Asking Great Interview Questions

As a manager, I’ve always found the interview process both fascinating and nerve-wracking. It’s fascinating because I get to meet and speak to dozens of incredible people – some great for the job and others not – but all from different walks of life. It’s nerve-wracking because I have to constantly stay on my toes, thinking of interview questions that will help me to almost force a person to show his or her true colors.

In my experience, I’ve found that interview questions serve three main purposes. They tell you whether or not the individual in question has the skills needed to join the workforce; they tell you whether or not a person is able to function well under pressure; and they give you a general idea of whether or not the person will be a good fit, personality wise, with your team.

So how do you draw this information out?

Start with their skills. Take a look at the resume presented to you at the time of application and make some comparisons. What jobs does the person list as having done in the past? What skills do you know are needed to do that kind of task? Ask your applicant some very specific questions regarding the skills and how they would be used. You might even give the person a real life example and ask how they would handle the situation. If they have trouble answering the questions, they might not really have the skills they claim.

A person’s ability to handle pressure is important. To get an answer to this question you’ll want to put your applicant on the spot. Many people grow uncomfortable when asked to compare themselves to others and outline why they’re better for a position. Simply asking hard questions that require truthful answers will cause others to become stressed. Ask a person about a past stressful situation – or ask him to tell you about someone he didn’t get along with before. The answers you receive will be very telling.

Finally, consider your applicant’s personality. Someone who talks into an interview looking shy-as-a-mouse probably won’t fit will in an active, boisterous environment – even if he does have great skills and work ethic. Someone who is very loud might not fit well into a quieter office, as he’d likely become a distraction. A person who constantly wants to work flex-hours to work around his children might not get along with a group of people who always work 9-5 with no variability.

It’s up to you to ask the right questions. You’re not looking for the nicest person – you’re looking for a person with a great attitude, good work ethic, great skills, and the ability to fit in. If you find that person, you’ll be well on your way to developing a successful team.

Thanks again,


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   

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Updated on: 31 March, 2010

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