cool under pressure, an unexpected question like this can help the interviewer determine that--fast. 

3. "I usually say something along the lines of, you know I'm probably gonna check with one or two of your references ... and I'm gonna ask them what they think your biggest strength and biggest weakness is." --Kevin Lustig, Scientist.com, No. 9 on the Inc. 5000

"What I find is that people are incredibly honest, because I never actually check, but they know I might go to their boss from their last job and ask that question, and so they're usually quite honest about what they say that's negative," says Lustig, the CEO and founder of the Solana Beach, California-based online health care marketplace

It's a classic question for a reason--a quick self-assessment of one's character and weaknesses can reveal a lot about a candidate.

4. "Where do you see yourself in five years?" --Joe Rakoski, Natural Force, No. 431 on the Inc. 5000 

If you want to make a long-term hire, find out early if a candidate is in for the long game too. Therein lies the beauty of this question: It can be telling to see whether a candidate describes working at your company in her future. "It's such a simple question, yet can provide so much insight into what a person's goals or ideal future look like both in and outside the workplace," says Rakoski of the Jacksonville, Florida-based fitness supplements company.

5. "It's a hypothetical: Suppose you were to drop a cork dart randomly on a dartboard. There are walls around the dartboard, so [there's a] 100 percent chance you are going to hit the board. For every point on that dartboard, what are the chances the dart will land there?" --David Barnett, PopSockets, No. 2 on the Inc. 5000

For context, Barnett is a former philosophy professor who came to founding PopSockets, the Boulder, Colorado-based electronics-accessories maker, by something of an accident. Despite the unusual nature of the question, Barnett offers a cogent reasoning behind it:

"It turns out it raises questions about calculus. By engaging people in that, you can tell how much they really care, and how willing they are to engage with," and that, Barnett adds, can point to how willing candidates will be to engage in their job. The question might not make a job interview go quicker, but it will certainly weed out less thoughtful job candidates in a hurry.

6. "I ask them if they were a fruit, what would they be?" --Mike McKenna, Diamond Assets, No. 7 on the Inc. 5000

"It throws people off and it makes them think on their feet, so you can see just how creative they are, how innovative they are, and how they respond to being thrown a curve ball," says McKenna, CEO of the Milton, Wisconsin-based electronics refurbisher. Plus, it's a pretty stellar ice breaker. Nothing gets you acquainted faster with a potential new hire like a question out of left field.

One answer that struck McKenna from a past interview? A job candidate told him she would be a peach, because she is sweet and solid to the core. She got the job.

Published on: Mar 1, 2019