My Six Favorite Interview Questions
Here are some of my favorite interview questions, and why I ask them. You'll see that the questions are loosely based on behavioral based interviewing techniques. The idea behind behavioral based interviewing is to learn how an applicant acted in the past, and how that might predict future behavior.
It's important to ask questions that don't allow a person to give a canned answer. I don't care what an applicant thinks I want to hear, I want to learn what an applicant believes and does. Well, that and avoid the having an applicant tell me that he's a people person!
Here are my six favorite questions.
1. Tell me about your favorite store to shop.
What's the name of it, what makes it so special, and what did you buy there recently as a result of their service or product selection?
This helps to evaluate an applicant's understanding of what makes a great store service experience, and what she personally values in a store. Sometimes applicants will talk about theory rather than about a particular store. If that happens, I gently interrupt and ask them to talk about a specific store.
(Non-retailers can easily adjust this question for this industry, or use it as is to better understand the candidates understanding of a good service experience.)
2. Tell me about a poor store or restaurant experience you've had.
Where was it? What made it such a poor experience? What advice would you give the owner or manager of that business to improve the experience they deliver?
While this is similar to question number one, when you ask both question you can get a better picture of what the applicant really believes. It's a great question to ask a potential manager since you're asking them to fix the problem.
3. Share with me an example of a time you were really upset with someone.
Who was it? What were the circumstances? What was the outcome?
We all know that dealing with the public can sometimes be challenging. What I'm listening for here is how the person took responsibility for what was taking place. An applicant once got so upset reliving a situation as he described it, it was clear he had an anger issue. I guess he wasn't really a people person.
4. Tell me about a successful team you were on or group you were a part of.
What was it? What value did you add to the team? What made this team successful?
With this question you can learn what a person values in a team, and if she understands how she contributes. I'm listening for how the person may have helped a team member, or how the group overcame some adversity. The team does not have to be work related.
5. Tell me about a difficult customer you've had to deal with.
Who was it? What about the situation made is so challenging? What did you do? What was the outcome?
This is a good question to ask someone who is coming to you with a retail background. The answer will tell you how customer-focused she really is, and if she wanted to satisfy the customer or just get rid of her.
6. We've all had favorite bosses.
Tell me about your favorite boss of all time. Who was it? What did he or she do to make you like them so much? How do you carry the lessons from that person forward?
This is my favorite interview question of all time. The applicant's answer will tell you exactly how he wants to be managed. I also personally learn a lot with this question.
I hope you're able to use some of these questions to identify the next hire you're betting on.