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Published on December 17, 2018

15 Important Interview Questions to Ask Employees During an Interview

15 Important Interview Questions to Ask Employees During an Interview

The importance of asking great questions cannot be overstated. Great questions help you discover new things, diagnose existing problems, and explore how well solutions are working in your life or business. Whether you work with consultants, executives, or entry-level employees, you cannot skip questions.

Now imagine running a company where sustainability and profitability depends on your ability to determine the brightest minds and skills in the industry in a single conversation:

How do you know they’re the perfect fit for you? How do you assess their communication skills? How do you know they won’t cost your team in the long run?

You know it already; ask great questions!

The concept of asking questions isn’t new but there is a great chance that you’re not taking full advantage of it. A Harvard Business Review article refers to questioning as a powerful tool that unlocks value, fuels innovation and performance improvement.[1] As a hiring manager or recruiter, how to you get this information when you’re meeting a candidate for the first time?

Ask great questions, of course.

Without further ado, here are 15 interview questions to ask employees during an interview:

1. “What are your career goals?”

Another version of this question is “What types of problems do you see yourself solving in the future?”

This question is almost never asked and when it is asked, most questions are geared towards knowing how long the employees intends to stay in the company.

Instead of asking leading questions that would steer employees into declaring undying loyalty for the organization, ask what types of problems they hope to solve in the future.

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This does two things:

  1. It reveals the skills and interest in your employees.
  2. It lets you know what types of candidates you are attracting in the first place.

With this, you’re able to trend this data to improve how you market your job opening. And if employee retention is pertinent to you, you can use this information to improve the job function so that future employees can see their future selves in this role.

2. “Why do you think you’re a great fit?”

It is important to go beneath the surface to ask questions that make the candidates speak about themselves in their own words. However, a surprising benefit of asking this question is that you’re able to determine how well-versed a candidate really is with the company’s challenges and goals, in addition to their personal attributes.

Instead of listing off accomplishments, an exceptional employee is able to help you see how these previous accomplishment can translate into helping your organization solve its current business problems.

3. “What do you hope to learn from this role?”

The answers to this question can reveal if there is a job-skill match and if a linear career progression is expected.

As you listen carefully and mind these answers from candidates, you begin to see trends in responses that help you refine how you develop roles, responsibilities, how employees see themselves, and what they want their career to look like.

4. “How do you deal with conflict between colleagues?”

Almost every breakdown in relationship is caused by miscommunication or lack of effective interpersonal skills. But a solid indicator of how well a person communicates is how they manage interpersonal conflict.

Conflict management skills is no longer something required only for corporations who wish to settle million-dollar lawsuits. It’s an essential skill that every worker ought to possess and can make or break an organization.

Tip: Ask for a time when they didn’t get along with a co-worker and how they resolved the conflict.

5. “How did you learn about this position?”

Asking how they learned about the position reveals how the brand is perceived by the outside world. This way, you know if your current employees is your biggest source of referrals for qualified applicants.

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This also lets you know how effective your current staffing processes are and which channels are worth the effort.

6. “Why are you interested in this position?”

Again, another seemingly basic question. But when you field applications from candidates who are transferring their skills from a different department or industry, you want to know why the change was made.

What led to the aha moment? What was the internal struggle like for them? What stands out to them about this particular position? Very important.

7. “What excites you the MOST about this position?”

After establishing how passionate they are about this position, it’s not unusual that you would want to know what tasks and responsibilities excite them most. With this knowledge, not only are you aware of their sense of ownership, you help nurture these skills by encouraging and facilitating the discovery of hidden potential in your employees.

For example, a hospital nurse might detest inserting intravenous catheters in patients but jump at the task of motivating colleagues and initiating stress-reduction activities on hospital units. An office employee might cringe at the thought of public speaking but excel at creating world-class presentations.

While you can’t exempt your employee from every task in the role because they favor one thing over another, you are more aware of how rich your existing talent pool is in your organization and can utilize your talents effectively.

8. “What do you consider your weakness?”

Why should you ask a candidate what his or her weakness is when all you want is someone perfect?

Admitting a weakness shouldn’t automatically disqualify a candidate. Rather, it reveals to you how self-aware the candidate is.

Self-awareness is essential to personal and professional development, and this is sometimes a precursor to how self-directed a person is regarding their career goals.

There are arguments about the need to abolish the weakness question from interviews because it reduces candidates’ accomplishments. I disagree.

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Asking employees about weaknesses lets you understand your employees better so you can not only create a work environment that is smart, you’re able to design professional development programs that can strengthen these weaknesses.

9. “What will you find challenging about this position?”

Maybe you don’t want to ask the ”weakness question.” Maybe you’re more concerned about the capacity to perform in the current job rather than their job history.

Still, you want to know if you have a creative problem solver and how they feel about potential problems when they arise. You also want to anticipate how your employees will adjust to their roles once they are successfully hired. Self-awareness about one’s ability and limits can be observed by asking this question during an interview.

Note: This question should never be asked with a malicious intent. Exceptional employees come with flaws and this should be expected. They key is knowing whether the successful candidate is willing to be a problem solver.

10. “What additional support will you need during your transition?”

This is a very important question during the interview question because not only is the labor market diverse, the response to this question can be used to develop the orientation process and additional training materials.

As a mentor to newer nurses, this is a question I repeat more than 50 percent of the time during the orientation period. The responses I get provide me with insights into what employees really consider as constraints so that I can make their transition as smooth as possible.

11. “What qualities do you desire in a leader or manager?”

Not everyone desires a manager who provides direction while giving you free rein to make your job your own. At the same time, some employees might prefer a manager who is detail-oriented and provides all the answers.

Knowing this before a candidate is hired can prevent conflict arising from differences in communication or management styles.

12. “What do you do if you don’t agree with your manager’s decisions?”

Conflict not only happens between employees. According to a study of conflict in the Canadian workforce,[2] about 81 percent of people leave the organization as a result of conflict.

The purpose of this question is to determine how adaptable an employee is to different communication styles, what they consider deal breakers, and how they model desired behavior when conflict arises.

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The responses to this question allows you to manage expectations and an indication for leaders to continuously work on their communication and conflict management skills.

13. “What would make this company an amazing place to work?”

Maybe you can’t provide free lunches or paid hours of free time at work like bigger companies. But answers to this question can reveal a lot about what employees think is crucial to well-being.

In a study of nearly 17,000 employees,[3] it was noted that an increase in stress level is directly correlated to workplace injury. While this interview won’t eradicate organizational constraints or stressors, feedback from candidates and employees on what makes a company a great place to work is the perfect place to start.

14. “What other questions do you have for me?”

Although this is a conversation to determine the best fit for your team, company, or organization, the interview goes both ways. Yes, you are also being scrutinized by your interviewee.

The purpose of this question is to create space to answer the candidate’s questions about your organization. You also get to provide insight on processes, expectations, team culture, and information that isn’t readily available on the company website.

15. “Tell me about yourself”

If everything else seems too much, lead with this timeless question. You simply cannot go wrong here.

Sometimes, the best answers come from open-ended queries. This is your best chance to know the candidate’s history, career accomplishments, and get a feel for their career goals all at the same time.

It is less intrusive and leading with this question makes it easier to approach other questions––depending on how sensitive the position is.

The Bottom Line

Conversation is a two-way street. Good questions can give you great insights into the value an employee can bring to your company. But there is an art and science to asking questions.

While you won’t become an expert right off the bat, these questions provide a good foundation to start from if you want to attract and retain top talent in your organization.

More Resources About Job Interview

Featured photo credit: Drew Beamer via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Margaret Olatunbosun

Creative coach who teaches high-achievers how to thrive at the intersection of creativity, passion, and profit.

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Last Updated on July 22, 2019

10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

A cover letter is an introduction to what will be found in the resume. In a cover letter, the applicant is able to use a conversational tone, to explain why the attached resume is worth reviewing, why the applicant is qualified, and to express that it’s the best application the reader will see for the open position.

Employers do read your cover letter, so consider the cover letter an elevator pitch. The cover letter is the overview of your professional experience. The information in the body presents the key qualifications, the things that matter. The cover letter is the “here is what will be found in my presentation”, which is the resume in this case.

Something really important to point out- a cover letter should be written from scratch each time. Great cover letters are the ones that express why the applicant is the best for the specific job being applied to. Using a general cover letter will not lead to great results.

This doesn’t mean that your cover letter should repeat your most valuable qualifications, it just means that you don’t want to recycle a templated, general letter, not specific to the position being applied to.

Here’re 10 cover letter tips to nail every interview.

1. Take a few minutes to learn about the company so that you use an appropriate tone

Like people, every company has its own culture and tone. Doing a bit of research to learn what that is will be extremely beneficial. For instance, a technology start-up has a different culture and tone than a law firm. Using the same tone for both would be a mistake.

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2. Don’t use generic cover letter terms — be specific to each company and position

Hiring managers and recruiters can easily identify generic cover letters. They read cover letters and resumes almost every day. Using words and terms like: “your company” instead of naming the actual company, and “your website” instead of “in your about us section on www.abc123.com”, are mistakes. Be as specific as possible, it’s worth the additional few minutes.

3. Address the reader directly if you can

It is an outdated practice to use “To Whom it May Concern” if you know the person that will be reviewing your documents. You may wonder how you’ll know this information; this is where attention to detail and/or a bit of research comes into play.

For example, if you are applying for a job using LinkedIn, many times, the job poster is listed within the job post. This is the person reading your documents when you “apply now”. Addressing that person directly will be much more effective than using a generic term.

4. Don’t repeat the information found in the resume

A resume is an action-based document. When presenting information in a resume, the tone isn’t conversational but leading with action instead, for example: “Analyze sales levels and trends, and initiate action as necessary to ensure attainment of sales objectives”.

In a cover letter, you have the opportunity to deliver your elevator pitch: “I have positively impacted business development and growth initiatives, having combined two regions into one and achieving 17% in compound growth over the following three-year period”.

Never use your resume qualifications summary as a paragraph in your resume. This would be repeating information. Keep in mind that your cover letter is the introduction to your resume- the elevator pitch- this is your opportunity to show more personality.

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5. Tell the company what you can do for them

As mentioned above, this is your chance to explain to the company why you are the best person for the open position. This is where you tell the company what you can do for them: “If hired as the next (job title) with (company name), I will cultivate important partnerships that will enhance operations while boosting revenue.”

Many times, we want to take the reader through the journey of our life. It is important to remember that the reader needs to know why you are the best person for the job. Lead with that.

6. Showcase the skills and qualifications specific to the position

A lot of people are Jack’s and Jill’s of all trades. This can be a great big picture, but not great to showcase in a cover letter or resume.

Going back to what was mentioned before, cover letters and resumes are scanned through ATS. Being as specific as possible to the position being applied to is important.

If you are applying for a coding position, it may not be important to mention your job in high school as a dog walker. Sticking to the exact job being applied to is the most effective way to write your cover letter.

7. Numbers are important — show proof

It always helps to show proof when stating facts: “I have a reputation for delivering top-level performance and supporting growth so that businesses can thrive; established industry relationships that generated double digit increase in branch revenues”.

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8. Use testimonials and letters of recommendations

A cover letter is a great place to add testimonials and information from your letter of recommendations. Mirroring the example above, here is a good way to use that information:

I have a history of consistently meeting and exceeding metrics: “(Name) rose through the company and became a Subject Matter Expert, steadily providing exceptional quality of work.”- Team Manager.

9. Find the balance between highlighting your achievements and bragging

There is fine line between telling someone about your achievements and bragging. My advice is to always use facts first, and support that with an achievement related to the fact, as shown in the examples above.

You don’t want to have a cover letter with nothing but bullet points of what you have achieved. I can’t stress this enough — cover letters are your elevator pitch, the introduction to your resume.

10. Check your length — you want to provide no more than an introduction

The general rule for most positions is one page in length. Positions such as professors and doctors will require more in length (and they actually use CV’s); however, for most positions, one page is sufficient. Remember, the cover letter is an introduction and elevator pitch. Follow the logic below to get you started:

Start with: “I am ready to deliver impeccable results as (name of company) next (Position Title).

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What you know and like about the company, what initiatives, missions, goals resonate with you: “I read/listened to an interview that your Chief of Staff did on www.abc123.com. His/her statement regarding important up and coming employee engagement initiatives really resonated with me”.

Overview of your qualifications and experience: “I have a strong background in developing, monitoring, and controlling annual processes and operational plans related to community relations and social initiatives”.

Highlight/ Back up your facts with achievements: “I’m a vision-driven leader, with a proven history of innovation and mentorship; I led an initiative that reduced homelessness in four counties and received recognition from the local Homeless Network and the County Commissioner”.

Close with what will you do for the company: “As your next (job title), I am focused on hitting the ground running as a transformational leader who is driven by challenge, undeterred by obstacles, and committed to the growth of (name of company).

Bonus Advice

When applying for a job online or in person, a resume and a cover letter are standard submissions. At least 98% of the time, both your resume and cover letter and scanned via ATS (applicant tracking systems). You can learn more about that process here.

The information provided in a cover letter should be written and organized to be compatible with these scans, so that it can make to a human; from there, you want to make sure that you capture the recruiter and/or hiring managers attention.

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Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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