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Do You Ask These Smart Interview Questions?

You’ve made the decision to hire a new team member, and you’re excited about it. Help will soon be on its way. But then the thrill begins to fade as you realize you have to interview potential candidates before you can offer anyone a job. And if you are like many of your fellow entrepreneurs, that’s anything but your strong suit—especially if you don’t know what questions to ask.

So to help out, we asked EntreLeaders from across the country to share the top interview questions they use to find the right candidates and why they ask them. Here’s their best advice.

  1. The Question: What is the one question I should have asked that I didn’t? — Greg Osterdyk, owner, The Fax Guys, Burnsville, Minnesota

What I’m Looking For: I have had some very interesting responses. It shows me where their mind is at and if they can think on their feet.

  1. The Question: What is the most generous thing an employer has ever done for you? — Dan McCool, owner, Ozark Therapy Institute, Springfield, Missouri

What I’m Looking For: I want to see if they recognize how others have tried to serve them. Do they have a grateful mindset? I also want to know if the things we do for our team members are likely to impress and make them feel appreciated or are the company's efforts at generosity going to be regarded as completely ordinary.

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  1. The Question: Why do you want to be a part of our team? — Melissa Nephew Meiste, owner, Nephew Physical Therapy, Holland, Michigan

What I’m Looking For: It tells me if they actually did some research on us and have an idea about our team and culture.

  1. The Question: Tell me about your volunteer work. — Ed Christoffersen

What I’m Looking For: If the sentence starts with “Umm,” most likely they don’t have the heart of the servant we need.

  1. The Question: What do you want to do differently in this job that you’ve never been able to do before? What would you try? What idea would you test? — Ian Smith

What I’m Looking For: We hire people that have a fire in their belly and something to prove.

  1. The Question: What are your hobbies? — Quentin Krengel

What I’m Looking For: If the hobbies overlap with the position requirements, they love what they do.

  1. The Question: What’s your ideal dream job and why? — Wendy Airlie

What I’m Looking For: It gives me insight into what’s important to them and whether we can provide it. Employment relationships need to be win-win if they’re going to be long-lasting.

  1. The Question: What books are you reading? — Chris Sullivan, owner, Sullivan + Associates, Kansas City, Missouri

What I’m Looking For: It shows me if they are hungry to learn more and what they are trying to learn.

  1. The Question: What is your retirement savings goal, and have you started saving toward it? — Christopher Fagerstrom, founder, Any Key PC, Cambridge Minnesota

What I’m Looking For: It tells you they thought about the future. Do they have a vision and a goal, or just a wish? Do they procrastinate? If they say, “I want $10 million at retirement—I don’t have room in my budget to save a lot, but I put away $10 a month,” it shows at least they are being consistent and they have a vision. As soon as they have the means to, they will save at a rate to hit their goal. How you handle one thing is how you handle all things.

  1. The Question: If money was no issue—all your life expenses are covered—what would you do? — Jordan Stanlake, owner, Stanlake Services Ltd.

What I’m Looking For: It helps to see if they have passion in something or if they have goals.

  1. The Question: We typically ask three main questions: What are the last three books you have read? What do you know about our company, and how do you see yourself bringing value to our culture? — Rusty Fulling, owner, Fulling Management & Accounting, Inc.

What I’m Looking For: It's amazing the answers we get with these simple questions. It makes it easy to screen out about 80% of the applicants. Question one provides insight to the candidate’s desire to continue to learn. The other questions show if they have an idea about the company they are applying to work at. Many of these candidates skip right past the company culture and dive into how great they are.


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