333 HELPFUL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Adapted  from   333  Interviewing  Questions   by  the  Council  on  Education  Management.   Published  by  Borgman  Associates,  1993.

Table of Contents

Interview Questions for Any Position Initiative……………………………. ………………Page 2 Stress……………………………….. ………………Page 3 Motivation………………………….. ……………... Page 5 Goal Orientation…………………….………………Page 6 Attendance/Punctuality…………….. ………………Page 8 Creativity and Innovation………….. ……………... Page 9 Problem Solving/Analytical Skills….……………... Page 9 Career Ambitions…………………... ……………... Page 11 Ability to Learn…………………….. ……………... Page 13 Dependability………………………………………. Page 14 Flexibility…………………………........................... Page 16 Organization/Attention to Detail/Time Usage…….. Page 17 Interpersonal Communication Skills………………. Page 20 Conflict…………………………………………….. Page 22 Cooperation………………………………………… Page 23 Interviewing Questions for Management and Supervisory Positions Decision Making…………………………………… Page 25 Administration……………………………………... Page 27 Writing Skills………………………………………. Page 28 Financial…………………………………………….Page 29 Leadership………………………………………….. Page 30 Evaluating Performance……………………………. Page 31 Employee Relations………………………………... Page 33 Planning……………………………………………. Page 36 Organizational Relationships………………………. Page 37 Interviewing Questions for Sales Staff Analytical Skills……………………………………. Page 39 1

Performance Standards…………………………….. Page 40 Learning Ability……………………………………. Page 41 Sales Drive and Career Goals……………………… Page 42 Organizational Skills………………………………..Page 43 Handling Rejection………………………………… Page 44 Sales Strategies…………………………………….. Page 45 Customer Relations………………………………… Page 47 Cooperation………………………………………... Page 48 Risk Taking………………………………………… Page 49 Self Starting………………………………………... Page 50 Interviewing Questions for Clerical Positions Assertiveness………………………………………. Page 51 Independence and Initiative………………………... Page 52 Business Writing/Editing…………………………... Page 53 Handling Pressure………………………………….. Page 54 Prioritizing Work…………………………………... Page 55 Orientation to Detail……………………………….. Page 56 Career Goals……………………………………….. Page 57 Organization………………………………………...Page 58 Internal Relations…………………………………... Page 60

Interview Questions for Any Position Initiative 1. What ideas have you sold to your own management? Why? What happened? Examine two aspects of the answer. First, did the idea seem worth selling? Second, notice whether the applicant took extra steps to demonstrate the idea’s practicality, profitability or efficiency. Did he/she wait to be discovered? Or did he/she assertively put forth a solid idea? 2. Give me an example of something you recommended which was not adopted? Why? What could you have done differently? A variation on the question above, this one gives the applicant a chance to tell you what he or she has learned about timing, research, politics or other factors necessary to consider when selling an idea. 3. If you were a manager, how much leeway would you give your employees to do things their own way? In which areas or situations should an employee simply follow procedures and guidelines and not try it his or her own way?

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The way the applicant answers this question will describe his/her tendencies and desires to strike out on their own. Listen to the areas in which he/she would likely take risks. Probe the answer carefully; the “employee” described here is, of course, the applicant. 4. What ways have you found to make your job easier or more interesting? Most jobs can be improved somewhat. Notice whether the answer demonstrates making the job “easier”. Did it make the job easier for management, as well as for the employee? Were the actions taken completely self-directed, or did they require prodding from management? 5. Give me an example of a project you were responsible for starting. What did you do? How did it work out? Probe to uncover how the applicant conceived of the goals and obstacles involved in the project, and whether he/she demonstrated planning and organizing efforts at the project’s inception. Did they plunge right in, or test the waters carefully first? Does he or she seem to enjoy initiating projects such as the one described? 6. How much information do you need to get started on a new project or assignment?

Ask for a specific, recent example to illustrate the answer. The truly self-initiating person enjoys receiving only minimal information; he or she thrills at the challenge of working through the details independently. A person with a high degree of initiative usually gets impatient waiting to begin the next assignment. 7. When have you had to produce results without sufficient guidelines or information? What did you do? Faced with an ambiguous situation, the person with a high degree of initiative is unafraid to act. He or she boldly collects what information is possible and strides forward purposefully. He or she declares goals and objectives, enlists support from others and begins the first step with a minimum of complaints. Look for a pattern of confident, creative activity which produced results in a difficult situation. Stress 1. In your last job, when did you feel pressured? Why?

Notice whether the pressures were from external factors more than internal (psychological or emotional) pressures. Were the pressures possible to alleviate? To avoid? Probe to uncover how often these pressures surfaced. Match with the pressures likely to be faced in the new position. 2. What have you done on or off the job to alleviate job stress?

On the job, listen to determine whether the applicant knows how to use humor, communicate with others to work through conflicts, give and get support, take time outs, or use other stress-reducing 3

it may simply mean they are not receiving the help from others they deserve on the job. Can your position supply the situation they desire? 6. Probe to determine whether the applicant has received what is needed in a past position. see if your applicant has counterbalancing factors to cushion job stress. making them resentful of management. Be suspicious of answers such as “supply enough staff” or “give us more picnics and social time. Could your organization supply these things? 5. Finally. Probe as to what about the situation was stressful. In a past job. 7. An applicant of this nature may be steady. but it is very unlikely that he or she will become an excellent employee. Watch out for the person who expects miracles from management to bail them out. a tough deadline? Juggling priorities? Meeting others’ expectations? Why? The items stated indicate an important aspect of the candidate’s personality. What do you think would be the most stressful aspects of this job for you? Why? This question is a good way to determine if the applicant truly understands what he or she will face on the job. Try to find out what about that job responsibility they anticipate will be troublesome. it may mean they are somewhat unorganized. On the other hand. Give me an example of what an organization/management should do to cushion or prevent the effects of stress from a job. more irritations occurring or working faster with less enjoyment. probe to determine what he or she has learned to do to reinterpret work pressures or shield him or herself from them. 8. 4. If your applicant claims that the pressure never affects the work. For example. The best employees know this adrenaline surge well and welcome it. (For example. the support of friends. if an applicant says “meeting deadlines”. reasonable answers might include suggestions about break times. meditation or other methods. Which situations have made you feel pleasantly stressed or excited at work? Give me an example please. How do you handle the need to juggle priorities or projects? What have you done to accomplish this? 4 . an exercise program. What happens to your work when you begin feeling pressured? How do you know stress is affecting your work? Most applicants will list results such as more mistakes.) 3.methods. involvement in decisions or better supervision. Some people never feel this kind of stress at work. this may mean he/she is a perfectionist and dislikes letting go of their work. Off the job. working conditions.” On the other hand. The aspect they state is most likely what they fear being able to handle. what was most likely to create stress for you? For example.

2. they may have built up an internal mechanism which allows them to “block out” organizational stresses and still be productive. benefits. 9. supervision. even those right out of college. Work pressures can often place pressure on life at home.” Be careful of discriminatory questions. be empathic and ask simple follow-up questions such as “why”. What has made you feel excited about coming to work? When have you felt down or unfulfilled by a job? Probe for clear examples. Look for experiences that are available through the position you are filling. turnover is a fact of organizational life. which gave you the most meaningful experiences? Why? Ask follow-up questions to determine why they were meaningful.) 5 . raises and organizational culture. In all of your jobs. lateness. salary. emotional upheaval. Look for a person who understands stress. too. disability. What have you found to be the most effective way to avoid burn out’? How did you discover it? The important issue is whether the applicant has discovered it. but keep your ears open for possible patterns of sickness. Have you ever had a key person you depended on who quit during an important job? What did you do? How did you feel about it? Ask this question especially if you are anticipating turnover in your organization. Those candidates who seem not to care may be unfeeling — on the other hand. Motivation 1. 11. and ‘please tell me about that. for instance)? The resourcefulness of the applicant is a test case for his/her ability to deal effectively with other stresses likely to be encountered on the job. substance abuse. Watch closely whether the candidate seems truly to have faced and won the “burn out” baffle. and has developed a healthy coping strategy through research and selfdiscovery. What do you need from an organization to feel motivated? Get specific answers which might include: working conditions. How have you handled this? Your best strategy here is to listen. a better “to do” list. Find out whether factors were involved which were unique to past jobs. 10. Beware of those candidates who seem to care too deeply.Many applicants have had to face this sort of stress before. Make sure the “excitement” can be generated again by factors within your current control. training. (Some organizations inhibit real motivation in all but the most internally-motivated. Has the applicant responded by developing new techniques. for example? Better skills (such as increased assertiveness of an ability to manage upward”)? New values (learning to ‘roll with the punches”. not how and when. etc. 3.

of course. and many factors are beyond the manager’s control. of being at a dead end. as well as others. if the candidate speaks about work that was challenging and that provided growth. Does your applicant understand this? Does he or she take some responsibility for motivation? 6. each employee must motivate himself or herself. The manager’s efforts sometimes fail because ultimately. 7. this question will help you determine what you cannot expect from the candidate if he/she is hired. 5. If he/she discusses situations when others recognized their work and he/she received status or position. he or she must receive them through an interesting job well-suited to his or her talents. Try to discover how the job applied for will lead the applicant to his or her success goals. money. When has your morale been the highest at work? Why? The answer should reveal what will motivate the candidate. Have you ever worked for or with someone who was highly motivated? In what ways are you like that person? Different? You should receive a surprisingly honest answer to this question. Importantly. When the applicant tells you what the manager should do. If he/she discusses wages. your applicant may need a good bit of help with his or her self esteem. Obviously. of “that’s what I’m best at!” Watch out for a feeling of resignation. happy employee of your organization. Most applicants open up when describing someone else.4. you must determine if the job available matches the motivational need revealed. What is your definition of success? Follow-up: How are you measuring up? How will you go about achieving that goal? The definition stated must be matched to the position available. For the nonmanagement employee. For example. Finally. friendly people. you will be able to motivate him/her best through peer pressure and the “team” concept. If he/she recalls times when they worked among talented. he or she is. non-exempt positions. Goal Orientation 6 . if the answer puts success in terms of power. the applicant will not be happy for long in most low-paying. What should a manager do to motivate others? Why does it sometimes fail? This question can be used to interview supervisors and managers. telling you what he or she wants. If he or she is unclear about this. security is the candidate’s biggest concern. learning and increased responsibility. prestige or influence. 8. it will often reveal the extent to which the applicant is self-directed as opposed to those who wait for others to motivate them. the candidate will be unlikely to become a long-term. Why did you choose this profession? What rewards does it give you? Why do you stay in it? Look for a feeling of pride in work. benefits and a “steady” job situation.

they usually set goals for non-work activities as well. 3. which one required the fastest actions or decisions? How did you feel in those situations? Please describe one. demanding work atmospheres. works? How do you adjust to working under a goal setting program? M. requires much planning. Management by Objectives. they may speak about being unfairly treated. can your candidate find more than one way to accomplish his/her goals? 6. forces. placing each piece of a puzzle in front of them. until the whole picture is assembled.O.B. they are uncomfortable with the accountability that M. Of your recent jobs. discussing. Have you ever suggested ideas which were not accepted by management? What were they? What did you do then? When ideas are not accepted. and will speak about what he or she was able to accomplish anyway. this situation will be almost intolerable. They are uncomfortable in ambiguous. In fact. In other words. Does the candidate fit this profile? 2. Have you ever been held accountable for reaching a goal that you knew wasn’t possible to attain? What did you do? For the goal-oriented person. Others may feel it is restrictive.B. some people give up. measuring tools. How do you monitor the progress of assignments and projects? 7 . goals. and which activities make them feel productive. Please describe how you set and measure your work goals. This question should help you discover how fast the applicant prefers to move toward a goal. step-bystep.B. Describe which job and which manager got the most out of your potential. but their primary regret will not be that they were unable to achieve a goal.. monitoring and adjusting of goals and objectives to succeed. Do you think M. For others. He or she will relate how hard they fought to overcome the situation. Highly goal-oriented individuals may speak in terms of being given procedures. What made that situation so productive? This question allows the applicant to tell you how they like to be managed. unrealistic for certain jobs and leads to quotas. Is the applicant results-oriented? Determine how detailed the goals are and whether they seem realistic. Others reintroduce them in a better package or find ways to accomplish their goals which avoid a ‘sales job” to management. regular updates. The extremely goal-oriented candidates set their own goals without waiting for others to instruct them.1. measurable and specific.O. The very goal-oriented applicants should adjust easily it to it and will help make it a success. 7. 5.O. 4. and accountability with enough authority. Some goal-oriented people are methodical. Most important.

For example. What the applicant presents as “fair” will be a standard or policy which would allow them to avoid trouble.Goal-oriented people often accomplish a lot not only because they have a destination. “I think anything within ten minutes of starting time should be OK as long as someone is allowed to make up for the time at lunch or after work”. Does the candidate use methods such as project boards. you should feel comfortable giving the candidate a realistic estimate of the amount of overtime the new position might require. You could count on that person to regularly arrive a few minutes late in the morning. car troubles. progress reports. What do you feel is a fair lateness standard to hold employees to? For instance. 3. If necessary. In your last job. you can determine how serious the problems are. Be sympathetic and act unsurprised by any answer. For example. a person may offer. 4. Listen for what is volunteered. follow-up to see whether they are still present. follow-up with question #5 below. 5. or simple reminder notes to keep track of his or her accomplishments? Attendance/Punctuality 1. and whether they are likely to prevent good attendance and punctuality. Keep the conversation away from the personal. to “I never feel it is necessary”. and watch for signs of hidden disagreements. Followup to determine the reasons for their answers. What would your last supervisor or manager say about your attendance or punctuality? How many times would he/she say you were absent or late this year? 8 . traffic or other problems. Probe to find out how severe the symptoms of an illness were and how often they occurred. Answers may range from “whenever my supervisor asks”. what obstacles have you had to overcome to get to work on time? Candidates may tell you about their day care arrangements. 2. but also because they constantly measure the progress of their journey. “tickler” files. If factors other than illness are offered. do they have family obligations? Another job? A carpool? After their answer is clear. give me some examples of things that made it necessary for you not to come to work a day or longer. In your last few jobs. your responses should show the applicant that it is easy to share these reasons with you and that you won’t judge them harshly. Ask for their reaction. should people be allowed to make up lost time? How late is really late? The lateness standard offered will give you a good feel for what to expect from the candidate on the job. When do you feel it is necessary to work overtime? Please give me examples from recent jobs. By probing.

Why was it unique? The idea cited will reveal something about the applicant’s measuring stick for creativity. The answer should sound realistic and well organized. preferring not to be tied down by a restricted schedule. and the applicant should become energized when describing it. or truly new? Is it a practical idea. What is the most creative thing you have done in a past job? How did it occur? Find out if the creativity was in response to a demand or request from others. Match the applicant’s answers with their likely work day in the new position.Variations of this question have been used for many years by interviewers. innovative people like to “free lance” their way through a day. Please tell me a great idea you have seen in your field recently. is the idea a synthesis of old approaches.) If the example cited is more than a few years old. Use follow-up questions to determine if this is a cover to hide a disorganized approach to the work day. Have you ever been assigned several important projects at roughly the same time? How did you go about setting priorities for your time? 9 . Surprisingly. Which have you preferred to work with — a set. If you could change one thing which is inefficient at your current job. (This will help you know what their new manager should do to maximize the applicant’s creativity. planned day. Applicants who struggle with this question or who offer trivial changes are unlikely to create innovations which save you time. or a day you create for yourself? Why? Often. 2. truly creative people enjoy presenting new ideas. or more abstract? 3. too. ask for a more recent example. money or energy. routine methods. Follow up: Would the manager tell me you were dependable? How did you demonstrate that dependability through you attendance/punctuality? Creativity and Innovation 1. Did these examples have a long-lasting impact? Did others benefit from them? Problem Solving / Analytical Skills 1. The applicant generally assumes the interviewer may call the past manager and that he or she should therefore be truthful. 4. what would it be? Job innovation depends partly upon a clear-eyed assessment of traditional. some applicants are more creative under very structured conditions because their creativity is stimulated when bordered by time pressures. Does the example given strike you as truly creative or innovative? The idea may also tell you the kind of creative ideas you might expect from the applicant. or whether it was selfgenerated. For example.

Notice whether the applicant takes responsibility for creating a solution. Why did you choose that method rather than another solution? The applicant should explain how he/she identified the real problem. what change they initiated and what the results were. Probe to find out the methods used to analyze the problem and the questions the applicant had to answer to arrive at possible solutions. The applicant might consider factors such as the impact on production. Look for a problem situation analogous tones he/she might face in the new position. standardized forms. or at least thought about. perhaps innovating on-the-spot solutions). If they were satisfied with organizational structures in place. analyze various factors and take the initiative to advance various courses of action. This self-description question can be very revealing. 6. 4. ask for examples of why and how they were worthwhile structures or procedures. Some applicants have a high need for “structural” support — if a system isn’t in place. they analyze the need for one and begin designing forms.) Which have you created on your own to make things more efficient? This question will help determine the applicant’s need to “systemize” work. Find out the time pressures involved and whether he or she explored alternative courses of action alone or with others — this will help you determine how the applicant will go about solving problems. What kinds of problems do you feel you are uniquely qualified to solve? Give me an example of how you have demonstrated this. goals. Some applicants will describe their training or education. acquire data. An analytical applicant might have analyzed the situation as a problem and recommended. The applicant must first set a goal or intended result. deadlines. etc. others’ expectations. procedures. (b) abstract (the ability to analyze and organize ideas and concepts). 2. delivery date. An analytical applicant will be conscious of the job search process — he or she will have a “plan” to get a job and will be intellectually challenged by the process. What information or technical support has helped you succeed on the job? (For example.Look for an answer that demonstrates an analytical process. a “people” problem or a “hard data” problem of facts and statistics. 3. Applicants will usually describe their problem solving ability in terms or either. others what experience has taught them. and organizational politics. 5. procedures to prevent its constant reoccurrence. for example. (a) concrete skills (“give me the pieces of the puzzle and I’ll put them together for you”). procedures. the job search is a problem like any other business problem. or simply blames the system. Give me an example of a difficult decision you had to make at your last job? How did you solve it? Follow up. probe to find out what the initial problems were. or (c) creative problem-solving (formulating new approaches. What has been a stubborn or recurring problem which you would have liked to solve in your current job — but haven’t yet? 10 . If they create such a structure. Please describe your current approach to searching for employment. In one sense. etc.

Finally. What process do you follow in solving problems? Consider the problems your candidate might face in the position. or simply made an unthinking blunder. notice whether the applicant’s presentation of the problem is orderly and systematic. Look for tenacity and determination in discussing a possible solution. determine what he or she learned from the experience. He or she will genuinely be challenged by the problem. When the facts are all in. What is the biggest error in judgment you have made? Why did you make it? How did you recover? This question can help reveal weaknesses in the candidate’s approach to problem solving or decision-making. and even enjoy discussing the problem and the various “blind alleys” traveled to solve it. Ask whether he or she would like more authority. What kinds of decisions did you have authority over? Which ones did you have to check with your manager before making? Beware of the applicant who continually refers to what “we” did. As a follow-up. No problem solver makes the right judgment every time. Where does he/she begin the answer? Do the facts presented sound objective? Has he or she thought through the pros and cons of various approaches? What lessons did the applicant learn from the search for a solution? 7. Would a “shoot from the hip” approach work best. Finally. or a more careful structured one? Ask for an example to illustrate the approach discussed. what does your candidate do when a firm decision must be made? Does he or she act quickly? “Sleep on it” for a day or two? Go for a “gut feeling”? 9. Then match the answers to the authority allowed in the new position. the process an individual wants to follow might not match the reality of what he/she actually does. 10. What are you looking for in a job that you haven’t had before? What would make you want to stay in a job? 11 . ask him/her how they have since guarded against those kinds of errors. Watch out for a tendency to blame others rather than accepting responsibility to work within the limits of the problem variables. 8.Look for an orderly examination of the problem into its component parts. An applicant with highly developed analytical skills should be able to answer this question easily. Assess whether he or she took a calculated risk. Career Ambitions 1. What methods do you use to make decisions? Please give me an example of your approach. This question makes it clear how much leeway the applicant had or has to make decisions.

How would you spend your time? What activities applicants describe first will often be what they will value doing the most and what will attract them to the job. rather than a complaint about what was lacking. ages. 12 . 2. Describe the ideal work day for you. what would an organization or company provide for you in terms of income progression over the next 2-3 years? The answer will reflect their confidence and drive to reach a salary level as well as their relative interest in money and raises. Ideally.their families. If they are overly ambitious and have unrealistic ambitions. etc.. 3. Avoid the “cat and mouse game” about money. A year or eighteen months from now. and with enthusiasm. the activities they describe first. How did you know it was time? This important question will reveal their values. a lack of confusion. specific responsibilities. The achievements presented are quick guides to what the candidate wants out of his or her career. and confidence about the change.e. Give me an example of when you have outgrown previous jobs and knew it was time to move on. Make sure their past experiences reflect realistic expectations. but don’t ask discriminatory questions. what do you need to support your professional growth? Personal growth? This question will often give you information about applicant’s personal lives -. You are safest if they have more than a “feeling” of what they want — i. Be firm that they honestly tell you their expectations before you predict how much is possible. Be careful to listen and probe. still others will describe what their manager or co-workers didn’t have or didn’t supply. 4. do they seem fearful? Confident? Confused? What does this tell you about them? 5. At this stage of your life. tasks. activities and interactions. 6. study their reactions. What do you consider your three greatest career achievements? Why did you pick those? This simple question will help you discover how the applicant views his or her career. What does the applicant feel proud about? Money? Responsibility? Growth? Position? Learning? It’s important to notice to what extent the position available offers these rewards. expect trouble — unless they have a real plan to get where they expect to go. will be those they are best at. 7. others about feeling “stuck”. Generally. Look for consistent reasons to leave each job. As they describe what they will be doing. Some applicants will talk about money.Center their answers on past experiences. what would you see yourself doing on a typical day if you got this job? Look for a realistic assessment that matches what you see them doing in about 6-9 months.

If the applicant asks for ‘training”. as well as through formal channels. When have you felt most off track in your career progression? Why? Sometimes you can learn the most about an applicant from a job which proved to be a mistake. self-study. How do you keep up with the changes in technology (terminology. How have your past jobs prepared you for this one? Some candidates see their careers as a steady progression. books. information) in your field? For many jobs. Others move through their careers. as well as opportunities for training and guidance. on-the-job training. Give me an example of a situation at your previous employer when others knew more than you. Does the applicant seem aware of them and speak about them knowledgeably? 3. or in-house seminars? 13 . Regardless of the career path taken. you should hear how motivated he/she is to attend classes or learn through self-study. He or she will ask for extra help. what would it be? What do you need to do to acquire it? How can we help? The answer will reveal how the applicant evaluates his/her own skill or knowledge deficiencies. and conventions? Follow up with questions concerning new technology or techniques in your field. This question also allows you to find out how well the applicant understands what skills. each job leading neatly to the one in front of it. surprised at the twists and turns they must negotiate. Also. knowledge and abilities are needed in the job. training and education are necessities. but will work long hours to catch up. Does your applicant perceive this need? Does he/she seek knowledge through a variety of sources – for example.8. 2. Ask specific questions to determine what the applicant did without organizational support. Why did he or she take the position (and what does this tell you about their values)? How did the candidate discover he or she was “off track”? What did they want that they couldn’t have? Ability to Learn 1. How did you close the gap? The self-motivated person will close the gap by self-study and asking questions of qualified people. Does it mean outside classroom learning. make sure how he/she understands the term the way you do. Follow up: “How do you see this job allowing you to develop in those ways?” 10. If you could acquire one skill or bit of job knowledge. a sharp-thinking applicant can assess what talents and skills he or she can bring from past experiences to apply to a new position. 9. In what areas would you like to develop further? The areas cited may be potential trouble areas. periodicals.

it may mean they are unsure of their own dependability. some applicants have no idea of what training they will need.goals which they set for themselves over and beyond the job demands. of equal importance. you might ask. Try to ascertain whether the applicant is confident about learning and. Ask follow up questions. What would you expect from us to get you oriented or trained? Expectations which are not met can lead to disappointment on both sides. If we hired you. For example. “My manager lets me know”. the more you can be certain of it. or “the work gets out on time”. In a past job. it is part of your job to clarify this issue in the interview and later. Dependability 1. 2. How do you know you’re doing a good job? Possible answers conclude.4. a simple “Why?” question will reveal how the applicant sees his/her natural abilities and aptitudes. Internally motivated applicants might talk about their own standards . Probe extensively as to which areas the applicant wants to be trained in. What’s the fastest you have learned something new for a job? What did you do to learn on company time? On your own time? A variant of question 1 above. 3. or more “people-oriented”?) 6. Again. These answers are indicative of applicants who are oriented to external standards. the more concrete and confident their announced commitment. and how formal. this will give you an idea whether your applicant can learn quickly. whether he/she is making an estimate based on experience and knowledge. Of course. or whether it is simply a guess meant to impress you. upon hiring. did you ever have to alter your standards to meet your companies'? When? Why? What did you do about it? 14 . However. How soon could you learn this job well enough to become productive and valuable to us? Much learning depends on confidence and commitment. After finding the answer. “to give-you my best every day”. if the applicant says. 7. (Is he/she “number-oriented”. what could we count on you for without fail? Watch carefully what the applicant speaks clearly and confidently about. use follow-up questions to determine how the applicant went about learning. how thorough he/she expects the training to be. especially when the knowledge wasn’t readily available through his/her company. “Can you give me an example of how you’ve demonstrated that at your last position?” Generally. If applicants are unable to answer this question easily. 5. Which courses gave you trouble in school? Which came easily? This simple question works best for younger applicants whose school experience is still fresh.

too. If you were a manager here. An applicant who lowered his standards to meet his company’s way has learned a valuable lesson. sometimes doing it “too perfectly” leads to work problems. Their answer to this question will generally indicate their highest ideal of what they feel others can produce. However. the time frame within which it was accomplished. An applicant who admits his standards needed to be raised. more accurate results. and who succeeded at reaching them. unless your applicant is a true superstar. and therefore what they would aspire to at their best. better. What is an example of something you’ve done that showed your most excellent performance? Be specific. 5. how did the applicant handle it? Did he or she try to negotiate? Rise to the occasion? Sabotage? Odds are. 6. what would you require of your employees? Why? The standards applicants imagine they would set for employees are not necessarily the ones they might want others to for hold them. However. or a new attention to service or quality. it is a quality which will wear thin very quickly on the job. 4. Most of us have discovered that an organization or manager demanded more than we were accustomed to producing. 7. and who else deemed it as excellent. Try to get an idea of the actual impact on their organization of the example they give. faster. or still is. It’s important to understand what might happen when you do. you will also place “excessive” demands on the applicant at times on the job. stubborn and resentful about the adjustment. This gives applicants an opportunity to “fire their best shot”.” Does it sound out of line? Can you imagine yourself asking for something similar? Second. He or she may have been very justified in resisting.Very few applicants will tell you their company’s high standards were in conflict with their low ones. What did they want? What did you do? Consider two aspects: First. it almost surely was the case in one or more jobs. Give me an example of a time when your manager or others in your company placed excessive demands on you. What did you expect of yourself in your last job? In what ways did it differ from what your manager expected of you? 15 . or in your past job. but watch out for self-righteousness. probe to find out whether the company seemed justified and whether the applicant was. is most likely an employee who can be coached and challenged to produce. what the applicant deems “excessive.

assess how well the applicant sizes up “success” with minimal information about the position.A variation of question three.” If you reinforce the applicant’s first few statements. one of the contributions may describe volume of work. probe to uncover exactly how significant the contributions were. If the candidate blames management. 8. regardless of management’s approach. Ask for examples to demonstrate the generalities. you may then obtain some revealing answers. Other applicants will answer vaguely. don’t accept them. Look for specific. regardless of their content. What do you think an employee owes his/her company? If you get clichés or vague answers. What the applicant feels employees owe a company usually is very similar to what you can expect the applicant to give your organization. These contributions reflect what the candidate feels proud about accomplishing. 10. in a very specific way. and confidently. Give prompters. What were your three most impressive tangible contributions to your company? The contributions the applicant lists unavoidably reflect his/her values and standards. try to determine what results he/she set on their own. However. Flexibility 1. Please give me an example of a time when management would not allow you to take a necessary action. another change in procedures or operations. What are the three or four bottom line (most critical) ways you measure success in your job? What would you list for this job? The answer will reflect the applicant’s orientation or values. 9. or blame management for being unclear regarding results. The results they describe will be measurable. and still another money-saving idea. if necessary. they will answer this question quickly. even though you felt it was necessary to do so. this one will help to elicit a clear description of the applicant’s own standards. The resultsoriented person will try to set their own standards. In other words. (For example. such as “in the area of working hours”. how the organization recognized them at the time. and an “educated guess” concerning the position applied for. a change in work procedures. specific and clear-cut. What results were you expected to accomplish in your last job? How were they measured? Some individuals are oriented to results. easily determined measures. “in accuracy”. “in working with others” or “in selfdevelopment. and what areas he/she perhaps would feel confident in at your organization. 11. For example. such as “to be at work everyday ready to do her best”.) 16 . as well as their understanding of the importance of clear goals and measures. and what long-lasting impact they had.

you will need to assess whether this demonstrates unwarranted impatience or inflexibility. Have you worked in an organization which changed its policies or procedures frequently? How did you deal with that? Look for the person who. Organization. find co-workers who also disagree and organize a protest. and what does this tell you about his/her flexibility? 6. How much stability would you like in terms of a fixed job description? How much have you had at other organizations? Jobs change and evolve in most organizations. Can the applicant be flexible enough to change with the position? Look for signs of resistance and a need for overly secure job duties which might impede needed changes and additions to the job duties. he/she had many options. while not necessarily pleased with the changes. Among them: ask management for the reasons and argue his/her case. how did he/she react? Notice whether this common situation seems to make the applicant uncomfortable. What did you do? When the applicant was faced with a quick decision and insufficient data. 5. How do you feel a meeting should be organized to be most effective? Give me an example of one you’ve attended or that worked well. accept the directive quietly and smolder silently. overtly or covertly. 17 . Attention to Detail and Time Usage 1. How did the applicant react. find out how quickly the applicant accepted the changes and tried to understand the reasons for them. Give me an example of a time when you were given tasks to accomplish without advance warning. 3. engage in sabotage. If the applicant expresses anger or disgust with the changes. After you have clearly understood the example. Ask also if he/she tried to find out the reasons for the changes. accepted them and tried to make them work. Have you ever had to make a decision before you had all the data you wanted? Give me an example. Has a policy or directive come down with which you really disagreed? What did you do? If the applicant experienced this situation. 4. leave the organization.Does the applicant speak about the situation with anger? Resignation? Find out if the applicant resisted management — if so. was it appropriately assertive without being divisive? 2.

etc? Please be specific. planning before the meeting. Find out whether the applicant set up internal controls. the agenda. They will not be comfortable in linear. how much information and direction did they usually give you? Give me an example of what seemed to be the right amount for you. it may be a good match.” unless they are given time to do a job well in an atmosphere of trust. to delegate necessary tasks. find out the degree to which they are willing to give others authority to make decisions. Others see the big picture — they are comfortable strategizing the result and assigning resources to the project. 4. This question will also unearth an applicant’s confidence and ability to take initiative with new projects. 2. internal deadlines and interim meetings. Only a few people can truly succeed at both planning and executing the plan. When your past managers have given you projects to do. 7. the roles various people took. They are uncomfortable with managers who are oriented only to the “big picture. Do you like to juggle a lot of activities at once or do them one at a time? People who juggle a lot of tasks at once usually like variety and diversity. Applicants who are especially detail-oriented need to be given lots of direction and data when a manager delegates to them. Probe for their ability to draw help from others. A detail-oriented person might describe the seating. What is the most irritating part of your current job — the part you might wish you could delegate to someone else? Why? Applicants often mention paperwork requirements of past jobs. If the job involved coordinating with people in other departments. However. If your position requires the ability to juggle priorities and be flexible. What they would like to “give away” is what they typically will avoid doing for you when they have to make a choice. but less effective at doing follow through on the specific tasks to make it a success. They are often detail-oriented. 3. 18 . 6. this sort of applicant may tackle too many projects to get them all completed. get specific examples of how they have gone about it. How do you keep track of your own paperwork. Some people are “doers” — they like to be given a task to do and they’ll make it happen. routine jobs. determine how the applicant obtained agreements and held others to their time and quality commitments.This question will often unearth the applicant’s awareness of details. If an applicant tells you he/she likes to control both planning and execution. 5. and a meeting that started and ended punctually. Have you ever had an experience when you were responsible for coordinating several small tasks to accomplish a large job? Please give me an example. monitor the results and follow through. If they are managers. This question is a good lead-in to discussing the applicant’s organizational methods. Would you rather formulate a plan or carry it out? Why? Give me an example of a plan you have implemented. and may be easily interrupted. schedules. such as “tickler files”.

see whether the busy day actually sounds busy to you. What did you do the day before yesterday? 19 . 8. Describe how you handled the details of your last major project. Describe a busy day at your last job. detailed approach to the work. Where do you waste most of your time (when you do)? Accept almost any answer if the applicant seems honest and forthright. They may not take the time to do the detail work necessary to fully complete some jobs. You can count on them to communicate all the information and to document their efforts. They will do the job “right” if it contains a lot of details.It doesn’t matter a great deal how the applicant keeps track. In your last job. Those who are well-organized will usually be pleased to share their systems with you. what’s important is that they have established their own workable approach and sound confident of its success.” Other applicants will wait until they “really need to do it. Did the applicant depend on others to handle details? Did he/she track details with the computer? Write extensive documentation? 11. look for an applicant who seems comfortable with his/her productivity regardless of occasional time wasters. They will begin work early so it can be done “right. Do you typically write memos to others or do you usually deliver messages on the phone or in person? Those who would rather see people in person or talk to them on the telephone are most at home in the realm of ideas. he/she will volunteer examples quickly. and whether the applicant had a system to monitor the project which prevented details from being lost. you’ll have to judge if their systems will add to or detract from the ones you presently have in place. However some individuals know how to minimize the time wastes and consciously give attention to improving their time usage. 10. Note the extent of detail in the answer. Next. Those who would rather write memos often prefer a structured. How do you organize a day like that? First. If so. The truth is. 12.” 9. 14. when and how did you approach getting it done? Perfectionists typically will be uncomfortable waiting to begin a project. Describe a way you have improved the organization of a system or task at your last/present job? Applicants who are well-organized often look for ways to improve upon old procedures and systems. we all waste time. if something wasn’t due for several weeks. Of course. In addition. 13. see how excitedly or readily the applicant volunteers the answer.

if very aggressive people bother him/her. For example. 15. 4. genuinely refuses to blame. in a past job.This is an old-fashioned interview question which may or may not yield reliable data. gossip. Give me an example of the kind of co-worker (manager. What kind of performance feedback do you want and how often would you like it? 20 . and find out the applicant’s reaction to them. or do whatever catches their eye next. Some believe that well-organized people can easily remember and that others will not. customer. even vital to success. When. you will want to evaluate the applicant’s toughness and assertiveness. If the applicant expresses dislike of open disagreement. did you find it important to disagree with your boss? How did you approach him/her and what was the result? [Assertiveness. etc. Well-organized applicants set priorities according to an orderly system and allow for normal interruptions. How do you decide what you should work on next? Those who are not well-organized often have no idea what they will do next. Does he/she depend on a set. and tries to solve the problem constructively. you will want to understand the manager who will be communicating with the person to be hired. counseling.? 2. What does he/she want to share and want to hear? Match the applicant’s answers. 16. How do you monitor things which need your attention? This is general question which should help you understand your applicant’s ability and experience at setting up reporting systems. In addition. you will need to discuss typical personalities he/she will have to deal with in the position. If he or she seems unafraid of open disagreement. you have got an overly aggressive person. They may “hop” from one demand to another. And if he/she attempts to win (and make the boss lose).] Assertive people see disagreement as healthy. he/she may be more passive. What sorts of things do you feel are important for an employee to share with a manager? And vice versa? First. you can assume the applicant is assertive. organized approach to monitor needed items? Does he/she seem to have a good grasp of which items need attention? Interpersonal Communication Skills 1. 3. Does the expectation involve inappropriate guidance.) whom you find difficult to communicate with? Why? The personality type or individual described will point to areas in the applicant’s make-up where he/she may need to change. etc.

10. Don’t be reluctant to ask for specifics. “chatty” environment. Follow-up: “How do you change when the group is composed of people you don’t know well?” 21 . Assure the applicant that there is no “right” answer. or “I kept my cool no matter what he said. What have been your least successful relationships at work? What did you do to try to create a better relationship? Another variation of question 2. What does the answer tell you about the applicant’s requirements for friendship or close working relationships? Do these implied criteria seem to be met in your organization? For example. 6. “I get along with people who just do the job and don’t chatter a lot”. this one focuses on the applicant’s willingness and skill at mending relationships at work. Name one recent success you’ve had in dealing with (a patient. when and how does he/she want to hear it? 5. How much of your personal life do you typically share with others at work? Where do you draw the line? Obviously. Follow-up: “What are some negative criticisms and what are some of the positive things you have heard from managers?” Ask also how he/she feels about negative performance feedback. Listen well and you should get a good picture of the typical pattern of behavior in a group situation.) How did you accomplish it? In describing their success. customer. this is a judgment every employee must make. vendor. 7. 9.”) This question will help you determine how self-aware the applicant is. etc. what he/she feels “success” means in interpersonal relations. an applicant who says. What role do you usually take in a group meeting or discussion? What are the advantages of that? Disadvantages? You should get surprisingly honest answers to this question. Probe to uncover whether the applicant made an honest attempt to adjust his/her style to make the relationship work. The employee must be willing to hear criticism and even ask for it on occasion.Open communication is a two-way street. you may be living with their “personal” life for a long time. could be unhappy in an extremely personal. Can you describe the person or people you got along with best at XYZ Company? A variation of question 2 above. How do you persuade others to get what you want? Can the applicant reflect on his/her own skills and inadequacies in persuasion? Most positions require this skill to some degree. applicants will usually describe how they view themselves in relation to others. Does the applicant know how to listen to other’s needs and vary their approach accordingly? 8. and in part. (“I was really just trying to help her”.

Are you convinced? Do they seem to understand what management expects from an employee (dependability.)? Conflict 1. What were your options for settling it? Why did you choose the option you did? Use the situation as an opportunity to understand the applicant’s way of dealing with conflict. Are they defensive about any criticism. try to gauge the candidate’s sensitivity to criticism. work load. Was it the situation (time factors. Ask why he/she was able to handle those people and situations easily. how have you reacted? Who has criticized your work in a way you found comfortable? When have you felt over-criticized? It’s easy to become defensive when criticized. Probe particularly how they have done this with management. What does the open door policy mean to you? Do you think it works? The “open door” means one thing to managers and another to employees. punctuality. 12. Probe the difficult situation to learn more. Does the applicant tend to smooth over conflicts? Withdraw completely? Compromise his or her position? Does he or she take the time and energy to hear the other person’s point of view. or disregarded as not important? 2. how have you established good relationships with your new co-workers? With management? Many applicants will look at this as an extremely important part of their job. expectations. working conditions. From the answers given. or criticisms over a certain part of their work? Is timing an issue? Proof? Finally. and then attempt to find a long-lasting solution? Finally. When you’ve been criticized at work. he or she will tell you what skills or traits come easily to bear upon conflict situations. does your applicant go on the 22 . etc. etc. They know that future productivity depends upon good relationships.) or the type of personality which made it so difficult? 3.11. Does your applicant seem to want total availability? To be able to get appointments or meetings with the boss? Again. it is also a vehicle to improve one’s performance when we can learn from the criticism. flexibility. What kinds of disagreements are you able to handle easily? Which have you been involved in which were upsetting or difficult for you? [Which was one which was not as easy to handle?] Let the applicant explain his or her strengths. notice how the applicant treats the emotions involved — were they discussed and acknowledged. match the applicant’s need with the manager’s openness and availability. When you have started new jobs. Typically. Ask follow-up questions to determine whether the example cited is representative. However. Give me an example of a recent situation when you disagreed with someone on the job.

listening. 4. keep silent. As always. What situations got you irritated or angry on the job? Follow-up to discuss the situations — how the applicant dealt with them and how often they occurred. rather that to attacking the person. When (customers. Alternately. get the applicant to demonstrate what he or she said.counter-attack. Look at your own organization to determine whether you truly tolerate unpopular stands. For example. Try to put yourself in the place of the other person. co-workers. openness. how do you usually react? This question assesses: a) the applicant’s self awareness of his/her own typical reactions and b) his/her skills and approaches. Others look for a “dad or mom” to bail them out. or silently withdraw? Ask lots of questions about this issue if your candidate is inexperienced or if their manager is the critical type. Cooperation 23 .) get angry at you. 7. Was the applicant justified in his/her feelings and actions? Follow-up “Do you think competition between individuals or departments is a healthy thing?” 9. What should a manager do to minimize conflict at work? How much should he/she get involved in solving it? What If you were involved in the conflict? This question helps to determine the applicant’s degree of maturity. 5. you will find out the most by pursuing a reallife example. Have you ever had a situation when you found it necessary to confront someone at work? How did you handle it? Look for an assertive approach which emphasized honesty. If possible. or paraphrase the other person’s argument. he or she may try to provide quick answers and easily get hooked into an argument. your candidate may speak softly. Probe the example. Those who are more mature generally don’t need or want help solving conflicts. If the applicant had a good “cause”. vendors. 6. etc. and a commitment to solving the problem. Have you ever had to deal with a situation when you felt that a co-worker or manager made you look bad? Please describe how you dealt with it. Listen for signs of inappropriate blaming and self-righteousness. how did he or she deal with criticism and unresponsiveness. 8. What is the most unpopular stand you have taken? Please describe.

In which of your past positions have you found it easiest to buy in to the management philosophy and objectives? The hardest? Some individuals give their loyalty and cooperation easily. or knowledge assistance. please. to their possible manager’s problem-solving style. How much did the applicant offer that was not already expected? Find out why the applicant chose to offer support. Examples may range from emotional support to providing physical. How do you get cooperation from other departments? (Vendors. they are sensitive to issues of timing. setting clear plans. psychological. Others are creative bargainers. listening well.1. Others expect management to earn their respect. suppliers. Management has to perform very poorly for them to become uncooperative. and working through conflict positively. Which problems do you feel are appropriate to bring to your manager? Give me an example. Others see the manager more as someone to be “bothered” with problems only as a last resort. Some applicants look at the manager as someone whom they want to cooperate with to solve problems beyond their expertise or authority. They also provide suggested solutions whenever possible. you can learn the applicant’s expectations for giving loyalty and cooperation to an organization. This question addresses the issue of the applicant’s ability to cooperate with his/her boss. of how you usually approach a manager with a problem. Give me an example of a time you had to take the lead with your work group to get a task done. as well as to the individual? 2. Match their answer. Cooperative employees bring problems in with clear. Does the applicant’s answer sound convincing? Can you imagine other’s following him/her confidently? 4. 3. What did you do to support your co-workers in your last job? Please give me a specific example of a time when you helped or supported a co-worker. achieving consensus decisions. Finally. personality and presentation of the problem (should it be in writing or presented verbally?). which later may be used to get work done. By discussing their answer thoroughly. goals and objectives. Does your applicant seem to have conscious approach? Does he/she speak positively of their experiences in this regard? If so. 24 . loyalty and cooperation. Does he/she support those who are not personal friends? Was the support an aid to the organization. documented facts. it is a fair bet he/she can obtain cooperation when necessary. the importance of setting an example. 5. customers?) Give me an example? Some people are skilled at building and maintaining friendships. How did you get cooperation? Can the candidate enlist the cooperation of others? Look for a knowledge of team functioning for example. recognizing team member’s contributions. of course.

2. more fun. A candidate who hasn’t evolved a successful decision-making approach will be a certain risk.) or for a more negative reason (dependency. Is the candidate aware of his or her own approach? Get an example of a few recent decisions and probe for why the candidate used their approach. 7. Try to determine. Why do you do it this way? Is the applicant a careful. inability to set and maintain individual standards or plans). others creative brainstorming. Does the applicant understand the value of securing others’ commitments? Of asking for expert advice? Does the applicant typically decide first and tell others about it. and match to the management style of their future manager. however. 25 .6. the “team-oriented” individual prefers teams for a positive reason (better creativity. etc. more spirit. What do you require from a boss? A simple question which may yield crucial answers. Would you rather work on a team or on your own? This classic question is often used to evaluate an applicant’s willingness to work in team settings. step-by-step analytical decision maker? Or does he or she go by the “gut feeling”? Some decisions require careful research. Ask lots of “why’s” and “what do you mean’s”. more anonymity. Describe your approach to making decisions and solving problems. At which point do you find it necessary to bring others into your decision-making process? Why? Every successful manager knows when he or she must consult or join with others to arrive at a solution. What is a “pet peeve” you have had about an organization or an environment you’ve worked in? Does the “pet peeve” seem justified? How did it affect the applicant’s morale and cooperation? Is the same “pet peeve” a factor in your organization? INTERVIEWING QUESTIONS FOR MANAGEMENT AND SUPERVISORY POSITIONS Decision Making 1. 8. higher expertise. or consult with others before making decisions? Watch out for managers who try to reach every decision by consensus-building — they may not take charge and be able to make quick or unpopular decisions when necessary. Remember that a manager must make many quick decisions every day and live with the consequences.

Look for a systematic implementation plan. find out how the candidate would have approached the situation given more time. range of options. Look for a candidate who delegates data collection. Probe to discover where the pressure was coming from -. Their egos allow them to give power to employees. When you recommend something to management. What did you do? Many terrific decisions and plans rot on the vine of poor follow-through. 7. even thrives upon the pressurized atmosphere of management. Did the candidate know when to back off? When to push? In short. does he/she know when and how to “manage upward?” 4. and sets priorities and objectives to organize the research effort. what approach do you usually use? Give me a recent example. How do you assemble relevant data to make your decisions? How do you know when you have enough data? Beware of the candidate who waits for “all of the data”. but only to the extent that their subordinates can handle.3. He/she will never collect enough data. and subordinates will be frustrated waiting for a decision. Are they of major importance? Did the candidate truly support the employees while still overseeing factors such as time. Give me an example of a decision you had to make quickly or under pressure. Notice whether the applicant seems excited by the creative process. Describe a recent time when you had to implement one of your decisions. with timetables and checkpoints. Many supervisors and managers have failed because they couldn’t sell their ideas and decisions to upper management. How did you approach it and how did it work out? The manager who can make sound decisions under pressure is a valuable player. How much leeway do you give your employees to make decisions? How do you still maintain control? Good managers know how to pass decision-making to the lowest levels possible. Also. Was it arrived at through a structured process — or through intuition? Through group 26 . What have you done to get creative solutions to problems? Be specific. Get an example of a creative solution. 6. where possible. Notice whether the candidate understands the “politics” of the situation. whether the recommendations were in writing or presented orally. and whether the candidate was sensitive to selling benefits and meeting potential objections. and others’ participation? 8. Probe for factors such as awareness of proper timing.was it real or imagined? If possible. look for a candidate who accepts. 5. Probe for specific examples of the kind of decisions allowed. What did he/she have to give up under pressure? Other’s input? Time for reflection? Written research data? Look for a decisionmaking approach which involves taking calculated risks for clear rewards. Notice whether subordinates are assigned the details and held accountable for them. budget.

Administration 1. 2. he or she must make an effort to reward good performance and halt poor or mediocre performance through quick. etc.)? Some managers are good at setting up reporting systems — logs. finding them generally restrictive. Others depend on personal visits or a few chosen advisers. meetings. At issue here is whether the candidate can monitor an area of accountability and judge when and how to get involved. your applicant must request very specifically what he/she wants and must attempt to negotiate a commitment with an employee. thoroughly detail-oriented candidate prefers written procedures and dislikes varying from them. What do you typically do when you hear of a problem in your area? Give me a current example. He or she will usually institute written guidelines if there are none present. 5. What areas are within your sphere of responsibility? How do you make sure that you know what is happening (problems. changes. discover how well your candidate assesses his/her responsibilities and knows (as opposed to assumes) whether the operation is functioning correctly. production statistics. etc. Second.brainstorming — or individual initiative? You’ll want a manager who values creativity and knows how to stimulate it in others. sure performance feedback or coaching. As an administrator. can the candidate innovate new systems if necessary? Is he/she willing to try your organization’s current methods? 4. The good administrator knows that others will perform best if they clearly know what to expect and are held accountable for results. How do you make sure that your employees are accountable? Look for two steps: First. This question is meant to unearth whether your candidate is a “studier” or a “leaper” into problems. Flexibility is important. What operating systems do you use to monitor and maintain control of your areas of accountability? Look for approaches that combine up-to-date technical approaches with common-sense. A more spontaneous manager dislikes all but the loosest structures. the candidate must track current problems and spot trends. regular reports. or indicators of deep-seated troubles. Try 27 . determining whether problems are temporary. 3. Beware of overly sophisticated systems that could not be “grafted” upon your organization. How useful have you found written procedures and guidelines in helping you manage your area? An analytical. Most importantly.

The leader/innovator may chafe under it. Does he/she write an outline before beginning. a memo vs. search for the documenting employee performance — for example. Look for a candidate who keeps simple notes on employee performance and keeps statistics on production which are organized around clear. Some managers feel it stifles creative ideas and people. Finally. If the candidate always writes his or her own letters. proper documentation to defend against a discrimination claim or wrongful termination suit. a letter? Which do you think takes more skill? A competent business writer understands that a report must present information leading to a logical conclusion or recommendation. He or she also knows that a memo should be brief and readable. When you have to write letters. Would you prefer to write letters “from scratch” or use form letters? The best writers don’t mind using a “form” letter at times. Do you feel that the chain of command is important? Why? When do you feel it might inhibit organizational effectiveness? The chain of command comes from a traditional. Writing Skills 1.to judge the need for structure in the position the chosen candidate will manage. Notice whether the candidate can access the information easily. the candidate should have a 28 . an administrator. What do you see as the difference in writing strategy for a report vs. Do you need an innovator. how do you usually get started? This question will help to understand the candidate’s approach to writing. Listen to the applicant’s answer to determine his/her frustration level with the chain of command. and whether a form letter could accomplish the same purpose. Does the candidate have an efficient filing system? Does he/she delegate early drafts to others? Write on a word processor? Use other systems or approaches? 4. they like to add their own special innovations and touches. military model of management. However. The administrator/manager can make it work to their advantage. Also. Others feel it gives the organization safety and stability. How do you keep track of incoming and outgoing correspondence? Correspondence can become a time-consuming part of a manager’s day. 5. find out how much time it takes. 3. logical themes. or someone who must be both? 6. or simply “jump in”? 2. and should present the primary information at the beginning. What do you think is important to document? How do you document it? Documentation has become an increasingly important issue in management.

4. 5. How could your organization’s budgetary process be improved? Most organizations have a budgetary process in place. How do you go about estimating expenses and budgets? Successful managers have worked out a sound method which reflects the realities of their unique situation. 3. for example). Finally. The best writers are generally careful editors — they may edit a piece several times to hit the right tone. Try to gauge the sophistication of the candidate’s methods by asking follow-up questions. Probe to uncover how sophisticated the method is and how it has been adapted through time. information. Few managers initiate cost-cutting or money-saving ideas. Next. What recent decision have you made that had an impact on finances? How did you assess its impact? 29 . Uncover whether the action was in response to an external pressure for example. Do you struggle to write a letter or report. What responsibility do you have for budgeting? What budgeting method do you use? This question establishes whether the candidate speaks knowledgeably and confidently about the budgetary responsibility. Their idea of “pressure” may be what others call organizational reality. Some managers view it as an annual headache and others are aware of it as an important management tool. find out what was truly an original idea and what ideas came from others (an employee.working knowledge of different business letters — those for persuasion. Give me an example of something you did which saved money for your organization. If the candidate says writing comes easily. a management demand. or other purposes. or can he or she suggest modifications? Be sure to distinguish between complaints and realistic improvements. determine how the candidate monitored and measured the savings. perhaps he or she sets low standards for it. Does the candidate simply accept it. 2. Watch out for the candidate who is unaware of other’s time and financial commitments and who complains of too much “pressure”. apology. Financial 1. and whether the impact was truly significant. or does it come easily? How many times do you usually edit your work? By what method? Very few writers can write without a bit of a struggle. 6.

Whatever they volunteer. probe by asking. such as “participative” or hard-driving”. that others dislike being made to follow. How do you get your employees (or others) to follow you? This broad question allows the applicant to reflect on his or her leadership. “give me an example of how you actually do that. how many really think about how to best prepare a job before delegating it. training. his/her awareness of communication principles. Leadership 1. 2. For example. however. However. and his/her ability to follow through and monitor. the applicant will describe his/her style in complimentary terms. How do you use power or authority to get what you want done? The real leader is not afraid to use power — he or she knows. Ask how much detail the applicant usually provides when he/she delegates. how monitored). you might ask about his/her style in dealing with conflict situations. Give me an example of how you delegated responsibility for a recent assignment. few managers think about it logically. and what you did to monitor it. or what would be the most logical way to explain its details? By pursuing questions about a recent delegation.The example named may be significant. 4. 3. and structuring activities and assignments for subordinates. planning of assignments. A hesitation or inability to answer may be a tip-off that he or she doesn’t have an orientation to the financial aspect of management. you’ll learn a good bit about how the candidate assesses employee skill levels. yet a healthy respect for others’ abilities and their mutual goals. make sure that your candidate enjoys using power but uses it for unselfish purposes. what and how you delegated the assignment. even enjoyment. whom you chose. for instance. Delegation is a fundamental part of management. This question will help you discover if the applicant is oriented to making decisions which save money — or make it. 30 .” Look for a strong. and what kinds of assignments he or she refuses to delegate. Notice whether the applicant cares about developing and teaching employees through delegation. confident answer and notice whether you could be persuaded to follow him or her. How would you describe your management style? Undoubtedly. setting goals (how many. Managers may talk about their ability to set goals and direction. of the uses of power and influence. some probing follow-up questions are in order. Don’t accept general terms used to describe the style. For example. it should vary according to an employee’s experience and maturity. Surprisingly. Look for answers which indicate an easy acceptance. Ask for examples which illustrate the style. in what areas. running meetings. or to include others in decisions. and that they also want to feel powerful. In other words. or to lead by example.

They enjoy being a leader. However. and gradually acquire important new skills. enjoyable part of their role as a manager. they recognize the importance of getting subordinates to do the work rather that themselves. your chances of hiring a winner will go up significantly. Others indicate they have more trouble with louder. perhaps they need to learn how to slow down. it is only true if people take the time for reflection and introspection. What do you do to insure objectivity when you evaluate others’ work? Surprisingly. What do you enjoy most about being a manager? Least? According to recent research. Finally. What have you learned about management since your first supervisory job? The old saying. If you can get a clear picture of their model. 6. Evaluating Performance 1. Furthermore. 31 . What type of employees do you find hardest to manage? Why? The employees whom the applicant finds hardest to manage most likely indicate areas which are available for his/her growth and development as a manager. If your applicant expresses some or all of these factors. Good evaluators may also keep records to remember specific examples and situations. non-assertive employees. Push your applicant a little to supply the specific experiences which illustrate the way he or she handled something in the past versus the current approach. What was the style of the best manager you have worked for? What did you learn and begin using from that person’s approach? This question will help determine what the applicant sets as a model. power-seeking employees. 8. and areas in which they will want to become more effective in. few managers have given this issue much thought. effective managers are comfortable exercising authority. enthusiastically projecting a sense of excitement to employees. or problems on the job. it will help you learn areas in which they are likely to be effective. but an important one. For example. If so. “experience is the best teacher” is usually true. his/her idea of a “correct” approach to management. Look for an applicant who has attempted to clarify job expectations and job standards with employees and who understand the importance of regular. 7. they know that memory is unreliable and biased. and make decisions which may appear to others to be unconventional. This suggests a need to learn skills in discipline and conflict resolution. Some managers only learn how to do the same (wrong) things more frequently! Others learn from mistakes. listen and coach and counsel subordinates.5. some applicants state they find it hardest to manage quiet. and they see this as a major. expect to be asked for direction. The applicant should express an understanding that objectivity is a fleeting goal. rebellious. constructive evaluations. they are ready to take decisive action. they appear to be strongly focused on delegation -that is.

Notice whether the applicant has developed a reporting system and whether he has a handle on his department’s performance at various intervals (weekly. measurable goals. fair and measurable. If your applicant doesn’t take steps to get the employee involved. more importantly. what approach do you take? What if they are exceptionally good? Marginal? This question gets at some important issues. employees who feel estranged from their own manager. When you evaluate someone’s performance verbally. he or she may be more aligned with the role of a “judge” in the evaluation process. 7.). How do you get your employees involved in their own evaluation? Notice whether your applicant seems surprised by the question -.) 4.” The result may be less objective evaluations and. Is the candidate supportive? Is he/she tough enough to pressure the marginal employee. monthly. as well as positive performance areas? 5. How often do you evaluate your employees? The best answers will imply that evaluation is an ongoing process and that it must occur on a regular basis. probe what the applicant means by “evaluation”. but doesn’t agonize over it. Follow-up to determine whether their standards seem realistic. Look for an orientation to clear production standards and specific.” Look for a manager who takes an organized approach to the task. specific. Does he/she put it in writing? Does it occur in a regularly scheduled meeting.many managers are unaware that the best evaluations include active employee participation. quarterly. Be wary of applicants who feel that job standards are “unrealistic” for their kind of work. However.2. 6. rather than a “coach. and assess the factors he/she must be responsible for. monitor. What sort of performance standards have you held employees to? Were they written? How did you (could you) improve them? The manager who evaluates employees well takes the time to discuss performance standards. How do you evaluate your department’s overall performance? This question will help determine the applicants’ ability to plan. Does he/she carefully assemble documentation and labor over the wording on the evaluation? Or is it a latenight slap-dash approach “just to get it over with. This attitude might indicate a manager who avoids the messy work of making others accountable for specific behaviors and outputs. but compassionate enough to understand an employee’s circumstances? For those employees who are exceptionally good. (Those managers will probably be the ones who procrastinate in completing the job. 3. does the candidate know how to 32 . or as the need arises? Does it cover areas for improvement. etc. How long does it take you to write a performance evaluation? What steps do you go through? This question will tell you whether your applicant takes this important task seriously.

does your applicant speak most often about tangible motivators.give positive feedback and supply new challenges? Does the candidate “sugar coat” negative criticism or face it squarely? Finally. Third. 33 . Have you had an employee who you successfully motivated? What did you do? How about one who you tried but could not motivate? Notice whether your candidate seems to understand and use a variety of motivational techniques which are matched to the personality and values of his/her employees. What should a performance evaluation system or form look like? Does at matter? Every manager has an opinion about the “right” form. it doesn’t matter which form is used. How do you plan for performance improvements? Evaluating performance isn’t enough. this positive attitude will inspire improvement in others. too. Look for an approach which emphasizes specific. you can bet their employees will feel that way. (Sample answer: “I send them to training classes when they ask. coaching. counseling. such as bonuses. A good manager knows that evaluating employees is more important than the form.” 8. How do you measure performance in your area? Standards for performance are useless unless they can be measured. he or she will use what is available and do the homework necessary to write and talk about performance objectively. candidates will fall into one of three categories: First. Ultimately. Notice whether the candidate speaks confidently and comfortably about measurement. 2.? Or does he or she talk about increased responsibility. measurable goals for improvement which are set collaboratively with the employee. and delegation. or “shoot from the hip. those who don’t see much of a need to develop their employees and are uncomfortable with this question. The current examples cited should help you sort out in which category your candidate fits. about what is expected of them. etc. how organized is the candidate when he/she evaluates work? Does he/she seem to weigh comments thoroughly. For example. positive reinforcement. those who successfully help employees develop through planning. training. Employee Relations 1. 10. 9. If he or she seems tentative. those who talk about development but haven’t figured out how to accomplish it.”) Second. A good manager must plan and monitor improvements in performance. challenging work. How do you go about developing the people you manage? Can you supply a current example? Typically. What is more important is that your candidate can use any form. Look also for a candidate who is optimistic about the possibility of performance improvement. promotions. A good manager knows and feels comfortable with “behavioral” standards as well as quantitative ones.

However. watch out for the candidate who seems to be a “counselor”. Many “complainers” simply need more support and an open ear. Give me an example of an employee who you had to discipline. exceptions might include very experienced. has given up on solving attitude problems. whether formally or informally. employees become committed by acquiring job knowledge. inspiring managers.? Any motivational approach must take into account an understanding of the employee’s unique situation. Some meeting topics (other than production problem-solving meetings) might include: soliciting ideas or suggestions. That is. and having clear expectations for performance from caring managers. setting goals. reviewing achievements. 4. What was your strategy? How successful were you? 34 . look for an example which indicates the manager who sincerely tried. Every “attitude” problem is a behavior problem in disguise. the manager labels poor performance as an attitude problem. How have you dealt with an attitude problem? Please give me a specific example. make sure that your candidate after listening thoroughly. perceiving and receiving good rewards. How have you helped your employees become committed to a job or to the organization? Typically. if so. How have you handled complainers? Notice whether the candidate expresses disgust or displeasure. listening sessions to hear concerns or problems. Look for realistic examples which demonstrate specific actions which the candidate took. having committed. Managers who try to talk employees out of their attitude invariably get pulled down with their employees. seems comfortable setting limits on how much time and effort he or she will give to chronic complainers. 7. or alternately. productive employees or employees not located in the same geographical area. being allowed to “own” the job and participate in decisions. 3. but has accepted gracefully the fact that a manager is only one of many motivating influences on an employee. Look for managers who meet frequently. and meetings to reinforce performance and share success. and talk freely and openly with their employees about a variety of topics without overemphasizing regular. Therefore. scheduled “status-check” meetings. You may need to surmise whether the candidate will take others’ problems on as their own too readily.participation in decision-making. 6. they may be an untapped resource. How often do you think it’s necessary to meet with your employees? What do you talk about? Good managers usually meet frequently with their employees. social talk. assigning individual or group accountabilities. 5. On the other hand. does your candidate seem to grasp this? When discussing the employee who the applicant could not motivate. the candidate will ultimately be an ineffective manager. etc. Your candidate should give examples which indicate a willingness to listen to what is creating the attitude and at the same time a willingness to set tough guidelines for performance improvement.

The best discipline does not emphasize punishment. Managers in the 80’s have had to learn to manage more defensively. and the amount of involvement the candidate wanted in the project? Would you feel comfortable. or did they undertake a formal training needs assessment? Match answers against your budget and available training resources. having the candidate staff an important upcoming position or project? 12. 11. and what he/she did to increase the “risk” factor to the employee. Did he/she simply ask employees. the Human Resource Department. legal counsel. If the example given describes hassles with documentation and organizational support. based on the answer given. the time deadlines. If your candidate seems to be comfortable setting early and clear limits for performance. For example. consider whether the candidate assesses training needs logically. How do you develop trust and loyalty in your employees? 35 . 8.“send them to a training class”. notice whether the applicant sincerely wanted to help the employee in question. does the candidate speak about the project requirements. Please tell me about a recent project you had to staff. 9. What sort of employee training do you think it is necessary to offer? What have you done in this regard? Consider whether the candidate enjoys training and seeing employees learn. to take action confidently. perhaps your candidate has trouble setting limits. if the example given concerns an employee who was rebellious. Does the applicant seem comfortable setting tough boundaries without becoming vindictive? Does he/she understand that employees must choose to change. Have you had to manage a personnel situation which had a potential legal impact? Please describe what your role was and what you learned from it. etc. find out how long they were willing to wait for a change. Listen to the example given and try to determine whether the candidate has become so defensive that he/she has become reluctant to take needed personnel actions. How many employees have you had to terminate? Which was the hardest one to fire? Why? The hardest case to fire may indicate a weaker area. Also. Creative managers know training doesn’t always occur in the classroom. or whether the manager was drawn into a battle of egos.. How did you go about staffing it? Why did you choose the people you chose? Listen for answers which indicate an understanding of staffing factors.. They continually look for opportunities to upgrade employee’s skills without the easy method -. For instance. and be given realistic choices? Does the candidate appear to be comfortable with the necessity to document poor performance? Finally. Make sure to assess whether your candidate has a working knowledge of the legal issues in management and has learned how to cooperate with others — i. developmental needs of the staff involved. perhaps this indicates a lack of thoroughness and patience. the morale issues. 10.e.

15. 14. How far in advance do you typically plan activities for yourself and your employees? By what method? The time-frame for the plan given should match the complexity of the tasks the candidate and his/her employees must accomplish. The best candidates will speak about demonstrating their own trust and loyalty to their employees. Did the candidate analyze the problem with the employees’ help. or did the candidate simply apply a “band-aid” to the situation. more communicative and supportive. 13. These candidates usually encourage open communication and give their time and expertise to others.or more relationship-oriented – that is. This question will help you determine whether. Describe a time when you had to intervene to solve a conflict. Assess whether the planning method seems sufficiently sophisticated. They genuinely respect their employees and go out of their way to help their employees advance. Knowing the employees who the candidate would manage. under pressure. He or she will also treat the parties to a conflict with respect and often attempt to get them to take responsibility for their behavior. Why did you handle it that way? Try to understand whether you have a “problem-solver” candidate or a “problem-avoider”.or more relationship oriented -that is. more directive and goal-oriented -. he or she should not hold a grudge against the people involved. Finally. more communicative and supportive. Planning 1. Knowing the employees whom the candidate would manage. Describe a time when you had problems getting people to work together in solving a problem or completing an assignment. The “problem-solver” will attempt to hear all sides and will not avoid the conflict. He or she will try to arrive at creative solutions to conflicts. Do you think the open door policy works? How much time do you spend with your employees and what do you typically discuss? Where do you find it is best to talk to them? This question will help you determine whether. your candidate is likely to become more task-oriented — that is. do you think this approach would work. and provide examples of how they have done so. do you think this approach would work. and will see them as inevitable in any organization. under pressure.Developing trust and loyalty is a two-way street. Does it take into account historical data? The potential impact of outside parties? 36 . your candidate is likely to become more task-oriented – that is. Did he/she seem to understand the root cause of the problem or did the candidate simply apply a “band-aid” to the situation. or solve it alone? Does he/she seem to understand the root cause of the problem. more directive and goal-oriented -.

First. Notice whether the candidate seems excessively bothered by the situation. Rather than merely coping everyday. Look closely to determine whether the candidate planned ahead to implement the change — and whether the plan was followed. creativity. Probe for an understanding of both issues. What did you do to recover? Look for determination and an ability to analyze the failure in a detached. other’s help. or something you thought was necessary to change. How do you assess priorities? How do you then assign them? Every manager must juggle priorities. How did you deal with it? Two issues should concern you. Give me an example of a change you saw coming. What major activities do you have plans for right now? Please describe them. Does it seem that terrible to you? Your best candidate is one who can endure political storms and remain relatively dry. Describe a time when politics at work affected your job. can the candidate “read” and understand the norms or politics of an organization. 2. Look also for an action which demonstrates the candidate’s ability to adjust the plan using creativity. Did the plans come from others. Does your candidate seem comfortable with this part of the manager’s job? Organizational Relationships 1. How did you go about planning for it? An excellent candidate has one eye on the future. logical manner. or did the candidate initiate them? Planning is a necessary. can he or she “play the game. 5. he or she looks for changes — both those from outside forces and those which must be self-initiated. goal-setting and implementation. 3. key function which must involve forecasting research. Does the candidate seem more “day-to-day” or does he or she seem to have consistent criteria for deciding? Does frequent communication with other managers (including those above him or her) figure into the assessment? Is there a system for assigning priorities or is it simply “who pushes the hardest”? 4. Please describe a time when your plans didn’t work out.Potential changes or deviations? Does it seem to fit the planning time available in the management position you are filling? 2. Notice the degree of confidence and enthusiasm. Describe a time when you had to sell a decision or policy to your employees when you didn’t agree with it? 37 . will the candidate accept the political situation in your organization.” Second. and hard data.

Notice whether your candidate looks at a presentation as a challenge or as something to be dreaded. If the candidate says a presentation was effective. 38 . having a purpose and objectives. Find out how he or she organized the presentations. 3. Whatever the answer. and whether their purpose was to sell. Do they seem so onerous to you? Did he or she make a good attempt to follow them? 6. finding a common goal. setting time limits and an agenda. What would you describe as an effective staff meeting? Ineffective? What the candidate describes as effective will probably be what he or she aspires to. What are some of the “unwritten rules” for behavior or politics in your current company? Are there some more bothersome than others? This is a variation of question #1 above. ask him or her how one measures effectiveness. 7. Have you had to make oral presentations to other managers? Describe what you did and how effective it was. In summary. probe to find out what the applicant would do if that approach does not work. this question will help you know the extent to which your candidate enjoys oral presentations and is experienced at organizing them. or merely to inform others. or attempting to build relationships. Ask for examples of times when the candidate went beyond the usual and did something special..Every manager must sell policies or decisions at times. Ask how closely his or her past meetings have met that standard. How have you demonstrated your loyalty or help to your current management? What the applicant offers is a good description of what he or she will offer you. Notice whether the candidate talks about keeping control (e. Can the candidate get a commitment and cooperation from others by other means? Can he or she be aggressive in obtaining commitments if necessary? 5. refuses to sabotage management decisions. Does he or she understand the need for different types of meetings for different purposes? Follow-ups: “How do you handle someone who dominates the meeting?” “What do you do if your people won’t participate in a meeting?” 4. If the candidate has trouble listing the “unwritten rules” it is a good indication he or she has low awareness of organizational norms and could easily violate unspoken rules in your organization. Can the candidate put personal reservations aside and speak positively to his or her group? The effective manager voices disagreement behind closed doors. Answers might include actions such as bargaining. Probe the rules the candidate finds bothersome.g. Probe vague or general answers such as “to give 100 percent” or “to be there ready to work every day”. alerting members to their expected contributions). How do you typically get cooperation from someone in another department? The applicant should first acknowledge the need to get cooperation from others. and accurately reports the effectiveness of the policy or decision after it is implemented. while getting maximum involvement.

8. Give me an example of a time when you felt it was necessary to be assertive to get what you felt you deserved or needed from your manager. The candidate will volunteer a situation. Listen carefully to determine whether the assertive behaviors sound aggressive. Does the candidate understand his/her manager’s point of view? Was it treated as a personal affront, or did the applicant try to solve a problem, rather than blaming and accusing the manager? Does that level of assertiveness fit what would be acceptable in your company? Analytical Skills 1. What was the most difficult decision you had to make at your previous position? Why? What other possible solutions were there? Not only will this question show you how applicants approached problems; it will reveal the degree of the problem’s difficulty as well. Follow-up questions are essential. Try to uncover the reasoning behind the decision. What was it based on? What kinds of pressures were being applied? From whom? Why was this choice superior to other alternatives? See if the applicant is clear in defending his/her decision. 2. Give me an everyday problem you had at your last job. How did you solve it? The old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Everyday obstacles are inevitable; a good salesperson recognizes these hurdles and devises solutions to meet them. Sales is a tough job already, so the salesperson must have an organized solution for everyday hassles. Discuss various options not taken. Why were these not used? 3. Why are you leaving your current employer? How did you reach this decision? There are many variables and emotions involved with leaving a position. It can become a microcosm of how the individual analyzes other difficult situations. Personal goals and interpersonal attitudes can be investigated. Did he/she understand the product? Was the compensation just? Were there personality conflicts? Be aware of the applicant’s self analysis and how he/she weighed the options. 4. How do you decide a prospect is worth pursuing? Give me an example, please. Time is essential. There are few things more frustrating to a salesperson than barking up the wrong tree. A crisp, clean response to this question is important. Specific criteria regarding a prospect should be fleshed out immediately. As a follow-up, change the variables of the example and ask whether the customer would still be worth pursuing. 5. What problems have you discovered at your current or previous company? What types of solutions have you recommended?

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Are you looking for a problem solver or a wave maker? Try to gauge the applicant’s assertiveness. Is he/she politically astute or abrasive? The problem should have been one that influenced the applicant’s ability to produce results. Did the solution affect satisfaction of customers’ needs? Sales dollars? Company success? 6. Approximately what percentage of your sales calls close? To what do you attribute this success rate? “The hare had all the tools, but the turtle could finish the job”. A combination of the hare and the turtle is what you’re looking for here. Is he/she aware of customer’s needs, as well as being hard working and goal-oriented? Do not accept knee-jerk, cliché reactions; you want to see signs of selfunderstanding and confidence gained from successful experiences. Also, look for an awareness of what factors figure in closing a sale. Does this rate sound acceptable to you? 7. How do you decide the best way to sell a particular customer your product?

Although many customer needs are similar, no two are identical. Acumen in distinguishing the subtleties is an important tool. The applicant should have a way to analyze the sales signals a customer sends. As a follow-up, change the variables of the example; find out if he/she has contingency plans.

Performance Standards 1. How do you know when you’re doing a good job? The applicant’s personal standards should surface here. Look for answers that show strong personal goals and values, rather than a wish to merely please others. Follow up with: “How does that differ from what your managers have expected?” Look for applicant’s willingness to incorporate company standards into his/her own. 2. With what areas of your work at your previous employer were you most satisfied? Why? Most unsatisfied? This is another values question, and a grounded follow-up to question #1 above. Here, the applicant should give you an idea of what they value what success (and failure) means to them. Ask how they knew when their performance was satisfactory or unsatisfactory and what they are doing about it. 3. Specifically, what would your manager say were your major achievements? Values and standards for achievements should surface. This question allows the applicant to step back and take a look at him/herself with candor. Follow up with “what might the manager say as a criticism?” Probe to get examples of why the manager would say those things; do they sound like real achievements and reasonable criticisms to you? 40

4. Did you ever have to alter your standards to meet your companies? When? This probes the applicant’s ethical principles and how these relate to company values. Find out where the applicant draws the line between the two, and what type of pressures would prompt a conflict. Does the applicant set issues of integrity above company policy? Is he/she interested in gaining power at the expense of corporate standards? What was the outcome of the example cited? 5. Who were the best salespeople you’ve worked with? What did they do or not do?

This answer should indicate the standards by which the applicant will measure him/herself and the values he/she holds dear. Use follow-up questions to find out why they selected the examples and why these issues are important to them. Is it because these salespeople knew how to close? Did they make big money? Were they aware of the customer’s needs? 6. If you were a sales manager here, what would you require of your employees? Why? This question puts the shoe on the other foot. Be wary if the applicant’s requirements are excessive. This could indicate that he/she tends to scrutinize others more closely than him/herself. Try to match his/her standards to those you would set. Learning Ability 1. In your last job, what did you need to learn? How did you go about learning? With this question you can find out how an applicant deals with his/her need for information and education. Ask for an example and pursue it. Look for creative techniques the applicant used to gather information independently; at work, self-education is often the only kind available. If they received on-the-job training, find out how effective the education was and how enthusiastic the applicant was about it. 2. Give me an example of a situation at your previous employer when others knew more than you. How did you close the gap? This question, similar to Question #1 above, allows you to assess an applicant’s ability to learn in a high-pressure working environment. Listen for signs of frustration; does the applicant respond well to the challenge, or does he/she find it intimidating? Look for signs of an innovative approach to learning. Did the applicant seek help from other employees, or view co-workers as competition? 3. How do you keep up with the changes in technology (terminology, information) in your field? Some people look at education as a continuing pleasure; others view it as a bit of a chore. Does the applicant subscribe to trade periodicals and read them regularly? Does he/she attend industry trade shows/conventions to do more than just make contacts? By following up on this question, you can find out just how committed the applicant is to the process of ongoing education. 41

4. In other words. 7. Try to get applicants to talk about a specific example and see if they view the situation as an embarrassment or as a positive learning experience. see if the applicant responds positively to the challenge. What do you do to learn about your customers’ problems? For salespeople. Also. Also ask how they learn about the competition. check to see how well the applicant remembers the information he/she learned. 2. What makes a good salesperson? 42 . 3. if they were lacking information. a high degree of retention indicates that the applicant has incorporated the information thoroughly. curiosity about a customer’s business often indicates a real commitment to customer service and bigger sales. suggestions. Probe to see why the situation occurred. Look to see if the applicant views education as a vital part of success. Which sales have you lost because you lacked experience or information? It’s a rare salesperson who hasn’t lost a sale for these reasons. Was he/she prepared to counter the competition’s features and benefits? 6. What sales have you made when you had to study or learn information quickly? Ask for a specific example. notice how effectively the applicant applied newly gained information to close a sale. discover if they are driven by the joy of success or the fear of failure. How do you follow what the competition is doing? In many industries. should they have had it in the first place? Sales Drive and Career Goals 1. knowledge provides the competitive edge. as opposed to those who are selling simply to meet their personal financial needs. will be able to stay “up. What sales situations have challenged you the most? The least? With this question.” Look for those who strive for victory in the deal. How do you keep yourself up for selling? Applicants who truly enjoy their work. Ask the applicant how he/she has responded when customers favor a competitor’s product over his/her own. Does the applicant listen carefully to his/her customers’ comments. who have enthusiasm for the selling challenge. Do they speak of it aggressively? Try to gauge whether he/she seemed to enjoy the most challenging situation or the least challenging one. and complaints? And did he/she apply that information to remedy problems and improve the product or service they were selling? 5.

How many customers do you think is enough to see in a day? Why? Get a specific number and use follow-up questions to discover how the applicant arrived at the number. or want to be. Their criteria may include: satisfying customer needs. How do you prepare for a sales call? Sales calls come in all shapes and sizes. 7. Organizational Skills 1. What is the most important sales skill? This question may seem abstract. Look for preparatory steps they take to make the most of their customer contact. What are your overall career goals? How are you working to achieve them? The second part of this question should be your focus. if necessary. Watch out for vagueness in the response. they will tell you the kind of salesperson they are. having positive energy. but in fact it addresses an applicant’s self image. What is attractive about sales as a career? What’s not as attractive? This gives you an idea of how the person might perform in the long run. being goal-oriented. Again. rephrase the question: “In past jobs. as opposed to what the goals are. By doing this. this natural inclination can provide valuable information. 2. What is the attractiveness motivated by? Is money uppermost in their minds? Do family obligations take precedence? Or is it the pursuit of the challenge? Also. applicants refer to their best sales skill as most important. 6. Follow-up question: “How have you demonstrated those same qualities?” 4. what is the most important sales standard in this Industry?” Check to see if these standards are consistent with your own. what skill made the sale for you?” As a second follow-up. ask: “Besides dollar amount and sales volume. from the cold call to the drop-in visit to the scheduled presentation. don’t be put-off it could be an indicator of a high-energy positive applicant. compare their goals to the opportunities your sales position offers. Very often.Here. give applicants the opportunity to describe their role models. Applicants should have a plan for dealing with each. Is it reasonable? Is it consistent with your standards? If the number is excessive. How do you qualify customers? How do you determine which prospects to call on? 43 . It is more important that applicants have a concrete idea of how they are going to meet the goals. or being persistent.” given their answer? 5. what approach has the applicant taken to overcome the least attractive areas? Has he/she thought it out? Does your position seem “attractive.

Have you had situations when your schedule was interrupted unexpectedly? What did you do to overcome them? For a busy salesperson. How do you ensure a consistent base of customers? Prospects? Dollars? Some people organize for the sake of organization. Compare sales managers for whom you’ve worked. Be careful if you hear a lot of frustration. listen for the applicant’s willingness to examine his/her own efficiency.) best? Why? This question lets the applicant describe his/her concept of good organization. How do you get started on a typical day? What do you do from there? This question gets at daily motivation and routine. others do so as part of a long-term plan. Look for an emphasis on independence and a willingness to set personal goals. others confront it head on. Do they use a structured system? Probe to see how effective the method has been and what the applicant has done to improve it. Probe to see how applicants deal with this pressure. What do you need from an organization to support your success? Please be specific. How do you stay on top of your paperwork responsibilities? Some salespeople avoid paperwork like the plague. Which one organized your job (territory. 5. customers. They should be able to distinguish “hot prospects” from “tire-kickers. 44 . look for clear criteria and procedures. etc. 4.” Examine their method of categorizing customers. 7. Are they flexible in the face of changing priorities? Look for a consistent strategy. probe to see how they live up to their own standards. make sure it was warranted. compare these standards to your own. one slip in a daily schedule can wreak havoc with the entire day. Probe the applicant to see how they deal with administrative duties. Try sympathizing with them if they admit a dislike. Use this question to gauge the applicant’s strategic perspective. 9. Look for refinement of these habits throughout the applicant’s career. they may more clearly reveal their attitude toward this part of the job. 8. 6.Salespeople have to get the biggest bang for the buck. Have you ever had the opportunity to improve your company’s sales system or approach? What did you do? This is an issue of adaptability: can the applicant improve company procedures and systems without disrupting them? Compare his/her willingness to innovate with your company’s structure and policies. Once again. Do they know how to do the spade work that will let them hit pay dirt later? 3. Use this question to compare the applicant’s needs with your company’s procedures. Look for established habits that are geared to produce predictable results. watch for evidence of frustration or impatience.

excellent for seasoning. Do they accept that customers had these objections? Are the answers well thought out and presented? Probe with questions from the customer’s point of view. probe for a specific example.Handling Rejection 1. Give me an example of a difficult sale you lost. without alienating his/her own company. Sales Strategies 1. What has been one of the biggest disappointments in your sales career? What happened? Setbacks are the salt of life -. what objections did your customers have? How did you respond? Most customers have some objections. Watch out for evidence of regret. Have you ever sold something to a customer (or promised something) that your company couldn’t deliver? What did you do about it? The heat of the sales battle forges many promises. did the applicant have responses? Try to gauge his/her attitude. What did you do? When is a “no” really a “no?” The best salespeople say never. the salesperson who carries a torch too long may well end up burning you. late delivery. Don’t let the applicant evade. dissatisfaction. Look for evidence of tenacity. etc. 45 . What did you do to bounce back from it? The first step in overcoming failure is accepting it. Did the applicant have pre-prepared responses to deal with the most common objections? Were these effective? If not. How long have you gone without making a sale? What did you do to change your luck? Even long-ball hitters go through slumps. Give me an example of a time when you overcame a no from a customer. 4.? Look for the applicant’s willingness to go the extra distance and “make it right” with the customer. Does the applicant accept responsibility for instances of miscommunication. the question is how they broke the bad streak. what did the applicant do to improve them? 5. Look for applicants’ ability to put disappointments firmly behind them. How did they deal with the incident? By taking time off from work? Discussing the lost sale with fellow employees? Leaping back into the fray with even greater energy? Have these efforts led to improved performance? 2. When you were selling at your previous employer. or obsession. the icy wind of reality shows how brittle these may be. Do they take responsibility for their slumps or blame them on external factors? 3. but deadly in overabundance. Look for creative new approaches and the applicant’s willingness to examine him/herself. along with the ability to change a sales pitch in response to customer concerns.

Are the uncomfortable around cold people? Perhaps they have problems making friends. or conversely. What is the most creative sales promotion presentation you’ve had to make? Be sure to ask for more concrete detail when applicants discuss projects that “we created” or “we produced. Did they use a creative. See if the applicant is enthusiastic and competent regarding the creative side of sales. What types of benefits did you stress while selling your product or service? This question will indicate what types of benefits the applicant views as most important and how persuasively he/she presents them. He/she should be able to improvise -. Does the applicant dislike dealing with aggression? Perhaps he/she has trouble being assertive. to steer away from problems. as well as what they believe to be their best skills. 8. Self motivation is a key element to achieving these goals. 3. Here. Does the applicant speak of the benefits with enthusiasm? 7. positive approach? This question should show you the applicant’s degree of sales expertise. What special skills could you bring our company? Again.to seize opportunities. he/she is telling you what they know about the product and your company. they may be dealing with difficult parts of their own personalities. 6. Which kind of customer is difficult for you to sell? How do you overcome these difficulties? When applicants have problems with a certain type of customer. The applicant should be flexible even in scripted presentations. What was your most difficult product to sell? How did you sell it? A tough sale for an inexperienced applicant may be a piece of cake for an old pro. did the applicant strive to exceed them? The best applicants will thrill in surpassing these objectives. How much revenue were you expected to generate at your previous employer? How did you bring it in? How did you do? Few occupations stress goals as much as sales. Determine how the applicant approached the problem.2. the first sale any applicant must make is to the interviewer. If the company sets the goals. Have you ever had to modify your usual presentation? What did you do? Why? Improvisation is the birthplace of creativity.” Probe to determine his/her specific involvement. See if the applicant sets his/her own goals. 4. Examine the applicant’s disposition and compare it to your experience with your customers. Compare them with your own products and services. 5. Is the candidate persuasive? Are these skills the ones you believe to be important? In short. can he/she sell you? 46 .

10. Does the applicant have a system for keeping in touch with customers (i. Watch out for a complacent attitude or responses that show a lack of consideration for customer service. 47 . incisive questions? Probe for examples. Look for confidence without arrogance.” Others maintain files on potential customers for years on end. Successful sales people should be persuasive without becoming manipulative. As you probe. 4. Does the applicant appear willing to listen? Can he/she ask a customer pertinent. determination without a bulldozer attitude. callback sheet)? Look for dedication to customer satisfaction. How do you get to know your customer’s needs? A salesperson’s most valuable professional skills may also be the most personal. Does the applicant acknowledge the importance of this? Do they strive to offer some sort of recompense for any inconvenience? And can the distinguish between situations they could have prevented and those caused by circumstances outside their control? 3. look at the details. Customer Relations 1.9. tickler file. be sure to probe for specific examples and proven techniques. How long does the applicant wait before making a callback? When do they call an account truly “dead?” Look for sensitivity to customer signals. search for those who can match a pitch to a customer’s specific needs. Does the applicant use information and expertise to gain a customer’s confidence? Do they use added service and attention to win favor? Assess these tools in light of your customers and sales strategy. responsive attitude. How do you close the deal? The salesperson who sells ice to the Eskimos knows to close the sale before the customer gets too cold.e. Did you ever have a customer complain after a sale? What did you do in that situation? Customers trust salespeople who accept responsibility for occasional mishaps or missed deadlines. and repeat sales. Perseverance and patience are also valuable here.. Closing is critical for sales success. Watch out for applicants who assume customer’s want their product. How do you persuade your customers? Please give me an example. Do you save information on prospects who have said no? What do you do with it? Some salespeople give up on a prospect when faced with a determined “no. Probe to discover the basis of this persuasion. Look for the three R’s: relentless energy. 2. How much contact do you have with customers after a sale? Please give me an example of what you usually do after the sale.

What kind of criticism have you been given by your managers? How much is appropriate? 48 . Did the applicant establish realistic deadlines? How much pressure did he/she place on production staff? Look for focus on customer satisfaction. Look for a willingness to go beyond the minimum requirements of the job. What did you do to make this happen? Where applicable. How often did you meet with your sales manager at your previous employer? What did you discuss? How workable were these meetings? Some sales meetings are valuable strategic sessions. others are time-consuming bores.5. What did you do at your previous employer to help the other salespeople? Look for a response that shows warmth and empathy toward fellow employees. did customers travel with them? What tools did they use to establish that loyalty? Do they make suggestions to save a customer time or money? Remember that this type of relationship is a double-edged sword: the applicant can bring you accounts. 2. and what type of contribution did he/she make to those sessions? Ask for clarification about his/her opinion toward meetings: were they simply for reporting (one-way communication) or for strategic planning (two-way)? Examine attitudes toward fax and phone communication. What have you done to support your sales manager in the past? Sales support works both ways — from the manager to the salesperson and back again. or your company’s?” 6. Look closely at examples. facts. Does the applicant view sales tips and information as a commodity to be protected or a resource to be shared? If they weren’t required to work with other salespeople. how did they interact with other employees? How much assistance did they volunteer and how much was required by the job? Follow up with: “How much contact with other employees do you feel is appropriate?” 4. look at the applicant’s transitions from company to company. Good follow-up question: “How late can a delivery be and still remain acceptable?” Cooperation 1. Did he/she provide insights on the competition or research new markets? Look for an emphasis on teamwork and a willingness to share tips. Give me an example of a time when you had to deliver your product late. Give me an example of a customer who has stuck with you over the years. to provide managers with information as well as suggestions for improving operations. How did the applicant feel about meetings in past jobs. Good follow-up: “Do you feel that a customer is yours. How did you handle it? The last thing your company needs is finger pointing between the people in sales and those in production. is there a trade-off between efficiency and depth of detail? 3. he/she can also take them away. tempered by tolerance. etc.

What’s the riskiest career change you’ve made? Why did you make it? 49 . you had to try something you’d never tried before? Here’s a chance to measure the applicant’s creativity. Look for a willingness to place company concerns over personal issues.Self-confidence is crucial for a salesperson’s performance. The salesperson who treats production staff as secondary is sure to meet with resistance. to sell a customer. When have you found it proper or necessary to circumvent company policy to make a sale? You may have to prompt the applicant with an example. Describe the type of relationship you had with the production people at your previous employer. so he/she needs a staff that can execute responsibilities without creating more difficulty. or hackneyed instead? Look also at the degree of risk that was involved. What risks do you feel are necessary in making a sale? How do you minimize these risks? Every sale involves some measure of risk. or a harsh. Remain impartial to the response so the applicant feels free to talk. Watch out for a prima donna attitude. Follow up by asking how he/she assessed the cost/benefit of their creative approach. Watch out for a defensive attitude. probe to see if the applicant sees the sales position as the “hub” of the company’s operation. What’s the hardest directive you’ve had to follow from your company? Why? What did you do? The sales manager faces tough decisions every day. but so too is the ability to accept constructive criticism. 5. 4. their willingness to alter company policy may show you how they will adhere to your guidelines. how does the applicant define this? Does he/she anticipate customers’ questions and objections. personality) as well as professional concerns. Risk Taking 1. Probe the reasons behind the applicant’s example. this could indicate uneven performance. is their example truly innovative. such as shifting delivery dates or including “extras” in a sale. 2. 3. why was the order difficult to follow? Personal integrity? Independence? Convenience? Watch for a resentful attitude. Have you had a situation when. or do you see more of a “wing-it” mentality? Watch out for applicants who complain about the “up and down” nature of sales. this may indicate the applicant’s depth of experience. Follow-up question: “How do you feel production staff in your past job viewed you?” 6. unbending tone. as criticism in sales is apt to address personal issues (appearance.

this may reveal potential trouble spots or suggest incentives you can use to motivate the applicant. 50 .Employees who take risks in their careers may tend to do the same for your company. Does the applicant have a clear perspective on the downside as well as the upside of a change in employment? Do you feel comfortable with the balance they strike between risk and reward? Look also for the motivation behind a career change.

How much supervision does the applicant expect? Does he/she depend on constant encouragement and handholding. no matter how many new customers they gain. others are never satisfied. Ask for specific examples of how the applicant has found new customers. others create solutions to problems for their company. How are you conducting your job search? In the search for a job. and an organized approach. What ideas have you sold to your own management? Why? What happened? Some employees execute ideas. 2. How is the applicant capitalizing on the opportunity to sell him? Herself to you? Have they done 51 . How creative is the applicant and how do his/her personal ideas and objectives match with your companies? Be sure to follow up on examples. How are they handling this task? Have they conducted research? Capitalized on professional contacts? Look for actions that indicate tenacity. What do you expect from a sales manager to help you make sales? Compatibility is the key in making a successful hire. How do you go about researching a customer before the sales call? Sound preparation is the foundation of success. Look for evidence of perseverance and drive. but you have to get the job for yourself. or do you see more of a “free-lance” mentality? How do these parameters fit with your own management style? 6. Compare the applicant’s methods with your company’s strategy and niche. How have you changed the way your territory was covered compared to your predecessor? Compared to other salespeople in your company? Self-starting salespeople are often selfimproving as well. creativity. 7. applicants are selling the best products they have: themselves. 5. Probe to see if the applicant is oriented toward an in-depth sales strategy (a few wellqualified customers) or a “shotgun” approach (selling to large numbers of customers).Self Starting 1. How willing is the applicant to eliminate inefficiencies or devise new strategies for success? Look for an orientation toward quantifiable goals and an emphasis on efficient use of time. Were they confident in selling the concept to management? What were the consequences of their idea and the rewards as they saw them? 3. Look for attention to detail and complete followthrough. 4. What do you do to build a list of possible customers? Some salespeople are content with the client list they already have. What did you do to prepare for this interview? The old adage says that contacts can get you an interview.

). They care enough about themselves to not be abused. or appropriate patience? Those applicants who can gracefully set limits for others usually have a good degree of self-esteem. or those in other departments? 4. 8. they’ve probably done their homework. Does the applicant sound tactful? Could he or she have accomplished the assignment anyway? 3. INTERVIEWING QUESTIONS FOR CLERICAL POSITIONS Assertiveness 1. did they meet higher quotas by squeezing extra sales out of old customers or by penetrating new accounts? Look for attention to efficiency. What did you do? In sales. clients. how much time did the applicant spend to get the increase? Watch for resentfulness toward higher objectives or quotas. Was the applicant respectful. process. Who have you had to set limits with at work? (For example. Watch for method as well as attitude.) What did you do? Find out how long your candidate waited before finally setting limits. Please give me an example of a time when you needed to increase sales.research on your firm? Are they psychologically prepared? Do they feel comfortal3le with this question? If so. Have you had to speak up recently to your boss or others who gave you work when it wasn’t comfortable to do so? Share with me the situations. rather than merely blame the other person? Listen to hear whether the applicant seems to express empathy. or at least an understanding. If the applicant asked for clarification. etc. Listen for whether the applicant is sensitive to timing. Does the example given sound appropriately assertive for the people in your organization? For customers. yet secure enough not to blame or judge others too harshly. Pursue the example with follow-up questions. of the other person’s point of view. Does this illustrate a “short fuse”. and the lines of 52 . a person who was rude or overly demanding. please. Every clerical person must wrestle with this dilemma. as in sports. champions thrive on challenge. Have you had people who gave you assignments without complete instructions? How did you handle it? Please give a recent example. 2. What did you do about it? The assertive person is confident enough to report the mistakes. yet forceful? Did he or she try to solve a problem. ask for the words he or she actually used in the situation. Have you ever had a situation when you found mistakes on an assignment someone else gave to you (to type.

yet not seem to resent the inevitable changes in their plans. Again.authority in the organization. Independence and Initiative 1. How do you organize your typical workday? Excellent clerical people often organize their day well. He or she should also demonstrate the ability to anticipate peaks and valleys in the workload. what is he or she willing to give in return? In other words. 2. yet are able to speed others on their way gracefully. Your applicant should be capable of organizing according to a prearranged or self-designed system. they ask incisive questions and summarize the major points. of their plans will be changed as priorities shift. The applicant should volunteer which interruptions he or she has had to curtail. Does his or her expectation for independence fit what your position allows? 3. 6. notice whether the applicant seems secure enough to speak up without being curt or brusque. Depending on the position of the person in question. How do you minimize interruptions on the job? This question covers interruptions such as phone conversations that continue too long. What amount of supervision do you feel most comfortable working under? Why? The independent person may resent even normal amounts of supervision. How did you get started on it? Why did you set it up that way? Look for pride in the accomplishment. Finally. this raises doubts. and exactly how “complex” the assignment was. perhaps even taking notes. Probe to find out what parameters were set by others. They are conscious of saving time. if not all. Give me an example of a complex assignment you have accomplished on your own.) Ask about specific. typical interruptions such as those listed above. and dealing with visitors. 5. Does the position allow the amount of supervision desired? If the applicant wants a great amount of independence. he or she should adjust their approach accordingly. (If he or she claims this has never been a problem. notice whether the applicant seems to have genuinely enjoyed doing the assignment independently. knowing that many. 4. 53 . How do you minimize the time you must spend receiving work instructions from people? Some clerical people are good at anticipating the instructions about to be given. Find out also whether the past positions were structured similarly to yours. social chitchat. What do you do when you have down time at work — those times when the work slows down? Please be specific. you may want to ask how the applicant has earned that level of independence in past jobs.

What sort of directions do you want from a supervisor or someone who delegates work to you? Do you like detailed instructions. assess the applicant’s need for delegation in light of the personalities on hand. this question will tell you a lot about the applicant’s ambition and integrity as well as their initiative. training manuals. the talents in your office. this question also deals with training issues. even in writing. or would you rather just know the highlights? Do you want them in writing? Some people want detailed instructions. some organizations allow.whether through formal education or work experience. and the complexity of the written material likely to be edited.For trainees. 7. or in response to a problem. “down” times should be used for self-study. When typing. try to clarify whether the applicant has received instructions from past supervisors regarding slow times. punctuation or syntax. Then. even encourage using it for personal pleasure. patience or ability to provide much training — thus it is importance to understand how fast and by what methods the applicant has become trained in the past. ask the applicant where he or she learned this skill -. Others figure they will “wing it”. You may not have the time. For others. what sorts of mistakes can you catch quickly and correct for the original writer? 54 . How much training and guidance did you receive in past jobs? A variation of question number 3 above. the clerical person must be a combination mind-reader and handwriting expert!) Business Writing/Editing 1. Some applicants are uncomfortable with too much “down” time because they want to use their talents better and grow more competent. it might be wise to supply a typical document and ask him or her to correct it or make suggestions for improvement. 5. Others may feel that using the slow times for personal business or pleasure is tantamount to stealing from the company. request or complaint from others? The clerical person who enjoys using initiative should have no trouble giving you at least a few of his/her best changes or ideas which were implemented. With follow up questions. 6. whether he or she needs written procedures. Assess their rewriting skill in light of the time available. 2. you can determine whether the applicant is a quick study”. How much rewriting do you usually do when working on someone’s proposal/report? If the answer indicates the ability to rewrite or correct grammar. spelling. (In some busy offices. Many clerical people must receive delegation orders from more than one supervisor. Was it completely selfgenerated. What is a creative idea or change you’ve successfully put to work in a recent assignment? Try to gauge whether the applicant’s idea really made a difference. However. or extensive training and hand-holding. If this is your situation. filling in the blanks as necessary.

many excellent applicants have agreements with their managers which allow them the latitude to rewrite or change documents independently. 3. 4. hostile people. How often have you had to deal with others’ (clients. What type of letters. this question may be best followed by a quick test to edit a typical report or memo. Does the applicant seem to have a sense of humor about it? Does be or she share which internal resources (patience. 55 . yet not back down too easily? Speak softly and refuse to argue? A little time spent on this question can pay you large dividends when you must choose a calm. assertiveness. etc. He or she then corrects minor mistakes and suggests possible changes. etc. callers. others sometimes explode in frustration or anger at a clerical employee. When typing a document. What happened? How did you handle it? This is a general question which looks at the unique stresses clerical people must face. What formats or form letters have you had experience working with? This question has two aspects. etc. regardless of whether it is “fair”. Handling Pressure 1. Ask the applicant to repeat both ends of a recent angry conversation. Try to elicit a situation which might happen in the new position: a tight deadline. Does the applicant appear to keep his/her cool? Listen well. which things do you feel comfortable changing without needing to check with the one who has assigned you the work? Which do you feel it’s necessary to ask about before changing or rewriting? The competent clerical person generally spots needed changes. if possible. 5. overwhelming workload. Second. Ask for examples and. can you set-up or write from scratch. relaxation. Give me a recent example of a situation you have faced when the “pressure” was on. memos. First. 6. please. you must decide whether their experience can be utilized in producing the correspondence in your office. yet assertive person.Again. However. positive “self talk”. bosses) anger or frustration? Give me an example of how you have handled upset people (on the phone or face-to-face). get the applicant to demonstrate how he or she would set up or “format” common documents in your office. How much writing have you done from incomplete instructions or notes? Give me some examples.) he/she used to deflect or cushion the pressure? Would those resources help in the new position? 2. Unfortunately. Match the answer to the type of instructions he or she is likely to encounter in your office. you may want to determine how fast he or she learned the formats as a yardstick in figuring how fast he or she could learn your particular approaches and systems.

Again. to others 40 is busy. and how he/she felt about that kind of pressure. Look for a simple system that is easy to communicate to others. How often did this type of thing happen? How do you handle it? 56 . personalities. what did you do to cope?” 4. How tight are the deadlines you have faced? Give me an example of a tight deadline you’ve faced recently. whether he/she tried to prevent or avoid them. Focus especially on the most common pressures in your own work environment. three phone lines is busy. 6. match the tight deadlines to those he/she is likely to face. What’s the busiest recent work situation you’ve worked under? How did you like it compared to other work situations? When did it become too busy? First. Producing within time constraints is the foundation of clerical success. (For some people. and whether he/she can bend without breaking. can the applicant effectively ask others (i. you will eventually discover how tough the applicant is under harassment or pressure. The answer to this question should reveal whether deadlines.3. how closely does that match common situations in your office? Follow up: “When it became too busy. how they react. managers and users) which priorities they wish him/her to follow? 2. Prioritizing Work 1. Be wary of elaborate systems for prioritizing work. Does he or she utilize procedures and policies as a shield against others? Humor? Assertiveness? Sarcasm? Follow up: “What if the person keeps pressuring you anyway?” If you pursue this question.e. and how to handle the stress. Look also for assertiveness. Follow up: “What would you (have you) done when others demanded that you stay late to finish a project?” 5. excessive work demands or other factors are most likely to make the candidate feel overwhelmed. In past work situations.) When the situation became too busy.. Find out how frequent the tight deadlines were. What system for prioritizing your work do you think works best? Clerical priorities can change with alarming speed. Probe to determine their reactions and what they did to overcome the pressures. Give me an example of a time when you had to juggle several things at once. you will want to match his/her idea of “busy” to yours. Have you ever had a situation when someone was pressuring you for their work to be completed? How did you handle it? This probes the applicant’s approach to a common situation. when have you felt most overwhelmed by work pressures? How did you react? Mature people know what stresses them. disorganization.

. Walk me through how you set up and complete a job specific assignment. However. Look for a calm. What are the most important trouble spots you anticipate? Can the applicant learn and anticipate typical trouble spots? Does he or she answer this question in general terms? Or does the candidate include very specific details when describing an assignment? Those who give you lots of details are most likely to be detail-oriented on the job. he or she cannot be attached to “owning” the more prestigious assignments. those who are in a position to decide alone should have no problem. Have you had assignments that had too many tiny details? (e. the clerical part of the job may be very small and most clerical assignments are by nature piecemeal.g. organizational position (managers first. and prioritizing according to ease of the assignment (easiest task first). 4. or just do a part of it? Why? The clerical person in many offices has to be able to do detailed work such as sorting names and statistics.Some clerical people are master jugglers. Would you rather be able to predict the work coming in. Have you ever had a situation when several people gave you assignments — all due very soon? How did you decide in what order to do them? Was that a successful approach to take? The most obvious answer is to go to one’s supervisor and ask for clarification of priorities. you will want to avoid the applicant with “tunnel vision”. not worrying over what might come in. ready answer to this question. they enjoy keeping several projects in the air at once. In your specialty (word processing. Orientation To Detail 1. purposeful. setting up forms). Give me an example.). He or she should speak confidently about assessing due dates. supervisors next. Look for an applicant who welcomes variety. 3. 57 . processing statistics. Look for a flexible attitude. data entry. etc. Those applicants who prefer to work every job through from beginning to end may be asking for frustration. etc. Those clerical people who want to predict and therefore control each day’s work are likely to be frustrated and under stress. or would you rather just take it as it comes? If you are hiring for a position which requires someone to look at “the big picture”. In fact. 3. and an ability to stay in the present moment. At the same time. do you prefer to see a project through from beginning to end. and does not express the perfectionist’s need to work on an assignment until it is over and done “right”. 2. categorizing material.).

to organize others and their work assignments and a liking for a busy job which usually has few major decisions or responsibilities in it. Look for an applicant who is willing. Feel free to ask for a demonstration of the applicant’s talents. they enjoy the hunt for the proverbial needle in the haystack. 3. knowledge and training have become more important. Follow up: “What is a comfortable amount for you of. Be wary of overqualified applicants who can do the job. Positives should include: the chance to serve others. but cannot conceive of being challenged by it. Negatives may include low pay. filing.) did you find already in place? Were they helpful? Specific enough for you? Detail-oriented people like to follow detailed procedures. detailed types. What are some of the positive things about working in the clerical field? What do you see as the drawbacks? Look for a realistic. 2. he or she often will be pleased to write better ones! Applicants who don’t seem to care about the procedures and rules of a job are less likely to be analytical.? Since the introduction of computers in clerical positions. etc. A person who wants to expand and advance in his or her career has an interest in learning new technologies. Career Goals 1. low prestige. people who say they enjoy an activity usually are able to do it well. instead. etc. In past work situations. clear-headed assessment from the applicant. If the procedures are not sufficient. He or she will ask for training and education because of a genuine interest. and who feels the positives outweigh the negatives. If necessary. to learn and has a track record of doing so. The real question is: Is the applicant comfortably on a career track. Do you enjoy proofreading or correcting other’s work? Why (or why not)? Proofreading is enjoyable work for detail-oriented persons. 5. How are you keeping up with the changes in software. not because it is required. what sorts of procedures for (data entry. look for an applicant who looks at the clerical field with his or her eyes open. or is he/she simply 58 . statistical typing?” 4. be suspicious of those applicants who profess to have a “five year plan” or similar long range goals. Following this through will help reveal areas where the applicant will be frustrated and ineffective with details on the job. ask about other detailed work in your office rather than proofreading.This question deals with the perception of what kind of work is “detailed”. and frequent pressure. technology. for example. software programs or new techniques. He or she is unlikely to be more than a temporary replacement. What are your ultimate career goals? How are you going about reaching them? Generally. You don’t necessarily need a lifelong commitment. if not eager.

If the applicant appreciates this question. How did you change the system or procedures you worked under in you last job? Well organized people usually enjoy arranging their own work as well as others. 5. Could it be accomplished at night or on weekends. Those who understand the joy of unselfish service to further others can genuinely thrive in those kinds of positions. Some people now see administrative support or clerical work as demeaning. 4. Other clerical positions are direct opportunities for individual. low status work. as in every job. this one requires organization. probe to discover how they plan to reach the goal. What keeps you challenged. he or she is more likely to be a winning choice. including the ability to anticipate needs and keep track of inventory. and therefore not interfere with the job? Try to understand how impatient the applicant is to reach his/her goals. If the applicant changed or tried to improve the system of organization. 2. for those whose skills are well matched to the job. The least risky applicants are those who are comfortable with their role and have enough self esteem to enjoy what they are good at doing. What were your responsibilities in terms of ordering or maintaining supplies? How did you keep track of that responsibility? Like any responsibility. he or she will be a good bet to help get your office organized. Those applicants who speak regretfully of the lack of challenge either need upgraded responsibilities or a new career. and the job affords the opportunity to provide service. How do you see it? Do you agree? “The world is as you see it. 3.taking jobs while waiting to discover what he/she would really like to do? Obviously.” Those who see clerical work this way will never be really comfortable with it. 6. the person who expresses career goals well out of line with your position is a greater risk. However. Listen for signs of a systematic approach. How much information did you have to locate? How did you keep track of it? 59 . This will give you a sense of how long their stay with you might be. one’s work seems remote from others. group and organizational service. What does service mean to you in this field? Some clerical positions demand little contact with others. Observe whether this question makes the applicant uncomfortable. as a clerical or administrative support person? Is it enough? Challenges exist in clerical jobs. Organization 1.

note whether the candidate analyzes the factors involved in an organized manner. find out what worked so well and why. It is not important that he/she is able to produce an immediate solution. and can institute a variety of changes which uniquely fit the situation. a primary responsibility is organizing others. Others find it difficult and tedious. 7. Find out how many of the systems were inherited and which ones the applicant set up. If you need to prompt their answer.This question can include responsibilities such as filing. How did you arrange your schedule and work to accomplish it? When the pressure is on. filing or other responsibilities. correspondence. 5. However. or if unable to do so. Match their skill with the need in your office. If you were managing the clerical operation. first find an area you would like to organize better. as well as organization skills. Give the applicant enough information to understand the problem fully. 6. One of our biggest problems has always been keeping track of. They will have all ready suggested and made changes. can your applicant juggle schedules and priorities to meet a deadline? This question will help you assess his/her flexibility and creativity. get a feel for the applicant’s interest and confidence in the topic. and how the same ideas could be transferred to the unique circumstances in your office. charts and statistics.or merely tolerates? 4. and seems able to use experience and creativity to propose solutions. What is the most technical assignment you have had to organize? What part of it was easiest for you? Which part was most difficult? Some people find it easy to organize graphs. Internal Relations 60 . What suggestions or ideas do you have for improving this? To ask this question. your boss. asks penetrating questions. and updating lists.) For secretaries and many other clerical employees. phone messages. They have the ability to evaluate another’s habits. what changes would you have made in your job/department? Well-organized people usually have no trouble with this question. will have mapped them out mentally. If the applicant says the operation was already well-organized. Did the applicant have to coordinate with others to accomplish the deadline? Probe to determine the ability to cooperate with others to organize time and materials. using the computer. Give me an example of a recent time when you had to reorganize things to meet a tight deadline. Follow up: What is an example of something you have organized well away from work? 8. Does it seem to be something he or she enjoys . ask about workflow. What have you done that has organized others? (For example. The best clerical people accomplish this responsibility with good-humor. As you hear the answer.

Give me an example of a recent conflict situation with a co-worker that you were. Give me an example of the kind of thing you have had to keep confidential. Try to nail down the specific irritants or personality types in question and what the candidate did to cope successfully. Then. What things are personal and should not be brought to work? Which are O. match to the personalities he/she will have to deal with in your situation. What was your part in it? Hear the story and get all the facts before you make a judgment. co-worker) did you find hardest to work with? What did they do that bothered you? Some clerical positions require a talent for interacting successfully with a large variety of personalities. How well did you get to know the people you have worked with in the past? Do you usually socialize with them away from the job. 4. This question will help you find out where the applicant draws the line. or to withdraw? Note the candidate’s tone when describing the conflict. try to get another example from the applicant. Does the conflict sound petty? Avoidable? What actions did the applicant take to overcome the conflict? Is he/she more likely during conflict to become aggressive. When was it most difficult to keep that confidence? Alternate questions: “Has your ability to keep confidences or secrets at work been tested? Give me an example. Is he/she the kind of person who builds relationships with others? Follow up: “When do you feel socializing at work goes too far?” Is your applicant the kind who always knows whose birthday it is and organizes the party? 5.1. to discuss? Everyone has an opinion whether “personal life” or personal problems” should be brought to work. and whether he/she discriminates between gossip and harmless social talk. does their standard fit your office’s standard? 2. Is it vengeful? Regretful? Hostile? If in doubt. Which sort of manager (tenant. 3. assertive. involved in. 61 .” Also: “Has management ever trusted you with confidence that others wanted to know?” And: “How do you handle the office grapevine? When do you think it gets out of control?” All these questions will help assess what others have trusted the applicant to keep in confidence.K. Is there a line? Most importantly. too? This question gets at the extent of on and off-the-job socializing your applicant is likely to do..

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