Interviewing to Hire “The Right” Person


For many managers, the worst part of losing an employee is interviewing prospects. Where to find candidates and what to ask so can get \”the right person\”, quickly.

Conversely, if you\’re seeking a \”new\” opportunity, the idea of interviewing can be daunting … what questions will be asked?

As an industry we perpetually talk about “the people issue”.  Either it’s about not finding people to hire, the quality of the talent that is available, the desire for skilled / experienced people, people retiring or that our customers can’t find enough skilled labor to do electrical work.  And in a business that requires people, and where relationships matter, this is a problem.  It’s further compounded when employee retention rates are declining (for a multitude of reasons.)

We’re hearing much of this with a couple of future trending projects that we’re currently working on.  Everyone has the issue and unfortunately there isn’t one solution (or even a few).  People management is a full-time job and companies need to always be on the lookout for acquiring skilled talent.

Industry recruiters also reinforce, in speaking with their clients as well as in their newsletters / articles, that companies need to market themselves to candidates and be timely in their hiring processes.  LinkedIn has many postings on lengthy hiring processes only for the desired candidate to inevitable say “I already took a job” (and quietly saying “I couldn’t wait for you and your procrastination told me something about your company.” Employee marketing is critical to building and reinforcing a culture that supports customer service AND strengthens employee retention.

So, lots of issues. Few solutions.

Recently I received a newsletter from a company called “First Round”.  The company focuses on start-ups and helping them “grow” through seed capital as well as talent.

They recently reached out to their community and asked “What’s your favorite interview question and why?”.  Below are the questions, click here to see the “why’s”.

Being an early round investor, First Round Capital is typically engaging with a “younger” audience of entrepreneurs.  Many are tech-oriented.  You could say their audience tends to Millennials and Gen X. So perhaps these questions may shed some additional insights (and yes, some are timeless).

If you’re a business leader, in HR, or in any role that requires hiring, perhaps these questions will help.  Or, if you’re interviewing (or may), knowing what could be asked, and why, may be helpful.

40 Interview questions

  1. What do you want to do differently in your next role?
  2. Imagine yourself in three years. What do you hope will be different about you then compared to now?
  3. For the last few companies you\’ve been at, take me through: (i) When you left, why did you leave? (ii) When you joined the next one, why did you choose it?
  4. Among the people you\’ve worked with, who do you admire and why?
  5. Tell me about a time you took unexpected initiative. Follow-up: Can you tell me about another?
  6. What’s something great about your current or previous job? Why?
  7. What motivates you to work?
  8. Looking back on the last five years of your career, what’s the highlight?
  9. What are you really good at, but never want to do anymore?
  10. What’s the difference between someone who’s great in your role versus someone who’s outstanding?
  11. How did you prepare for this interview?
  12. What do you believe you can achieve with us personally or professionally that you can\’t anywhere else in the world?
  13. What are the three most important characteristics of this function? How would you stack rank yourself from strongest to least developed among these traits?
  14. Tell me about your ideal next role. What characteristics does it have from a responsibility, team, and company culture perspective? What characteristics does it not have?
  15. It\’s September 5, 2020. What impact on the business have you made in the year since you’ve joined?
  16. Tell me about a time you strongly disagreed with your manager. What did you do to convince him or her that you were right? What ultimately happened?
    • What was your manager’s reasoning?
    • What arguments did you find compelling in favor of the decision?
    • What was your reasoning and most compelling arguments against?
    • Were you ultimately right?
  17. Tell me about the best and worst bosses you’ve ever had, specifically, in your career. What was the difference?
  18. What\’s one part of your previous company\’s culture that you hope to bring to your next one? What one part do you hope to not find?
  19. When was the last time you changed your mind about something important?
  20. What\’s the most important thing you\’ve learned from a peer and how have you used that lesson in your day-to-day life?
  21. Tell me about a time you really screwed something up. How did you handle it and how did you address the mistake?
    • Tell me about a time you made a mistake or failed at something. What did you learn from this experience? Can you give me two other examples?
  22. Every candidate has one canned answer on learning from failure in their pocket. The people who can point to three different examples are the true constant-learners — and the folks you need on your team.
  23. When have you felt the lowest in your career? Did you realize how you felt in the moment? How did you respond?
  24. What’s one misconception your coworkers have about you?
  25. What are you better at than most anyone else? What’s your superpower and how will you leverage that to make an impact at this company?
  26. If I were to go and speak to people who don\’t think very highly of you, what would they say?
  27. What’s one critical piece of feedback you’ve received that was really difficult to hear? Why was it difficult and what did you do with that information? What did you learn about yourself?
  28. Find a way to give the candidate feedback in the interview.
    • “In every interview, I try to find a way to give a candidate constructive feedback and see how they react”. “How we navigate tough conversations is critical for how we’ll be able to work together in the future, so it’s important to test.”
    • It’s always unique to the candidate, so it’s hard to give one-size-fits all advice, but here are two tactics she relies on to create an opening for a constructive feedback opportunity:
    • Feedback on the exercise: “Our business interview process typically involves a take-home that we have candidates present.  We always applaud the candidate at the end to share our appreciation, but then everyone on the interview panel goes around sharing feedback, both positive and constructive. It’s incredibly instructive to see a candidate internalize that feedback and respond to it in the moment.”
    • Feedback on their potential fit: “I also share constructive feedback when debriefing with candidates. I talk openly about what’s really exciting to me and where I still have question marks. In addition to demonstrating my commitment to transparency, it also offers them an opportunity to react to or address those areas while they’re still being considered.”
  29. What was the last thing you nerded out on?
  30. What are some things outside of work that you’re irrationally passionate about?
  31. What’s the first job you had, that\’s not on your resume, and what did you learn from that experience?
  32. Why shouldn\’t we hire you?
  33. What should our team be doing differently that could yield 10x improvement?
  34. Teach me something.
  35. If you were to take over as CEO of your current company tomorrow, and had to increase your company\’s current rate of growth, what three areas you would invest in?
  36. How would you build a product for people who are looking for an apartment?
  37. What are 10 ways to speed up Domino’s pizza delivery?
  38. What can I tell you about working here?
  39. If you were in my shoes, what attributes would you look for in hiring for this role?
  40. What have I not asked you that I should have?

As a manager, what is your favorite question to ask at an interview?

As someone who has interviewed for a role, what was the most insightful question that you’ve been asked?

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1 thought on “Interviewing to Hire “The Right” Person”

  1. Here’s an idea I’ve used that helps provide me some insights. I randomly select 3-5 letters from the alphabet and ask candidates to give me a word that starts with that letter that describes them.

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