333 HELPFUL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
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?
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
Probe to determine whether the applicant has received what is needed in a past position. an exercise program. this may mean he/she is a perfectionist and dislikes letting go of their work. Finally. what was most likely to create stress for you? For example. An applicant of this nature may be steady. Can your position supply the situation they desire? 6. probe to determine what he or she has learned to do to reinterpret work pressures or shield him or herself from them. 8. Off the job. a tough deadline? Juggling priorities? Meeting others’ expectations? Why? The items stated indicate an important aspect of the candidate’s personality. Probe as to what about the situation was stressful. Give me an example of what an organization/management should do to cushion or prevent the effects of stress from a job. if an applicant says “meeting deadlines”.) 3. making them resentful of management. The best employees know this adrenaline surge well and welcome it. 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. 4. meditation or other methods. (For example. involvement in decisions or better supervision. 7. Try to find out what about that job responsibility they anticipate will be troublesome. it may mean they are somewhat unorganized. 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. 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. Could your organization supply these things? 5. On the other hand. How do you handle the need to juggle priorities or projects? What have you done to accomplish this?
. The aspect they state is most likely what they fear being able to handle. Be suspicious of answers such as “supply enough staff” or “give us more picnics and social time.” On the other hand. more irritations occurring or working faster with less enjoyment. see if your applicant has counterbalancing factors to cushion job stress. reasonable answers might include suggestions about break times. the support of friends. working conditions. If your applicant claims that the pressure never affects the work. For example. it may simply mean they are not receiving the help from others they deserve on the job. Some people never feel this kind of stress at work.methods. Which situations have made you feel pleasantly stressed or excited at work? Give me an example please. In a past job.
Look for experiences that are available through the position you are filling. be empathic and ask simple follow-up questions such as “why”. 11. 3. Find out whether factors were involved which were unique to past jobs. raises and organizational culture. In all of your jobs. salary. Watch closely whether the candidate seems truly to have faced and won the “burn out” baffle. a better “to do” list. training. not how and when. benefits. Make sure the “excitement” can be generated again by factors within your current control. Those candidates who seem not to care may be unfeeling — on the other hand. 9. but keep your ears open for possible patterns of sickness. 10. for example? Better skills (such as increased assertiveness of an ability to manage upward”)? New values (learning to ‘roll with the punches”. Beware of those candidates who seem to care too deeply.Many applicants have had to face this sort of stress before. even those right out of college. turnover is a fact of organizational life. disability. supervision. (Some organizations inhibit real motivation in all but the most internally-motivated. 2. substance abuse. What has made you feel excited about coming to work? When have you felt down or unfulfilled by a job? Probe for clear examples. What do you need from an organization to feel motivated?
Get specific answers which might include: working conditions. lateness. Work pressures can often place pressure on life at home. Motivation 1. which gave you the most meaningful experiences? Why?
Ask follow-up questions to determine why they were meaningful. 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. they may have built up an internal mechanism which allows them to “block out” organizational stresses and still be productive. too. emotional upheaval. Look for a person who understands stress. and ‘please tell me about that. and has developed a healthy coping strategy through research and selfdiscovery.” Be careful of discriminatory questions.) 5
. etc. How have you handled this? Your best strategy here is to listen. 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. Has the applicant responded by developing new techniques. 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.
if the answer puts success in terms of power. Try to discover how the job applied for will lead the applicant to his or her success goals. 7. 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. happy employee of your organization. friendly people. he or she is. For the nonmanagement employee. If he/she discusses situations when others recognized their work and he/she received status or position. If he/she discusses wages. money. the applicant will not be happy for long in most low-paying. If he/she recalls times when they worked among talented. Does your applicant understand this? Does he or she take some responsibility for motivation? 6. 5. the candidate will be unlikely to become a long-term. Importantly. you will be able to motivate him/her best through peer pressure and the “team” concept. security is the candidate’s biggest concern. it will often reveal the extent to which the applicant is self-directed as opposed to those who wait for others to motivate them. For example. non-exempt positions. of being at a dead end. telling you what he or she wants. as well as others. prestige or influence. What should a manager do to motivate others? Why does it sometimes fail? This question can be used to interview supervisors and managers.4. and many factors are beyond the manager’s control. Most applicants open up when describing someone else. When the applicant tells you what the manager should do. learning and increased responsibility. if the candidate speaks about work that was challenging and that provided growth. of “that’s what I’m best at!” Watch out for a feeling of resignation. 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. If he or she is unclear about this. benefits and a “steady” job situation. your applicant may need a good bit of help with his or her self esteem. The manager’s efforts sometimes fail because ultimately. 8. 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. Obviously. this question will help you determine what you cannot expect from the candidate if he/she is hired. When has your morale been the highest at work? Why? The answer should reveal what will motivate the candidate. you must determine if the job available matches the motivational need revealed. he or she must receive them through an interesting job well-suited to his or her talents. Goal Orientation 6
. of course. Finally. each employee must motivate himself or herself.
this situation will be almost intolerable. Highly goal-oriented individuals may speak in terms of being given procedures. unrealistic for certain jobs and leads to quotas.B. Is the applicant results-oriented? Determine how detailed the goals are and whether they seem realistic.1. forces. Do you think M. they are uncomfortable with the accountability that M. Management by Objectives. demanding work atmospheres. How do you monitor the progress of assignments and projects? 7
. they may speak about being unfairly treated. 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. They are uncomfortable in ambiguous. works? How do you adjust to working under a goal setting program? M. The very goal-oriented applicants should adjust easily it to it and will help make it a success. Others may feel it is restrictive. placing each piece of a puzzle in front of them. Please describe how you set and measure your work goals..O. which one required the fastest actions or decisions? How did you feel in those situations? Please describe one. step-bystep. The extremely goal-oriented candidates set their own goals without waiting for others to instruct them.O. they usually set goals for non-work activities as well.O. regular updates. 3. For others. and accountability with enough authority.B. 5. He or she will relate how hard they fought to overcome the situation. discussing. measurable and specific. and which activities make them feel productive. Most important.B. Of your recent jobs. can your candidate find more than one way to accomplish his/her goals? 6. goals. and will speak about what he or she was able to accomplish anyway. requires much planning. some people give up. 4. This question should help you discover how fast the applicant prefers to move toward a goal. Some goal-oriented people are methodical. monitoring and adjusting of goals and objectives to succeed. Describe which job and which manager got the most out of your potential. Have you ever suggested ideas which were not accepted by management? What were they? What did you do then? When ideas are not accepted. measuring tools. 7. Does the candidate fit this profile? 2. Others reintroduce them in a better package or find ways to accomplish their goals which avoid a ‘sales job” to management. What made that situation so productive? This question allows the applicant to tell you how they like to be managed. In fact. In other words. until the whole picture is assembled. but their primary regret will not be that they were unable to achieve a goal.
2. progress reports. Listen for what is volunteered. Does the candidate use methods such as project boards. car troubles. When do you feel it is necessary to work overtime? Please give me examples from recent jobs. What the applicant presents as “fair” will be a standard or policy which would allow them to avoid trouble. If factors other than illness are offered.Goal-oriented people often accomplish a lot not only because they have a destination. Probe to find out how severe the symptoms of an illness were and how often they occurred. You could count on that person to regularly arrive a few minutes late in the morning. Ask for their reaction. “tickler” files. you should feel comfortable giving the candidate a realistic estimate of the amount of overtime the new position might require. 3. Be sympathetic and act unsurprised by any answer. For example. and watch for signs of hidden disagreements. give me some examples of things that made it necessary for you not to come to work a day or longer. 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. to “I never feel it is necessary”. follow-up to see whether they are still present. follow-up with question #5 below. what obstacles have you had to overcome to get to work on time? Candidates may tell you about their day care arrangements. 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?
. By probing. For example. your responses should show the applicant that it is easy to share these reasons with you and that you won’t judge them harshly. 5. 4. In your last few jobs. a person may offer. If necessary. traffic or other problems. but also because they constantly measure the progress of their journey. Keep the conversation away from the personal. you can determine how serious the problems are. What do you feel is a fair lateness standard to hold employees to? For instance. and whether they are likely to prevent good attendance and punctuality. Followup to determine the reasons for their answers. Answers may range from “whenever my supervisor asks”. “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”. In your last job. do they have family obligations? Another job? A carpool? After their answer is clear. or simple reminder notes to keep track of his or her accomplishments? Attendance/Punctuality 1.
4. Surprisingly. or a day you create for yourself? Why? Often. or more abstract? 3. Have you ever been assigned several important projects at roughly the same time? How did you go about setting priorities for your time? 9
. 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. money or energy. 2. is the idea a synthesis of old approaches. The answer should sound realistic and well organized. ask for a more recent example. some applicants are more creative under very structured conditions because their creativity is stimulated when bordered by time pressures. The applicant generally assumes the interviewer may call the past manager and that he or she should therefore be truthful. or truly new? Is it a practical idea. innovative people like to “free lance” their way through a day. (This will help you know what their new manager should do to maximize the applicant’s creativity. what would it be? Job innovation depends partly upon a clear-eyed assessment of traditional. Please tell me a great idea you have seen in your field recently. or whether it was selfgenerated. Follow up: Would the manager tell me you were dependable? How did you demonstrate that dependability through you attendance/punctuality? Creativity and Innovation 1.Variations of this question have been used for many years by interviewers. If you could change one thing which is inefficient at your current job. Did these examples have a long-lasting impact? Did others benefit from them? Problem Solving / Analytical Skills 1. Why was it unique? The idea cited will reveal something about the applicant’s measuring stick for creativity. Match the applicant’s answers with their likely work day in the new position. preferring not to be tied down by a restricted schedule. 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. For example.) If the example cited is more than a few years old. and the applicant should become energized when describing it. too. truly creative people enjoy presenting new ideas. Which have you preferred to work with — a set. planned day. Use follow-up questions to determine if this is a cover to hide a disorganized approach to the work day. routine methods. Applicants who struggle with this question or who offer trivial changes are unlikely to create innovations which save you time.
for example. What information or technical support has helped you succeed on the job? (For example.) Which have you created on your own to make things more efficient? This question will help determine the applicant’s need to “systemize” work. procedures. the job search is a problem like any other business problem. Probe to find out the methods used to analyze the problem and the questions the applicant had to answer to arrive at possible solutions. ask for examples of why and how they were worthwhile structures or procedures. The applicant might consider factors such as the impact on production. This self-description question can be very revealing. Some applicants have a high need for “structural” support — if a system isn’t in place. 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. Notice whether the applicant takes responsibility for creating a solution. 6. Some applicants will describe their training or education. delivery date.Look for an answer that demonstrates an analytical process. 5. procedures to prevent its constant reoccurrence. Applicants will usually describe their problem solving ability in terms or either. a “people” problem or a “hard data” problem of facts and statistics. (b) abstract (the ability to analyze and organize ideas and concepts). they analyze the need for one and begin designing forms. If they were satisfied with organizational structures in place. etc. or (c) creative problem-solving (formulating new approaches. what change they initiated and what the results were. procedures. What kinds of problems do you feel you are uniquely qualified to solve? Give me an example of how you have demonstrated this. An analytical applicant might have analyzed the situation as a problem and recommended. or at least thought about. Why did you choose that method rather than another solution? The applicant should explain how he/she identified the real problem. goals. Please describe your current approach to searching for employment. etc. others what experience has taught them. If they create such a structure. or simply blames the system. (a) concrete skills (“give me the pieces of the puzzle and I’ll put them together for you”). The applicant must first set a goal or intended result. others’ expectations. 4. and organizational politics. analyze various factors and take the initiative to advance various courses of action.
In one sense. What has been a stubborn or recurring problem which you would have liked to solve in your current job — but haven’t yet? 10
. perhaps innovating on-the-spot solutions). acquire data. 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. probe to find out what the initial problems were. 2. deadlines. Look for a problem situation analogous tones he/she might face in the new position. Give me an example of a difficult decision you had to make at your last job? How did you solve it? Follow up. 3. standardized forms.
Then match the answers to the authority allowed in the new position. He or she will genuinely be challenged by the problem. As a follow-up. Look for tenacity and determination in discussing a possible solution. Career Ambitions 1. When the facts are all in. 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. notice whether the applicant’s presentation of the problem is orderly and systematic.Look for an orderly examination of the problem into its component parts. 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. Finally. ask him/her how they have since guarded against those kinds of errors. determine what he or she learned from the experience. Finally. No problem solver makes the right judgment every time. This question makes it clear how much leeway the applicant had or has to make decisions. Assess whether he or she took a calculated risk. Would a “shoot from the hip” approach work best. 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. Ask whether he or she would like more authority. What methods do you use to make decisions? Please give me an example of your approach. the process an individual wants to follow might not match the reality of what he/she actually does. Watch out for a tendency to blame others rather than accepting responsibility to work within the limits of the problem variables. What process do you follow in solving problems? Consider the problems your candidate might face in the position. and even enjoy discussing the problem and the various “blind alleys” traveled to solve it. 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. or a more careful structured one? Ask for an example to illustrate the approach discussed. An applicant with highly developed analytical skills should be able to answer this question easily. 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?
. 8. or simply made an unthinking blunder.
Be careful to listen and probe. At this stage of your life.Center their answers on past experiences. The achievements presented are quick guides to what the candidate wants out of his or her career. Be firm that they honestly tell you their expectations before you predict how much is possible. still others will describe what their manager or co-workers didn’t have or didn’t supply. 6. 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. the activities they describe first. Give me an example of when you have outgrown previous jobs and knew it was time to move on. and with enthusiasm. others about feeling “stuck”. A year or eighteen months from now. Ideally.e. 4. study their reactions. 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. do they seem fearful? Confident? Confused? What does this tell you about them? 5. a lack of confusion. 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. etc. Avoid the “cat and mouse game” about money. If they are overly ambitious and have unrealistic ambitions. 3. Describe the ideal work day for you. Make sure their past experiences reflect realistic expectations. specific responsibilities.their families. 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. You are safest if they have more than a “feeling” of what they want — i. expect trouble — unless they have a real plan to get where they expect to go. rather than a complaint about what was lacking.
. Some applicants will talk about money. Generally. 2. will be those they are best at. 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. activities and interactions. As they describe what they will be doing. and confidence about the change. ages. but don’t ask discriminatory questions. tasks. 7. How did you know it was time? This important question will reveal their values. Look for consistent reasons to leave each job. what do you need to support your professional growth? Personal growth? This question will often give you information about applicant’s personal lives -..
as well as opportunities for training and guidance. 2. knowledge and abilities are needed in the job. Also. Give me an example of a situation at your previous employer when others knew more than you. Does your applicant perceive this need? Does he/she seek knowledge through a variety of sources – for example. How did you close the gap? The self-motivated person will close the gap by self-study and asking questions of qualified people. information) in your field? For many jobs. This question also allows you to find out how well the applicant understands what skills. but will work long hours to catch up. make sure how he/she understands the term the way you do. 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 do you keep up with the changes in technology (terminology. and conventions? Follow up with questions concerning new technology or techniques in your field. Follow up: “How do you see this job allowing you to develop in those ways?” 10. self-study. 9. 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. each job leading neatly to the one in front of it. If the applicant asks for ‘training”. or in-house seminars?
.8. a sharp-thinking applicant can assess what talents and skills he or she can bring from past experiences to apply to a new position. Regardless of the career path taken. Ask specific questions to determine what the applicant did without organizational support. you should hear how motivated he/she is to attend classes or learn through self-study. training and education are necessities. 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. surprised at the twists and turns they must negotiate. books. Does the applicant seem aware of them and speak about them knowledgeably? 3. Does it mean outside classroom learning. How have your past jobs prepared you for this one? Some candidates see their careers as a steady progression. as well as through formal channels. He or she will ask for extra help. Others move through their careers. on-the-job training. In what areas would you like to develop further? The areas cited may be potential trouble areas. If you could acquire one skill or bit of job knowledge. periodicals.
3. “Can you give me an example of how you’ve demonstrated that at your last position?” Generally. These answers are indicative of applicants who are oriented to external standards. Again. 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. and how formal. In a past job. or more “people-oriented”?) 6. “My manager lets me know”. use follow-up questions to determine how the applicant went about learning. 2. 5. How do you know you’re doing a good job? Possible answers conclude. it is part of your job to clarify this issue in the interview and later. how thorough he/she expects the training to be. Ask follow up questions. Which courses gave you trouble in school? Which came easily? This simple question works best for younger applicants whose school experience is still fresh. especially when the knowledge wasn’t readily available through his/her company. Try to ascertain whether the applicant is confident about learning and. For example. 7. of equal importance. what could we count on you for without fail? Watch carefully what the applicant speaks clearly and confidently about. if the applicant says. whether he/she is making an estimate based on experience and knowledge. How soon could you learn this job well enough to become productive and valuable to us? Much learning depends on confidence and commitment. “to give-you my best every day”. it may mean they are unsure of their own dependability. Dependability 1. Probe extensively as to which areas the applicant wants to be trained in. (Is he/she “number-oriented”.goals which they set for themselves over and beyond the job demands. a simple “Why?” question will reveal how the applicant sees his/her natural abilities and aptitudes. the more concrete and confident their announced commitment. upon hiring. If we hired you. did you ever have to alter your standards to meet your companies'? When? Why? What did you do about it? 14
. some applicants have no idea of what training they will need. or “the work gets out on time”. What would you expect from us to get you oriented or trained? Expectations which are not met can lead to disappointment on both sides. or whether it is simply a guess meant to impress you. the more you can be certain of it. However. If applicants are unable to answer this question easily. After finding the answer. Of course.4. this will give you an idea whether your applicant can learn quickly. Internally motivated applicants might talk about their own standards . you might ask.
and who else deemed it as excellent. and who succeeded at reaching them. Try to get an idea of the actual impact on their organization of the example they give. or still is. better. sometimes doing it “too perfectly” leads to work problems. It’s important to understand what might happen when you do. 7. What did they want? What did you do? Consider two aspects: First. how did the applicant handle it? Did he or she try to negotiate? Rise to the occasion? Sabotage? Odds are. What is an example of something you’ve done that showed your most excellent performance? Be specific. but watch out for self-righteousness. or in your past job. 6. stubborn and resentful about the adjustment. the time frame within which it was accomplished. 5. Most of us have discovered that an organization or manager demanded more than we were accustomed to producing. more accurate results. Give me an example of a time when your manager or others in your company placed excessive demands on you. faster. 4. too. it is a quality which will wear thin very quickly on the job. unless your applicant is a true superstar. what the applicant deems “excessive. What did you expect of yourself in your last job? In what ways did it differ from what your manager expected of you?
. and therefore what they would aspire to at their best. An applicant who admits his standards needed to be raised. 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. If you were a manager here. probe to find out whether the company seemed justified and whether the applicant was. it almost surely was the case in one or more jobs. is most likely an employee who can be coached and challenged to produce. However. He or she may have been very justified in resisting. An applicant who lowered his standards to meet his company’s way has learned a valuable lesson.Very few applicants will tell you their company’s high standards were in conflict with their low ones.” Does it sound out of line? Can you imagine yourself asking for something similar? Second. Their answer to this question will generally indicate their highest ideal of what they feel others can produce. or a new attention to service or quality. However. This gives applicants an opportunity to “fire their best shot”. you will also place “excessive” demands on the applicant at times on the job.
These contributions reflect what the candidate feels proud about accomplishing. What results were you expected to accomplish in your last job? How were they measured? Some individuals are oriented to results. Flexibility 1. In other words. or blame management for being unclear regarding results. 8. The resultsoriented person will try to set their own standards. assess how well the applicant sizes up “success” with minimal information about the position. easily determined measures. if necessary. “in working with others” or “in selfdevelopment. you may then obtain some revealing answers. If the candidate blames management. and an “educated guess” concerning the position applied for. Please give me an example of a time when management would not allow you to take a necessary action. Other applicants will answer vaguely. regardless of management’s approach. Give prompters. specific and clear-cut.) 16
. 11. this one will help to elicit a clear description of the applicant’s own standards. such as “in the area of working hours”. and confidently. What do you think an employee owes his/her company? If you get clichés or vague answers. don’t accept them. The results they describe will be measurable. such as “to be at work everyday ready to do her best”. in a very specific way. another change in procedures or operations. However. Ask for examples to demonstrate the generalities. and what areas he/she perhaps would feel confident in at your organization.” If you reinforce the applicant’s first few statements. probe to uncover exactly how significant the contributions were. “in accuracy”. (For example. try to determine what results he/she set on their own. 10. What the applicant feels employees owe a company usually is very similar to what you can expect the applicant to give your organization.A variation of question three. one of the contributions may describe volume of work. how the organization recognized them at the time. regardless of their content. What were your three most impressive tangible contributions to your company? The contributions the applicant lists unavoidably reflect his/her values and standards. and what long-lasting impact they had. Look for specific. as well as their understanding of the importance of clear goals and measures. 9. a change in work procedures. even though you felt it was necessary to do so. For example. they will answer this question quickly. 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. and still another money-saving idea.
Attention to Detail and Time Usage 1.Does the applicant speak about the situation with anger? Resignation? Find out if the applicant resisted management — if so. how did he/she react? Notice whether this common situation seems to make the applicant uncomfortable. 3. and what does this tell you about his/her flexibility? 6. Among them: ask management for the reasons and argue his/her case. overtly or covertly. After you have clearly understood the example. you will need to assess whether this demonstrates unwarranted impatience or inflexibility. Have you ever had to make a decision before you had all the data you wanted? Give me an example. 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. find out how quickly the applicant accepted the changes and tried to understand the reasons for them. accepted them and tried to make them work. leave the organization. Ask also if he/she tried to find out the reasons for the changes. 5. 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. accept the directive quietly and smolder silently. Has a policy or directive come down with which you really disagreed? What did you do? If the applicant experienced this situation. Have you worked in an organization which changed its policies or procedures frequently? How did you deal with that? Look for the person who. engage in sabotage.
. Organization. What did you do? When the applicant was faced with a quick decision and insufficient data. If the applicant expresses anger or disgust with the changes. How did the applicant react. was it appropriately assertive without being divisive? 2. while not necessarily pleased with the changes. find co-workers who also disagree and organize a protest. 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. 4. he/she had many options. Give me an example of a time when you were given tasks to accomplish without advance warning.
When your past managers have given you projects to do. monitor the results and follow through. This question will also unearth an applicant’s confidence and ability to take initiative with new projects. If the job involved coordinating with people in other departments. schedules. What they would like to “give away” is what they typically will avoid doing for you when they have to make a choice. Find out whether the applicant set up internal controls. internal deadlines and interim meetings. 2. 5. 7. They are often detail-oriented. Others see the big picture — they are comfortable strategizing the result and assigning resources to the project. get specific examples of how they have gone about it. such as “tickler files”. this sort of applicant may tackle too many projects to get them all completed. the roles various people took. 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. Applicants who are especially detail-oriented need to be given lots of direction and data when a manager delegates to them. find out the degree to which they are willing to give others authority to make decisions. How do you keep track of your own paperwork. 18
. 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. 3. 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. They will not be comfortable in linear. planning before the meeting. how much information and direction did they usually give you? Give me an example of what seemed to be the right amount for you. etc? Please be specific. Only a few people can truly succeed at both planning and executing the plan. If they are managers. Would you rather formulate a plan or carry it out? Why? Give me an example of a plan you have implemented. They are uncomfortable with managers who are oriented only to the “big picture. Some people are “doers” — they like to be given a task to do and they’ll make it happen. and a meeting that started and ended punctually. to delegate necessary tasks. If an applicant tells you he/she likes to control both planning and execution. 6. If your position requires the ability to juggle priorities and be flexible. This question is a good lead-in to discussing the applicant’s organizational methods. it may be a good match. 4.This question will often unearth the applicant’s awareness of details. However. the agenda. Probe for their ability to draw help from others. determine how the applicant obtained agreements and held others to their time and quality commitments. routine jobs. but less effective at doing follow through on the specific tasks to make it a success. A detail-oriented person might describe the seating. and may be easily interrupted.” unless they are given time to do a job well in an atmosphere of trust.
what’s important is that they have established their own workable approach and sound confident of its success. detailed approach to the work. They will begin work early so it can be done “right. we all waste time. They will do the job “right” if it contains a lot of details. 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.” 9. 10. see whether the busy day actually sounds busy to you. Describe a busy day at your last job. Those who would rather write memos often prefer a structured.It doesn’t matter a great deal how the applicant keeps track. 8. he/she will volunteer examples quickly. see how excitedly or readily the applicant volunteers the answer. Of course. They may not take the time to do the detail work necessary to fully complete some jobs. However some individuals know how to minimize the time wastes and consciously give attention to improving their time usage. In addition. How do you organize a day like that?
First. What did you do the day before yesterday?
. when and how did you approach getting it done? Perfectionists typically will be uncomfortable waiting to begin a project. if something wasn’t due for several weeks. In your last job. You can count on them to communicate all the information and to document their efforts. and whether the applicant had a system to monitor the project which prevented details from being lost. Those who are well-organized will usually be pleased to share their systems with you. 14.
Note the extent of detail in the answer. Describe how you handled the details of your last major 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. 12. If so. 13. look for an applicant who seems comfortable with his/her productivity regardless of occasional time wasters. Next. The truth is. Did the applicant depend on others to handle details? Did he/she track details with the computer? Write extensive documentation? 11. you’ll have to judge if their systems will add to or detract from the ones you presently have in place.” Other applicants will wait until they “really need to do it. Where do you waste most of your time (when you do)? Accept almost any answer if the applicant seems honest and forthright.
What sorts of things do you feel are important for an employee to share with a manager? And vice versa? First. They may “hop” from one demand to another. What kind of performance feedback do you want and how often would you like it?
. 4. etc. you will want to understand the manager who will be communicating with the person to be hired. If he or she seems unafraid 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. Well-organized applicants set priorities according to an orderly system and allow for normal interruptions. gossip. What does he/she want to share and want to hear? Match the applicant’s answers. Does he/she depend on a set. you will need to discuss typical personalities he/she will have to deal with in the position. 16. you will want to evaluate the applicant’s toughness and assertiveness. organized approach to monitor needed items? Does he/she seem to have a good grasp of which items need attention? Interpersonal Communication Skills 1. and find out the applicant’s reaction to them. 3.This is an old-fashioned interview question which may or may not yield reliable data. you have got an overly aggressive person. even vital to success. etc. Give me an example of the kind of co-worker (manager. you can assume the applicant is assertive. 15. Does the expectation involve inappropriate guidance. In addition. And if he/she attempts to win (and make the boss lose). customer.? 2. If the applicant expresses dislike of open disagreement. he/she may be more passive. For example. Some believe that well-organized people can easily remember and that others will not. if very aggressive people bother him/her. or do whatever catches their eye next. and tries to solve the problem constructively. genuinely refuses to blame. counseling.] Assertive people see disagreement as healthy. in a past job.) 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. 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. 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. When.
How much of your personal life do you typically share with others at work? Where do you draw the line? Obviously. Name one recent success you’ve had in dealing with (a patient. 7. when and how does he/she want to hear it? 5. 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. The employee must be willing to hear criticism and even ask for it on occasion. Probe to uncover whether the applicant made an honest attempt to adjust his/her style to make the relationship work. 6. this is a judgment every employee must make.”) This question will help you determine how self-aware the applicant is. and in part. etc. vendor. Follow-up: “How do you change when the group is composed of people you don’t know well?” 21
. Can you describe the person or people you got along with best at XYZ Company? A variation of question 2 above. customer. (“I was really just trying to help her”. “chatty” environment. 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. what he/she feels “success” means in interpersonal relations. Does the applicant know how to listen to other’s needs and vary their approach accordingly? 8. “I get along with people who just do the job and don’t chatter a lot”. Don’t be reluctant to ask for specifics. an applicant who says. 10. 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.) How did you accomplish it? In describing their success.Open communication is a two-way street. Assure the applicant that there is no “right” answer. applicants will usually describe how they view themselves in relation to others. 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. or “I kept my cool no matter what he said. 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. this one focuses on the applicant’s willingness and skill at mending relationships at work. could be unhappy in an extremely personal. Listen well and you should get a good picture of the typical pattern of behavior in a group situation. you may be living with their “personal” life for a long time. 9.
etc. However. he or she will tell you what skills or traits come easily to bear upon conflict situations. work load. Does your applicant seem to want total availability? To be able to get appointments or meetings with the boss? Again. They know that future productivity depends upon good relationships. or criticisms over a certain part of their work? Is timing an issue? Proof? Finally. match the applicant’s need with the manager’s openness and availability. When you’ve been criticized at work.)?
Conflict 1. Probe particularly how they have done this with management. etc. does your applicant go on the 22
. 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 you convinced? Do they seem to understand what management expects from an employee (dependability.11. expectations. notice how the applicant treats the emotions involved — were they discussed and acknowledged. 12. Ask why he/she was able to handle those people and situations easily.) or the type of personality which made it so difficult? 3. Was it the situation (time factors. try to gauge the candidate’s sensitivity to criticism. Typically. 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. From the answers given. it is also a vehicle to improve one’s performance when we can learn from the criticism. 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. Give me an example of a recent situation when you disagreed with someone on the job. working conditions. Probe the difficult situation to learn more. 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. 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. When you have started new jobs. 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. Ask follow-up questions to determine whether the example cited is representative. or disregarded as not important? 2. punctuality. Are they defensive about any criticism. and then attempt to find a long-lasting solution? Finally. flexibility.
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. 6. 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. 8. get the applicant to demonstrate what he or she said. If possible. openness. Others look for a “dad or mom” to bail them out. your candidate may speak softly. co-workers. If the applicant had a good “cause”. 7. Probe the example. 5. Look at your own organization to determine whether you truly tolerate unpopular stands. What is the most unpopular stand you have taken? Please describe. 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. and a commitment to solving the problem. or paraphrase the other person’s argument. Those who are more mature generally don’t need or want help solving conflicts. vendors. listening. For example. how did he or she deal with criticism and unresponsiveness. or silently withdraw? Ask lots of questions about this issue if your candidate is inexperienced or if their manager is the critical type.counter-attack. rather that to attacking the person. you will find out the most by pursuing a reallife example. As always. etc. When (customers. Alternately. 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. 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. he or she may try to provide quick answers and easily get hooked into an argument. keep silent. 4. Cooperation
. 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. Try to put yourself in the place of the other person.) get angry at you. Listen for signs of inappropriate blaming and self-righteousness.
loyalty and cooperation. they are sensitive to issues of timing. Examples may range from emotional support to providing physical. please. to their possible manager’s problem-solving style. achieving consensus decisions. How did you get cooperation? Can the candidate enlist the cooperation of others? Look for a knowledge of team functioning for example. By discussing their answer thoroughly. This question addresses the issue of the applicant’s ability to cooperate with his/her boss. Which problems do you feel are appropriate to bring to your manager? Give me an example.
. Others are creative bargainers. of how you usually approach a manager with a problem. which later may be used to get work done. Give me an example of a time you had to take the lead with your work group to get a task done. 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. customers?) Give me an example? Some people are skilled at building and maintaining friendships. Management has to perform very poorly for them to become uncooperative. it is a fair bet he/she can obtain cooperation when necessary. goals and objectives. Some applicants look at the manager as someone whom they want to cooperate with to solve problems beyond their expertise or authority. and working through conflict positively. Others expect management to earn their respect. Does your applicant seem to have conscious approach? Does he/she speak positively of their experiences in this regard? If so. recognizing team member’s contributions. listening well. Finally. 5.1. setting clear plans. Match their answer. How do you get cooperation from other departments? (Vendors. you can learn the applicant’s expectations for giving loyalty and cooperation to an organization. suppliers. Others see the manager more as someone to be “bothered” with problems only as a last resort. psychological. How much did the applicant offer that was not already expected? Find out why the applicant chose to offer support. documented facts. of course. Does he/she support those who are not personal friends? Was the support an aid to the organization. or knowledge assistance. They also provide suggested solutions whenever possible. the importance of setting an example. 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. personality and presentation of the problem (should it be in writing or presented verbally?). Cooperative employees bring problems in with clear. as well as to the individual? 2. Does the applicant’s answer sound convincing? Can you imagine other’s following him/her confidently? 4.
more fun. 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.
. 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. Ask lots of “why’s” and “what do you mean’s”. others creative brainstorming.) 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. A candidate who hasn’t evolved a successful decision-making approach will be a certain risk. more spirit. etc. 8. however. higher expertise. the “team-oriented” individual prefers teams for a positive reason (better creativity. Try to determine. and match to the management style of their future manager. step-by-step analytical decision maker? Or does he or she go by the “gut feeling”? Some decisions require careful research. 2. What do you require from a boss? A simple question which may yield crucial answers.6. Remember that a manager must make many quick decisions every day and live with the consequences. Describe your approach to making decisions and solving problems. 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. more anonymity. 7. 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. inability to set and maintain individual standards or plans). 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. Why do you do it this way? Is the applicant a careful.
What did you do?
Many terrific decisions and plans rot on the vine of poor follow-through. find out how the candidate would have approached the situation given more time. Was it arrived at through a structured process — or through intuition? Through group 26
. When you recommend something to management. He/she will never collect enough data. even thrives upon the pressurized atmosphere of management. where possible. Probe to discover where the pressure was coming from -. 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. 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”.3. does he/she know when and how to “manage upward?” 4. what approach do you usually use? Give me a recent example. and whether the candidate was sensitive to selling benefits and meeting potential objections. with timetables and checkpoints. Also. Get an example of a creative solution. Probe for specific examples of the kind of decisions allowed. Their egos allow them to give power to employees. Probe for factors such as awareness of proper timing. Describe a recent time when you had to implement one of your decisions. and sets priorities and objectives to organize the research effort. Notice whether subordinates are assigned the details and held accountable for them. Did the candidate know when to back off? When to push? In short. 5. budget. Notice whether the candidate understands the “politics” of the situation. Give me an example of a decision you had to make quickly or under pressure. 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. whether the recommendations were in writing or presented orally. Are they of major importance? Did the candidate truly support the employees while still overseeing factors such as time.was it real or imagined? If possible. Notice whether the applicant seems excited by the creative process. Many supervisors and managers have failed because they couldn’t sell their ideas and decisions to upper management. 6. Look for a candidate who delegates data collection. Look for a systematic implementation plan. 7. How did you approach it and how did it work out? The manager who can make sound decisions under pressure is a valuable player. What have you done to get creative solutions to problems? Be specific. range of options. look for a candidate who accepts. and subordinates will be frustrated waiting for a decision. and others’ participation? 8. but only to the extent that their subordinates can handle.
2. Flexibility is important. etc. As an administrator. Beware of overly sophisticated systems that could not be “grafted” upon your organization. regular reports. What areas are within your sphere of responsibility? How do you make sure that you know what is happening (problems. This question is meant to unearth whether your candidate is a “studier” or a “leaper” into problems. The good administrator knows that others will perform best if they clearly know what to expect and are held accountable for results. changes. thoroughly detail-oriented candidate prefers written procedures and dislikes varying from them. production statistics. sure performance feedback or coaching. determining whether problems are temporary. 5. Most importantly.brainstorming — or individual initiative? You’ll want a manager who values creativity and knows how to stimulate it in others. A more spontaneous manager dislikes all but the loosest structures. How do you make sure that your employees are accountable? Look for two steps: First.)? Some managers are good at setting up reporting systems — logs. 3. meetings.
Administration 1. How useful have you found written procedures and guidelines in helping you manage your area? An analytical. Second. Others depend on personal visits or a few chosen advisers. the candidate must track current problems and spot trends. finding them generally restrictive. etc. 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. or indicators of deep-seated troubles. What do you typically do when you hear of a problem in your area? Give me a current example. discover how well your candidate assesses his/her responsibilities and knows (as opposed to assumes) whether the operation is functioning correctly. At issue here is whether the candidate can monitor an area of accountability and judge when and how to get involved. can the candidate innovate new systems if necessary? Is he/she willing to try your organization’s current methods? 4. Try 27
. he or she must make an effort to reward good performance and halt poor or mediocre performance through quick. your applicant must request very specifically what he/she wants and must attempt to negotiate a commitment with an employee. He or she will usually institute written guidelines if there are none present.
Also. If the candidate always writes his or her own letters. However. and should present the primary information at the beginning. 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. 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. Notice whether the candidate can access the information easily. 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. Do you need an innovator. Some managers feel it stifles creative ideas and people. find out how much time it takes. logical themes. or simply “jump in”? 2. or someone who must be both? 6. Others feel it gives the organization safety and stability. a memo vs. The administrator/manager can make it work to their advantage. The leader/innovator may chafe under it. Listen to the applicant’s answer to determine his/her frustration level with the chain of command. an administrator. Writing Skills 1. they like to add their own special innovations and touches. What do you think is important to document? How do you document it?
Documentation has become an increasingly important issue in management. Would you prefer to write letters “from scratch” or use form letters?
The best writers don’t mind using a “form” letter at times. Look for a candidate who keeps simple notes on employee performance and keeps statistics on production which are organized around clear. 5. When you have to write letters. Does he/she write an outline before beginning. Finally. What do you see as the difference in writing strategy for a report vs. 3. and whether a form letter could accomplish the same purpose. the candidate should have a
. military model of management. how do you usually get started? This question will help to understand the candidate’s approach to writing. proper documentation to defend against a discrimination claim or wrongful termination suit.to judge the need for structure in the position the chosen candidate will manage. How do you keep track of incoming and outgoing correspondence?
Correspondence can become a time-consuming part of a manager’s day. He or she also knows that a memo should be brief and readable. search for the documenting employee performance — for example.
Uncover whether the action was in response to an external pressure for example.working knowledge of different business letters — those for persuasion. and whether the impact was truly significant. If the candidate says writing comes easily. or other purposes. information. 3. determine how the candidate monitored and measured the savings. 5. or can he or she suggest modifications? Be sure to distinguish between complaints and realistic improvements. How could your organization’s budgetary process be improved? Most organizations have a budgetary process in place. for example). 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. 4. 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. Try to gauge the sophistication of the candidate’s methods by asking follow-up questions. a management demand. Probe to uncover how sophisticated the method is and how it has been adapted through time. 6. Few managers initiate cost-cutting or money-saving ideas. 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. apology. Give me an example of something you did which saved money for your organization. Do you struggle to write a letter or report. Next. Financial 1. 2. 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. Watch out for the candidate who is unaware of other’s time and financial commitments and who complains of too much “pressure”. Does the candidate simply accept it. The best writers are generally careful editors — they may edit a piece several times to hit the right tone. Finally. find out what was truly an original idea and what ideas came from others (an employee. What recent decision have you made that had an impact on finances? How did you assess its impact?
. perhaps he or she sets low standards for it.
For example. yet a healthy respect for others’ abilities and their mutual goals. Give me an example of how you delegated responsibility for a recent assignment. How would you describe your management style? Undoubtedly. his/her awareness of communication principles. How do you get your employees (or others) to follow you? This broad question allows the applicant to reflect on his or her leadership. setting goals (how many. Leadership 1. even enjoyment. it should vary according to an employee’s experience and maturity. or to include others in decisions. Surprisingly. such as “participative” or hard-driving”. probe by asking. In other words. Don’t accept general terms used to describe the style. running meetings. confident answer and notice whether you could be persuaded to follow him or her. planning of assignments. and what kinds of assignments he or she refuses to delegate. of the uses of power and influence. how monitored). in what areas. “give me an example of how you actually do that. few managers think about it logically. 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 for examples which illustrate the style. training. however. and what you did to monitor it. and structuring activities and assignments for subordinates.
. you’ll learn a good bit about how the candidate assesses employee skill levels.” Look for a strong. some probing follow-up questions are in order. Look for answers which indicate an easy acceptance. Whatever they volunteer. 2. whom you chose. or to lead by example. Notice whether the applicant cares about developing and teaching employees through delegation. make sure that your candidate enjoys using power but uses it for unselfish purposes. This question will help you discover if the applicant is oriented to making decisions which save money — or make it. Managers may talk about their ability to set goals and direction. However. you might ask about his/her style in dealing with conflict situations. 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. or what would be the most logical way to explain its details? By pursuing questions about a recent delegation. and his/her ability to follow through and monitor. Delegation is a fundamental part of management. the applicant will describe his/her style in complimentary terms. what and how you delegated the assignment. how many really think about how to best prepare a job before delegating it. Ask how much detail the applicant usually provides when he/she delegates. 3. for instance. that others dislike being made to follow.The example named may be significant. and that they also want to feel powerful. 4. For example.
they know that memory is unreliable and biased. and they see this as a major. it is only true if people take the time for reflection and introspection. and make decisions which may appear to others to be unconventional. Some managers only learn how to do the same (wrong) things more frequently! Others learn from mistakes. it will help you learn areas in which they are likely to be effective. enthusiastically projecting a sense of excitement to employees. For example. or problems on the job. This suggests a need to learn skills in discipline and conflict resolution. If you can get a clear picture of their model. some applicants state they find it hardest to manage quiet. Others indicate they have more trouble with louder. and gradually acquire important new skills. Evaluating Performance 1. perhaps they need to learn how to slow down. Finally. What do you enjoy most about being a manager? Least? According to recent research. expect to be asked for direction. What have you learned about management since your first supervisory job? The old saying. listen and coach and counsel subordinates. They enjoy being a leader. 8. The applicant should express an understanding that objectivity is a fleeting goal. 7. If so. 6. but an important one. enjoyable part of their role as a manager. Good evaluators may also keep records to remember specific examples and situations. they recognize the importance of getting subordinates to do the work rather that themselves. Look for an applicant who has attempted to clarify job expectations and job standards with employees and who understand the importance of regular.5. few managers have given this issue much thought. they are ready to take decisive action.
. effective managers are comfortable exercising authority. your chances of hiring a winner will go up significantly. rebellious. and areas in which they will want to become more effective in. constructive evaluations. If your applicant expresses some or all of these factors. power-seeking employees. non-assertive employees. What do you do to insure objectivity when you evaluate others’ work? Surprisingly. his/her idea of a “correct” approach to management. 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. they appear to be strongly focused on delegation -that is. 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. 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. However. Furthermore. “experience is the best teacher” is usually true.
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.) 4. quarterly. Does he/she put it in writing? Does it occur in a regularly scheduled meeting. 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. etc. Look for an orientation to clear production standards and specific. and assess the factors he/she must be responsible for. 3. what approach do you take? What if they are exceptionally good? Marginal? This question gets at some important issues. monitor. However. does the candidate know how to 32
. rather than a “coach. Is the candidate supportive? Is he/she tough enough to pressure the marginal employee. 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.2. How do you get your employees involved in their own evaluation?
Notice whether your applicant seems surprised by the question -. monthly. How do you evaluate your department’s overall performance?
This question will help determine the applicants’ ability to plan.” Look for a manager who takes an organized approach to the task. but doesn’t agonize over it. If your applicant doesn’t take steps to get the employee involved. 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. Be wary of applicants who feel that job standards are “unrealistic” for their kind of work. more importantly. 6. specific. measurable goals. or as the need arises? Does it cover areas for improvement.). Follow-up to determine whether their standards seem realistic. fair and measurable. probe what the applicant means by “evaluation”. When you evaluate someone’s performance verbally. as well as positive performance areas? 5.many managers are unaware that the best evaluations include active employee participation. he or she may be more aligned with the role of a “judge” in the evaluation process. (Those managers will probably be the ones who procrastinate in completing the job. employees who feel estranged from their own manager. Notice whether the applicant has developed a reporting system and whether he has a handle on his department’s performance at various intervals (weekly. 7.” The result may be less objective evaluations and. 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.
too. What is more important is that your candidate can use any form. A good manager must plan and monitor improvements in performance. does your applicant speak most often about tangible motivators. 33
. coaching.give positive feedback and supply new challenges? Does the candidate “sugar coat” negative criticism or face it squarely? Finally. How do you go about developing the people you manage? Can you supply a current example? Typically. you can bet their employees will feel that way. measurable goals for improvement which are set collaboratively with the employee. For example. Notice whether the candidate speaks confidently and comfortably about measurement. promotions. Ultimately. counseling.” 8. he or she will use what is available and do the homework necessary to write and talk about performance objectively. 9. 10. those who talk about development but haven’t figured out how to accomplish it. 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. how organized is the candidate when he/she evaluates work? Does he/she seem to weigh comments thoroughly. and delegation. training. it doesn’t matter which form is used. challenging work. Third. How do you measure performance in your area? Standards for performance are useless unless they can be measured. those who don’t see much of a need to develop their employees and are uncomfortable with this question. this positive attitude will inspire improvement in others. etc. such as bonuses. The current examples cited should help you sort out in which category your candidate fits.”) Second. A good manager knows that evaluating employees is more important than the form. positive reinforcement. 2. How do you plan for performance improvements?
Evaluating performance isn’t enough. or “shoot from the hip. Look for an approach which emphasizes specific. If he or she seems tentative. (Sample answer: “I send them to training classes when they ask. about what is expected of them. those who successfully help employees develop through planning.
Employee Relations 1. A good manager knows and feels comfortable with “behavioral” standards as well as quantitative ones. candidates will fall into one of three categories: First. Look also for a candidate who is optimistic about the possibility of performance improvement. What should a performance evaluation system or form look like? Does at matter? Every manager has an opinion about the “right” form.? Or does he or she talk about increased responsibility.
7. but has accepted gracefully the fact that a manager is only one of many motivating influences on an employee. exceptions might include very experienced. etc. make sure that your candidate after listening thoroughly. does your candidate seem to grasp this? When discussing the employee who the applicant could not motivate. Many “complainers” simply need more support and an open ear. reviewing achievements. and talk freely and openly with their employees about a variety of topics without overemphasizing regular. assigning individual or group accountabilities. That is. being allowed to “own” the job and participate in decisions. employees become committed by acquiring job knowledge. 6. setting goals. the candidate will ultimately be an ineffective manager. 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. and meetings to reinforce performance and share success. watch out for the candidate who seems to be a “counselor”. On the other hand. Look for managers who meet frequently.? Any motivational approach must take into account an understanding of the employee’s unique situation. 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. whether formally or informally. inspiring managers. the manager labels poor performance as an attitude problem. having committed. look for an example which indicates the manager who sincerely tried. they may be an untapped resource. Therefore. 3. or alternately. You may need to surmise whether the candidate will take others’ problems on as their own too readily. productive employees or employees not located in the same geographical area. Some meeting topics (other than production problem-solving meetings) might include: soliciting ideas or suggestions. social talk. Managers who try to talk employees out of their attitude invariably get pulled down with their employees. How have you handled complainers? Notice whether the candidate expresses disgust or displeasure.participation in decision-making. However. perceiving and receiving good rewards. 4. Every “attitude” problem is a behavior problem in disguise. has given up on solving attitude problems. scheduled “status-check” meetings. and having clear expectations for performance from caring managers. How have you helped your employees become committed to a job or to the organization? Typically. Look for realistic examples which demonstrate specific actions which the candidate took. if so. What was your strategy? How successful were you?
. Give me an example of an employee who you had to discipline. 5. seems comfortable setting limits on how much time and effort he or she will give to chronic complainers. How have you dealt with an attitude problem? Please give me a specific example. listening sessions to hear concerns or problems.
and the amount of involvement the candidate wanted in the project? Would you feel comfortable. developmental needs of the staff involved.. For example.e. to take action confidently. 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. If the example given describes hassles with documentation and organizational support. and what he/she did to increase the “risk” factor to the employee. Creative managers know training doesn’t always occur in the classroom. or did they undertake a formal training needs assessment? Match answers against your budget and available training resources. 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. having the candidate staff an important upcoming position or project? 12. They continually look for opportunities to upgrade employee’s skills without the easy method -. For instance. the time deadlines. 11. the morale issues. 8. 10. based on the answer given. perhaps this indicates a lack of thoroughness and patience. perhaps your candidate has trouble setting limits. Does the applicant seem comfortable setting tough boundaries without becoming vindictive? Does he/she understand that employees must choose to change. 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. legal counsel. if the example given concerns an employee who was rebellious.“send them to a training class”. Also. and be given realistic choices? Does the candidate appear to be comfortable with the necessity to document poor performance? Finally. 9. 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. does the candidate speak about the project requirements. 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. the Human Resource Department. or whether the manager was drawn into a battle of egos. How do you develop trust and loyalty in your employees? 35
. notice whether the applicant sincerely wanted to help the employee in question. find out how long they were willing to wait for a change. consider whether the candidate assesses training needs logically. Please tell me about a recent project you had to staff.. If your candidate seems to be comfortable setting early and clear limits for performance. 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.The best discipline does not emphasize punishment. Did he/she simply ask employees. Managers in the 80’s have had to learn to manage more defensively.
This question will help you determine whether. he or she should not hold a grudge against the people involved. or did the candidate simply apply a “band-aid” to the situation. 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. The best candidates will speak about demonstrating their own trust and loyalty to their employees. Describe a time when you had to intervene to solve a conflict. and will see them as inevitable in any organization. 15. Describe a time when you had problems getting people to work together in solving a problem or completing an assignment. These candidates usually encourage open communication and give their time and expertise to others. more communicative and supportive. They genuinely respect their employees and go out of their way to help their employees advance. Did the candidate analyze the problem with the employees’ help. 13. under pressure. more directive and goal-oriented -. He or she will try to arrive at creative solutions to conflicts. Assess whether the planning method seems sufficiently sophisticated. your candidate is likely to become more task-oriented – that is. Knowing the employees whom the candidate would manage. your candidate is likely to become more task-oriented — that is.
Planning 1. The “problem-solver” will attempt to hear all sides and will not avoid the conflict.Developing trust and loyalty is a two-way street.or more relationship oriented -that is. or solve it alone? Does he/she seem to understand the root cause of the problem. do you think this approach would work. Finally. more directive and goal-oriented -. and provide examples of how they have done so. Why did you handle it that way? Try to understand whether you have a “problem-solver” candidate or a “problem-avoider”. Knowing the employees who the candidate would manage. Does it take into account historical data? The potential impact of outside parties? 36
.or more relationship-oriented – that is. more communicative and supportive. under pressure. 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. Did he/she seem to understand the root cause of the problem or did the candidate simply apply a “band-aid” to the situation. 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. do you think this approach would work. 14.
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. What major activities do you have plans for right now? Please describe them. Notice whether the candidate seems excessively bothered by the situation. 2. creativity. 3. Give me an example of a change you saw coming. What did you do to recover? Look for determination and an ability to analyze the failure in a detached. Does it seem that terrible to you? Your best candidate is one who can endure political storms and remain relatively dry. Rather than merely coping everyday. How did you go about planning for it? An excellent candidate has one eye on the future. can he or she “play the game. will the candidate accept the political situation in your organization. Please describe a time when your plans didn’t work out. or something you thought was necessary to change. or did the candidate initiate them? Planning is a necessary. Did the plans come from others.” Second. other’s help. Notice the degree of confidence and enthusiasm. How did you deal with it? Two issues should concern you. Describe a time when you had to sell a decision or policy to your employees when you didn’t agree with it?
. How do you assess priorities? How do you then assign them? Every manager must juggle priorities. Probe for an understanding of both issues. Look closely to determine whether the candidate planned ahead to implement the change — and whether the plan was followed. can the candidate “read” and understand the norms or politics of an organization. logical manner. Look also for an action which demonstrates the candidate’s ability to adjust the plan using creativity. 5. goal-setting and implementation. he or she looks for changes — both those from outside forces and those which must be self-initiated. key function which must involve forecasting research. First. Does your candidate seem comfortable with this part of the manager’s job?
Organizational Relationships 1. Describe a time when politics at work affected your job. and hard data.Potential changes or deviations? Does it seem to fit the planning time available in the management position you are filling? 2.
How do you typically get cooperation from someone in another department? The applicant should first acknowledge the need to get cooperation from others. Do they seem so onerous to you? Did he or she make a good attempt to follow them? 6. 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. setting time limits and an agenda. or merely to inform others. 3. Find out how he or she organized the presentations. In summary. alerting members to their expected contributions). Answers might include actions such as bargaining. 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. 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. Have you had to make oral presentations to other managers? Describe what you did and how effective it was. having a purpose and objectives. Notice whether the candidate talks about keeping control (e. Probe vague or general answers such as “to give 100 percent” or “to be there ready to work every day”. ask him or her how one measures effectiveness. and accurately reports the effectiveness of the policy or decision after it is implemented. refuses to sabotage management decisions.Every manager must sell policies or decisions at times. finding a common goal. 7. 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.. while getting maximum involvement. Ask for examples of times when the candidate went beyond the usual and did something special. and whether their purpose was to sell. 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. or attempting to build relationships. Whatever the answer.g. 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.
. Can the candidate put personal reservations aside and speak positively to his or her group? The effective manager voices disagreement behind closed doors. probe to find out what the applicant would do if that approach does not work. Probe the rules the candidate finds bothersome. this question will help you know the extent to which your candidate enjoys oral presentations and is experienced at organizing them. 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. Ask how closely his or her past meetings have met that standard.
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?
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
In other words. Was he/she prepared to counter the competition’s features and benefits? 6. will be able to stay “up. How do you keep yourself up for selling? Applicants who truly enjoy their work. Does the applicant listen carefully to his/her customers’ comments. see if the applicant responds positively to the challenge. notice how effectively the applicant applied newly gained information to close a sale. if they were lacking information. 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. Look to see if the applicant views education as a vital part of success. How do you follow what the competition is doing? In many industries. 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. Also ask how they learn about the competition. and complaints? And did he/she apply that information to remedy problems and improve the product or service they were selling? 5. knowledge provides the competitive edge. What sales situations have challenged you the most? The least? With this question. suggestions. as opposed to those who are selling simply to meet their personal financial needs. Also.” Look for those who strive for victory in the deal. 2. curiosity about a customer’s business often indicates a real commitment to customer service and bigger sales. a high degree of retention indicates that the applicant has incorporated the information thoroughly. discover if they are driven by the joy of success or the fear of failure. check to see how well the applicant remembers the information he/she learned.4. What do you do to learn about your customers’ problems? For salespeople. should they have had it in the first place? Sales Drive and Career Goals 1. What sales have you made when you had to study or learn information quickly? Ask for a specific example. Do they speak of it aggressively? Try to gauge whether he/she seemed to enjoy the most challenging situation or the least challenging one. Probe to see why the situation occurred. 3. who have enthusiasm for the selling challenge. What makes a good salesperson? 42
. Ask the applicant how he/she has responded when customers favor a competitor’s product over his/her own.
Is it reasonable? Is it consistent with your standards? If the number is excessive. Applicants should have a plan for dealing with each. this natural inclination can provide valuable information. Organizational Skills 1. What is the most important sales skill?
This question may seem abstract. Watch out for vagueness in the response. Again. or being persistent. 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. compare their goals to the opportunities your sales position offers. 7. they will tell you the kind of salesperson they are. what approach has the applicant taken to overcome the least attractive areas? Has he/she thought it out? Does your position seem “attractive. what skill made the sale for you?” As a second follow-up. 6. being goal-oriented. Their criteria may include: satisfying customer needs. from the cold call to the drop-in visit to the scheduled presentation. or want to be. as opposed to what the goals are. How do you qualify customers? How do you determine which prospects to call on?
.” given their answer? 5. applicants refer to their best sales skill as most important. 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. but in fact it addresses an applicant’s self image. if necessary. By doing this. 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. It is more important that applicants have a concrete idea of how they are going to meet the goals. rephrase the question: “In past jobs. don’t be put-off it could be an indicator of a high-energy positive applicant. How do you prepare for a sales call? Sales calls come in all shapes and sizes. what is the most important sales standard in this Industry?” Check to see if these standards are consistent with your own. Follow-up question: “How have you demonstrated those same qualities?” 4. 2. having positive energy. Look for preparatory steps they take to make the most of their customer contact. Very often.Here. ask: “Besides dollar amount and sales volume. What are your overall career goals? How are you working to achieve them? The second part of this question should be your focus. give applicants the opportunity to describe their role models.
9. Do they know how to do the spade work that will let them hit pay dirt later? 3. How do you get started on a typical day? What do you do from there? This question gets at daily motivation and routine. 4. How do you stay on top of your paperwork responsibilities? Some salespeople avoid paperwork like the plague. look for clear criteria and procedures. Try sympathizing with them if they admit a dislike. compare these standards to your own. customers. 7. Compare sales managers for whom you’ve worked. Have you had situations when your schedule was interrupted unexpectedly? What did you do to overcome them? For a busy salesperson. Be careful if you hear a lot of frustration. Probe to see how applicants deal with this pressure. others confront it head on. 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. Use this question to compare the applicant’s needs with your company’s procedures. they may more clearly reveal their attitude toward this part of the job. Are they flexible in the face of changing priorities? Look for a consistent strategy.
. listen for the applicant’s willingness to examine his/her own efficiency. etc. How do you ensure a consistent base of customers? Prospects? Dollars? Some people organize for the sake of organization. They should be able to distinguish “hot prospects” from “tire-kickers.Salespeople have to get the biggest bang for the buck. Look for an emphasis on independence and a willingness to set personal goals. Probe the applicant to see how they deal with administrative duties. Look for established habits that are geared to produce predictable results. make sure it was warranted. Once again. Which one organized your job (territory.) best? Why? This question lets the applicant describe his/her concept of good organization. watch for evidence of frustration or impatience. 6. Use this question to gauge the applicant’s strategic perspective. probe to see how they live up to their own standards. one slip in a daily schedule can wreak havoc with the entire day. What do you need from an organization to support your success? Please be specific. Do they use a structured system? Probe to see how effective the method has been and what the applicant has done to improve it. 8.” Examine their method of categorizing customers. 5. Look for refinement of these habits throughout the applicant’s career. others do so as part of a long-term plan.
did the applicant have responses? Try to gauge his/her attitude. etc. How long have you gone without making a sale? What did you do to change your luck? Even long-ball hitters go through slumps. along with the ability to change a sales pitch in response to customer concerns. 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. what did the applicant do to improve them? 5.Handling Rejection 1. 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. Give me an example of a time when you overcame a no from a customer.? Look for the applicant’s willingness to go the extra distance and “make it right” with the customer.
. dissatisfaction. Watch out for evidence of regret. Do they take responsibility for their slumps or blame them on external factors? 3. probe for a specific example. Look for creative new approaches and the applicant’s willingness to examine him/herself. what objections did your customers have? How did you respond? Most customers have some objections. What did you do? When is a “no” really a “no?” The best salespeople say never. When you were selling at your previous employer. Don’t let the applicant evade. Give me an example of a difficult sale you lost. the icy wind of reality shows how brittle these may be. Does the applicant accept responsibility for instances of miscommunication. but deadly in overabundance. 4.excellent for seasoning. or obsession. Look for evidence of tenacity. late delivery. Sales Strategies 1. Look for applicants’ ability to put disappointments firmly behind them. the question is how they broke the bad streak. without alienating his/her own company. What did you do to bounce back from it? The first step in overcoming failure is accepting it. What has been one of the biggest disappointments in your sales career? What happened?
Setbacks are the salt of life -. Did the applicant have pre-prepared responses to deal with the most common objections? Were these effective? If not. 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. the salesperson who carries a torch too long may well end up burning you.
Here. Examine the applicant’s disposition and compare it to your experience with your customers. as well as what they believe to be their best skills. the first sale any applicant must make is to the interviewer. If the company sets the goals. 5. Are the uncomfortable around cold people? Perhaps they have problems making friends. 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. 8. 4. 6.2. to steer away from problems.” Probe to determine his/her specific involvement. positive approach? This question should show you the applicant’s degree of sales expertise.to seize opportunities. Did they use a creative. or conversely. Is the candidate persuasive? Are these skills the ones you believe to be important? In short. Self motivation is a key element to achieving these goals. 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. 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. Does the applicant speak of the benefits with enthusiasm? 7. 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. can he/she sell you?
. He/she should be able to improvise -. What special skills could you bring our company? Again. See if the applicant sets his/her own goals. 3. Does the applicant dislike dealing with aggression? Perhaps he/she has trouble being assertive. Compare them with your own products and services. Determine how the applicant approached the problem. he/she is telling you what they know about the product and your company. The applicant should be flexible even in scripted presentations. 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. Have you ever had to modify your usual presentation? What did you do? Why? Improvisation is the birthplace of creativity. did the applicant strive to exceed them? The best applicants will thrill in surpassing these objectives. they may be dealing with difficult parts of their own personalities.
How much contact do you have with customers after a sale? Please give me an example of what you usually do after the sale. tickler file. Look for the three R’s: relentless energy. How do you get to know your customer’s needs? A salesperson’s most valuable professional skills may also be the most personal. 2. 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. Closing is critical for sales success. 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. responsive attitude..e. Watch out for applicants who assume customer’s want their product. Probe to discover the basis of this persuasion. Customer Relations 1. 10. Watch out for a complacent attitude or responses that show a lack of consideration for customer service. incisive questions? Probe for examples. As you probe. determination without a bulldozer attitude. look at the details.” Others maintain files on potential customers for years on end. and repeat sales. 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.
. Look for confidence without arrogance.9. 4. Does the applicant appear willing to listen? Can he/she ask a customer pertinent. How long does the applicant wait before making a callback? When do they call an account truly “dead?” Look for sensitivity to customer signals.
How do you persuade your customers? Please give me an example. 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.
Successful sales people should be persuasive without becoming manipulative. Does the applicant have a system for keeping in touch with customers (i. callback sheet)? Look for dedication to customer satisfaction. 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. be sure to probe for specific examples and proven techniques. Perseverance and patience are also valuable here.
Give me an example of a customer who has stuck with you over the years. is there a trade-off between efficiency and depth of detail? 3. 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. Good follow-up: “Do you feel that a customer is yours. Look for a willingness to go beyond the minimum requirements of the job. etc. he/she can also take them away. facts. look at the applicant’s transitions from company to company. to provide managers with information as well as suggestions for improving operations. How did the applicant feel about meetings in past jobs. 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. others are time-consuming bores. What kind of criticism have you been given by your managers? How much is appropriate?
. Did he/she provide insights on the competition or research new markets? Look for an emphasis on teamwork and a willingness to share tips. 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. 2. or your company’s?” 6. What did you do to make this happen? Where applicable. 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. Did the applicant establish realistic deadlines? How much pressure did he/she place on production staff? Look for focus on customer satisfaction. Good follow-up question: “How late can a delivery be and still remain acceptable?” Cooperation 1. tempered by tolerance. 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. Look closely at examples. 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. Give me an example of a time when you had to deliver your product late. 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 you handle it? The last thing your company needs is finger pointing between the people in sales and those in production.5.
to sell a customer. is their example truly innovative. so he/she needs a staff that can execute responsibilities without creating more difficulty. 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. as criticism in sales is apt to address personal issues (appearance. but so too is the ability to accept constructive criticism. how does the applicant define this? Does he/she anticipate customers’ questions and objections. this could indicate uneven performance. their willingness to alter company policy may show you how they will adhere to your guidelines. Watch out for a prima donna attitude. Have you had a situation when. this may indicate the applicant’s depth of experience. probe to see if the applicant sees the sales position as the “hub” of the company’s operation. why was the order difficult to follow? Personal integrity? Independence? Convenience? Watch for a resentful attitude. 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. 3. Probe the reasons behind the applicant’s example. Remain impartial to the response so the applicant feels free to talk. 5. Describe the type of relationship you had with the production people at your previous employer. personality) as well as professional concerns. 4.Self-confidence is crucial for a salesperson’s performance. or do you see more of a “wing-it” mentality? Watch out for applicants who complain about the “up and down” nature of sales. The salesperson who treats production staff as secondary is sure to meet with resistance. 2. What risks do you feel are necessary in making a sale? How do you minimize these risks? Every sale involves some measure of risk. unbending tone. you had to try something you’d never tried before? Here’s a chance to measure the applicant’s creativity. or hackneyed instead? Look also at the degree of risk that was involved. Watch out for a defensive attitude. such as shifting delivery dates or including “extras” in a sale. What’s the riskiest career change you’ve made? Why did you make it?
. or a harsh. Risk Taking 1. Follow up by asking how he/she assessed the cost/benefit of their creative approach. Look for a willingness to place company concerns over personal issues. Follow-up question: “How do you feel production staff in your past job viewed you?” 6.
this may reveal potential trouble spots or suggest incentives you can use to motivate the applicant.
.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.
Ask for specific examples of how the applicant has found new customers. others are never satisfied. What do you expect from a sales manager to help you make sales? Compatibility is the key in making a successful hire. Look for attention to detail and complete followthrough. How is the applicant capitalizing on the opportunity to sell him? Herself to you? Have they done
. How do you go about researching a customer before the sales call? Sound preparation is the foundation of success. 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. 7. How much supervision does the applicant expect? Does he/she depend on constant encouragement and handholding. 4. creativity. 5. 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. Were they confident in selling the concept to management? What were the consequences of their idea and the rewards as they saw them? 3. Compare the applicant’s methods with your company’s strategy and niche. applicants are selling the best products they have: themselves. What ideas have you sold to your own management? Why? What happened? Some employees execute ideas. What do you do to build a list of possible customers? Some salespeople are content with the client list they already have. 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. or do you see more of a “free-lance” mentality? How do these parameters fit with your own management style? 6. What did you do to prepare for this interview? The old adage says that contacts can get you an interview. 2. no matter how many new customers they gain. 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). and an organized approach. How are you conducting your job search? In the search for a job.Self Starting 1. Look for evidence of perseverance and drive. but you have to get the job for yourself. others create solutions to problems for their company. How are they handling this task? Have they conducted research? Capitalized on professional contacts? Look for actions that indicate tenacity.
or at least an understanding. etc. Watch for method as well as attitude. They care enough about themselves to not be abused. Every clerical person must wrestle with this dilemma. yet secure enough not to blame or judge others too harshly. 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. Does this illustrate a “short fuse”. Does the example given sound appropriately assertive for the people in your organization? For customers. clients. Does the applicant sound tactful? Could he or she have accomplished the assignment anyway? 3.). a person who was rude or overly demanding. Pursue the example with follow-up questions. they’ve probably done their homework. If the applicant asked for clarification. how much time did the applicant spend to get the increase? Watch for resentfulness toward higher objectives or quotas. Please give me an example of a time when you needed to increase sales.
INTERVIEWING QUESTIONS FOR CLERICAL POSITIONS Assertiveness 1. 8. of the other person’s point of view. What did you do? In sales. or those in other departments? 4. Listen for whether the applicant is sensitive to timing. Have you ever had a situation when you found mistakes on an assignment someone else gave to you (to type. Was the applicant respectful. process. champions thrive on challenge. Who have you had to set limits with at work? (For example. rather than merely blame the other person? Listen to hear whether the applicant seems to express empathy. ask for the words he or she actually used in the situation. What did you do about it? The assertive person is confident enough to report the mistakes. Have you had people who gave you assignments without complete instructions? How did you handle it? Please give a recent example. or appropriate patience? Those applicants who can gracefully set limits for others usually have a good degree of self-esteem. yet forceful? Did he or she try to solve a problem. 2.research on your firm? Are they psychologically prepared? Do they feel comfortal3le with this question? If so. as in sports. did they meet higher quotas by squeezing extra sales out of old customers or by penetrating new accounts? Look for attention to efficiency. and the lines of 52
.) What did you do? Find out how long your candidate waited before finally setting limits. please.
) Ask about specific.
. he or she should adjust their approach accordingly. Again. what is he or she willing to give in return? In other words. (If he or she claims this has never been a problem. yet are able to speed others on their way gracefully. Depending on the position of the person in question. 5. 4. Does the position allow the amount of supervision desired? If the applicant wants a great amount of independence. How do you organize your typical workday? Excellent clerical people often organize their day well. Finally. of their plans will be changed as priorities shift. you may want to ask how the applicant has earned that level of independence in past jobs. notice whether the applicant seems to have genuinely enjoyed doing the assignment independently. yet not seem to resent the inevitable changes in their plans. How did you get started on it? Why did you set it up that way? Look for pride in the accomplishment. Find out also whether the past positions were structured similarly to yours. Probe to find out what parameters were set by others. 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. How do you minimize interruptions on the job? This question covers interruptions such as phone conversations that continue too long. typical interruptions such as those listed above. Does his or her expectation for independence fit what your position allows? 3. 2. knowing that many.authority in the organization. this raises doubts. notice whether the applicant seems secure enough to speak up without being curt or brusque. 6. He or she should also demonstrate the ability to anticipate peaks and valleys in the workload. What do you do when you have down time at work — those times when the work slows down? Please be specific. perhaps even taking notes. and dealing with visitors. What amount of supervision do you feel most comfortable working under? Why? The independent person may resent even normal amounts of supervision. Your applicant should be capable of organizing according to a prearranged or self-designed system. Give me an example of a complex assignment you have accomplished on your own. Independence and Initiative 1. and exactly how “complex” the assignment was. if not all. social chitchat. they ask incisive questions and summarize the major points. They are conscious of saving time. The applicant should volunteer which interruptions he or she has had to curtail.
ask the applicant where he or she learned this skill -. 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. 7. 6. What sort of directions do you want from a supervisor or someone who delegates work to you? Do you like detailed instructions. you can determine whether the applicant is a quick study”. whether he or she needs written procedures. this question will tell you a lot about the applicant’s ambition and integrity as well as their initiative. or would you rather just know the highlights? Do you want them in writing? Some people want detailed instructions. training manuals. or extensive training and hand-holding. Then. However. it might be wise to supply a typical document and ask him or her to correct it or make suggestions for improvement. For others. assess the applicant’s need for delegation in light of the personalities on hand. what sorts of mistakes can you catch quickly and correct for the original writer?
.whether through formal education or work experience. or in response to a problem. filling in the blanks as necessary. the talents in your office. Was it completely selfgenerated. and the complexity of the written material likely to be edited. the clerical person must be a combination mind-reader and handwriting expert!) Business Writing/Editing 1. 5. Some applicants are uncomfortable with too much “down” time because they want to use their talents better and grow more competent. even in writing. Many clerical people must receive delegation orders from more than one supervisor. punctuation or syntax. 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. try to clarify whether the applicant has received instructions from past supervisors regarding slow times.For trainees. some organizations allow. 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. Others figure they will “wing it”. this question also deals with training issues. Others may feel that using the slow times for personal business or pleasure is tantamount to stealing from the company. 2. spelling. “down” times should be used for self-study. even encourage using it for personal pleasure. When typing. 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. Assess their rewriting skill in light of the time available. How much training and guidance did you receive in past jobs? A variation of question number 3 above. If this is your situation. With follow up questions. (In some busy offices. You may not have the time.
bosses) anger or frustration? Give me an example of how you have handled upset people (on the phone or face-to-face). Ask the applicant to repeat both ends of a recent angry conversation. How often have you had to deal with others’ (clients. 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. 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. you must decide whether their experience can be utilized in producing the correspondence in your office. Ask for examples and. this question may be best followed by a quick test to edit a typical report or memo. What type of letters. Try to elicit a situation which might happen in the new position: a tight deadline. etc. 5. First. Second. etc. 3. others sometimes explode in frustration or anger at a clerical employee.) he/she used to deflect or cushion the pressure? Would those resources help in the new position? 2. What formats or form letters have you had experience working with? This question has two aspects. Handling Pressure 1. Match the answer to the type of instructions he or she is likely to encounter in your office. if possible. Unfortunately. However. many excellent applicants have agreements with their managers which allow them the latitude to rewrite or change documents independently. positive “self talk”. Does the applicant appear to keep his/her cool? Listen well. What happened? How did you handle it? This is a general question which looks at the unique stresses clerical people must face. 4. regardless of whether it is “fair”.
. 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. please. etc. How much writing have you done from incomplete instructions or notes? Give me some examples. yet assertive person. can you set-up or write from scratch. He or she then corrects minor mistakes and suggests possible changes. hostile people. Does the applicant seem to have a sense of humor about it? Does be or she share which internal resources (patience. When typing a document. Give me a recent example of a situation you have faced when the “pressure” was on. overwhelming workload.Again. 6. get the applicant to demonstrate how he or she would set up or “format” common documents in your office. memos. relaxation. callers.
can the applicant effectively ask others (i. 6. excessive work demands or other factors are most likely to make the candidate feel overwhelmed. disorganization. when have you felt most overwhelmed by work pressures? How did you react? Mature people know what stresses them. and whether he/she can bend without breaking. Prioritizing Work 1. personalities. match the tight deadlines to those he/she is likely to face. (For some people. three phone lines is busy. Probe to determine their reactions and what they did to overcome the pressures. 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. Again.. What system for prioritizing your work do you think works best? Clerical priorities can change with alarming speed. what did you do to cope?” 4. and how he/she felt about that kind of pressure. whether he/she tried to prevent or avoid them. you will want to match his/her idea of “busy” to yours. Producing within time constraints is the foundation of clerical success. How tight are the deadlines you have faced? Give me an example of a tight deadline you’ve faced recently. and how to handle the stress.3. 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 the situation became too busy. 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. how they react. The answer to this question should reveal whether deadlines. How often did this type of thing happen? How do you handle it? 56
. to others 40 is busy. Focus especially on the most common pressures in your own work environment. you will eventually discover how tough the applicant is under harassment or pressure. In past work situations. how closely does that match common situations in your office? Follow up: “When it became too busy. Find out how frequent the tight deadlines were. Look also for assertiveness. managers and users) which priorities they wish him/her to follow? 2. Be wary of elaborate systems for prioritizing work. Look for a simple system that is easy to communicate to others. Give me an example of a time when you had to juggle several things at once. Follow up: “What would you (have you) done when others demanded that you stay late to finish a project?” 5.
and prioritizing according to ease of the assignment (easiest task first). they enjoy keeping several projects in the air at once. data entry. those who are in a position to decide alone should have no problem. 4. etc. he or she cannot be attached to “owning” the more prestigious assignments. 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. not worrying over what might come in.). Those applicants who prefer to work every job through from beginning to end may be asking for frustration. Those clerical people who want to predict and therefore control each day’s work are likely to be frustrated and under stress. Look for an applicant who welcomes variety. Have you had assignments that had too many tiny details? (e. supervisors next.Some clerical people are master jugglers. 3. In your specialty (word processing.. 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. and does not express the perfectionist’s need to work on an assignment until it is over and done “right”. setting up forms). 2. organizational position (managers first. purposeful. processing statistics. However. Walk me through how you set up and complete a job specific assignment.g. At the same time. etc. categorizing material. Would you rather be able to predict the work coming in. Orientation To Detail 1. In fact. 3. He or she should speak confidently about assessing due dates. and an ability to stay in the present moment.).
. the clerical part of the job may be very small and most clerical assignments are by nature piecemeal. 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. 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”. Look for a calm. you will want to avoid the applicant with “tunnel vision”. ready answer to this question. Give me an example. do you prefer to see a project through from beginning to end. Look for a flexible attitude.
and who feels the positives outweigh the negatives. low prestige. be suspicious of those applicants who profess to have a “five year plan” or similar long range goals. etc. for example.? Since the introduction of computers in clerical positions. Feel free to ask for a demonstration of the applicant’s talents. In past work situations. clear-headed assessment from the applicant. If necessary. 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. software programs or new techniques. detailed types. if not eager. what sorts of procedures for (data entry. technology. look for an applicant who looks at the clerical field with his or her eyes open. not because it is required. filing. Be wary of overqualified applicants who can do the job. Follow up: “What is a comfortable amount for you of.) did you find already in place? Were they helpful? Specific enough for you? Detail-oriented people like to follow detailed procedures. A person who wants to expand and advance in his or her career has an interest in learning new technologies. You don’t necessarily need a lifelong commitment. He or she is unlikely to be more than a temporary replacement. they enjoy the hunt for the proverbial needle in the haystack. What are your ultimate career goals? How are you going about reaching them? Generally. to organize others and their work assignments and a liking for a busy job which usually has few major decisions or responsibilities in it. 5. What are some of the positive things about working in the clerical field? What do you see as the drawbacks? Look for a realistic. statistical typing?” 4. Positives should include: the chance to serve others. etc. If the procedures are not sufficient. or is he/she simply 58
. and frequent pressure. Negatives may include low pay. Do you enjoy proofreading or correcting other’s work? Why (or why not)?
Proofreading is enjoyable work for detail-oriented persons. 3. people who say they enjoy an activity usually are able to do it well. but cannot conceive of being challenged by it.This question deals with the perception of what kind of work is “detailed”. knowledge and training have become more important. Look for an applicant who is willing. How are you keeping up with the changes in software. to learn and has a track record of doing so. ask about other detailed work in your office rather than proofreading. Following this through will help reveal areas where the applicant will be frustrated and ineffective with details on the job. instead. He or she will ask for training and education because of a genuine interest. Career Goals 1. 2. The real question is: Is the applicant comfortably on a career track.
4. 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. one’s work seems remote from others. he or she will be a good bet to help get your office organized. Listen for signs of a systematic approach. Those applicants who speak regretfully of the lack of challenge either need upgraded responsibilities or a new career. What keeps you challenged. What were your responsibilities in terms of ordering or maintaining supplies? How did you keep track of that responsibility? Like any responsibility.taking jobs while waiting to discover what he/she would really like to do? Obviously. group and organizational service. and therefore not interfere with the job? Try to understand how impatient the applicant is to reach his/her goals. 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. If the applicant changed or tried to improve the system of organization. Observe whether this question makes the applicant uncomfortable. 6. How do you see it? Do you agree? “The world is as you see it. low status work. as a clerical or administrative support person? Is it enough? Challenges exist in clerical jobs. Those who understand the joy of unselfish service to further others can genuinely thrive in those kinds of positions. as in every job. Other clerical positions are direct opportunities for individual. Could it be accomplished at night or on weekends. probe to discover how they plan to reach the goal. and the job affords the opportunity to provide service. including the ability to anticipate needs and keep track of inventory. This will give you a sense of how long their stay with you might be. 2. Organization 1. for those whose skills are well matched to the job. However. 3. Some people now see administrative support or clerical work as demeaning. What does service mean to you in this field? Some clerical positions demand little contact with others. How much information did you have to locate? How did you keep track of it?
.” Those who see clerical work this way will never be really comfortable with it. If the applicant appreciates this question. he or she is more likely to be a winning choice. the person who expresses career goals well out of line with your position is a greater risk. 5. this one requires organization.
or merely tolerates? 4. The best clerical people accomplish this responsibility with good-humor. Give the applicant enough information to understand the problem fully. note whether the candidate analyzes the factors involved in an organized manner. One of our biggest problems has always been keeping track of. However. find out what worked so well and why. Others find it difficult and tedious. What suggestions or ideas do you have for improving this? To ask this question. will have mapped them out mentally. If the applicant says the operation was already well-organized. and seems able to use experience and creativity to propose solutions. What have you done that has organized others? (For example. Follow up: What is an example of something you have organized well away from work? 8. first find an area you would like to organize better. 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. Internal Relations 60
. Give me an example of a recent time when you had to reorganize things to meet a tight deadline. asks penetrating questions. It is not important that he/she is able to produce an immediate solution. and updating lists. using the computer. what changes would you have made in your job/department? Well-organized people usually have no trouble with this question. Does it seem to be something he or she enjoys . or if unable to do so. Match their skill with the need in your office. How did you arrange your schedule and work to accomplish it? When the pressure is on. can your applicant juggle schedules and priorities to meet a deadline? This question will help you assess his/her flexibility and creativity.This question can include responsibilities such as filing. phone messages. filing or other responsibilities. 7. Find out how many of the systems were inherited and which ones the applicant set up. and can institute a variety of changes which uniquely fit the situation. your boss. and how the same ideas could be transferred to the unique circumstances in your office. ask about workflow. They will have all ready suggested and made changes. as well as organization skills. get a feel for the applicant’s interest and confidence in the topic. 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. 6.) For secretaries and many other clerical employees. correspondence. 5. a primary responsibility is organizing others. If you need to prompt their answer. If you were managing the clerical operation. They have the ability to evaluate another’s habits. charts and statistics. As you hear the answer.
K. 3. assertive. to discuss? Everyone has an opinion whether “personal life” or personal problems” should be brought to work. Is it vengeful? Regretful? Hostile? If in doubt. or to withdraw? Note the candidate’s tone when describing the conflict. Which sort of manager (tenant. 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. try to get another example from the applicant. Then. 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. This question will help you find out where the applicant draws the line.
. 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. 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. and whether he/she discriminates between gossip and harmless social talk. too? This question gets at the extent of on and off-the-job socializing your applicant is likely to do. 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. 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. Try to nail down the specific irritants or personality types in question and what the candidate did to cope successfully. What was your part in it? Hear the story and get all the facts before you make a judgment. does their standard fit your office’s standard? 2.” 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. involved in. 4. Give me an example of the kind of thing you have had to keep confidential. Give me an example of a recent conflict situation with a co-worker that you were.1. Is there a line? Most importantly.