Hiring Wisdom: All Answers Are Good Answers – If You Ask Hard Questions

Illustration by istockphoto.com
Illustration by istockphoto.com

What answer would you prefer to hear when you ask these interview questions:

  • “Do you have any problem working weekends?”
  • “Do you currently use illegal drugs?”
  • “If a former employer called and offered you your job back, would you go?”

While you may prefer “no” answers to each of the above, a “yes” would be just as informative to your final hiring decision. That’s why, as long as they are truthful, all answers are good answers.

Asking the hard questions on things you need to know

And that’s why the only “wrong answers” are the answers you never get because you do not ask the hard questions about the important things you need to know. Questions like:

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  • Even though you’re working now, if I offer you a job today, can you start tomorrow?” (Either a “yes” or “no” tell you a lot about the person’s sense of responsibility.)
  • “As a caregiver, tell me about the last time you had to physically restrain a client.” (For other industries, ask about safety or regulatory issues or simply, “On your last job, was there ever a time you didn’t follow the rules?”)
  • What frustrates you about your present (or last) job?”
  • Have you ever had a dispute or conflict with an employer while employed or after you left their employment?” If the answer is “yes,” ask the applicant to further explain.
  • Have you ever been fired or asked to resign?” If “yes,” follow up with, “Tell me about that.
  • What kinds of tasks do you prefer not to do?
  • What is the worst trouble you have ever been in?”
  • Do you think an employer should be concerned if someone uses drugs on the weekend if it doesn’t interfere with their job? Why or why not?
  • What is the hardest job you ever had?
  • What’s the difference between a good employee and an average one?”
  • If we offer you employment, can you provide us with a copy of your most recent performance review?”

This was originally published in the May 2013 Humetrics Hiring Hints newsletter.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. He has been the president of Humetrics since 1976 and has over 30 years of practical experience, research, consulting and professional speaking work to his credit. Contact him at mkleiman@humetrics.com.


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