Hiring managers spend numerous hours interviewing job candidates as part of their work. Asking the right interview questions to determine the right job or culture fit in a candidate is certainly par for the course, but too many hiring managers end up asking the wrong questions, resulting in mis-hires that hurt the bottom line.

Many will fall back on asking the questions that they instinctively know from previous history. Typical interview questions like the dreaded and outdated "Why should I hire you?" "Where do you see yourself in five years?" or "Sell me this pen" are still used, but have little to no effect in determining a good hire.

These questions have to be replaced by behavioral interview questions that eliminate vagueness and get to the root of the answer managers are looking for.

The beauty behind behavioral interview questions is that the interviewer--or the hiring manager--asks questions that must be answered on the basis of fact, not hypotheticals. For example, instead of asking a job candidate how he or she would carry out a particular task to get the job done, the hiring manager will ask a job candidate to describe how he or she did carry out the task to completion.

The hiring manager can continue to probe with follow-up questions, and ask for more details if he or she isn't satisfied with the answer. This approach safeguards against a job candidate's theorizing or generalizing an answer and gives hiring managers a clear edge; job candidates may not get a chance to deliver any prepared stories or scripted answers.

10 questions to ask

To get rolling on some of the behavioral questions that I would personally recommend, try these for assessing a job candidate's capacity for motivation or taking initiative. It works great if you're looking for future, entrepreneurial-minded employees with a can-do attitude.

  1. Describe a time when you recognized that you were unable to meet multiple deadlines. What did you do about it?
  2. When you had extra time available at your last job, what were the ways you found to make your job more efficient? Describe them.
  3. Tell me a time when you identified a problem with a process. What steps did you take to improve the process?
  4. Give me an example of a new idea you suggested to your manager within the past six months. Describe steps you have taken to implement your idea.
  5. What type of work environment do you work best in? Tell me about a time when you worked in this environment.

  6. Tell me about a time when you identified a new, unusual, or different approach for addressing a problem or task.
  7. Describe a time you implemented a major change in your team, and the strategies you used.
  8. Describe a project or idea (not necessarily your own) that was implemented or carried out successfully primarily because of your efforts.
  9. If you find yourself working with a team that is not motivated, how do you keep yourself motivated and motivate others?
  10. Describe the actions and behaviors of your current/former manager or supervisor that you respond to the most effectively.

Listen for answers that will clue you in to what motivates your job candidate, or what work environment the job candidate finds most motivating. For example, you don't want to hire a job candidate who most enjoys working alone for your positions that require strong team collaboration. Since behavioral interviewing is evidence-based and really a science, I highly recommend that managers receive the proper training to become effective behavioral interviewers.