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Adapted from 333 Interviewing Questions by the Council on Education Management. Published by Borgman Associates, 1993.
Table of Contents
Interview Questions for Any Position Initiative……………………………. ………………Page 2 Stress……………………………….. ………………Page 3 Motivation………………………….. ……………... Page 5 Goal Orientation…………………….………………Page 6 Attendance/Punctuality…………….. ………………Page 8 Creativity and Innovation………….. ……………... Page 9 Problem Solving/Analytical Skills….……………... Page 9 Career Ambitions…………………... ……………... Page 11 Ability to Learn…………………….. ……………... Page 13 Dependability………………………………………. Page 14 Flexibility…………………………........................... Page 16 Organization/Attention to Detail/Time Usage…….. Page 17 Interpersonal Communication Skills………………. Page 20 Conflict…………………………………………….. Page 22 Cooperation………………………………………… Page 23 Interviewing Questions for Management and Supervisory Positions Decision Making…………………………………… Page 25 Administration……………………………………... Page 27 Writing Skills………………………………………. Page 28 Financial…………………………………………….Page 29 Leadership………………………………………….. Page 30 Evaluating Performance……………………………. Page 31 Employee Relations………………………………... Page 33 Planning……………………………………………. Page 36 Organizational Relationships………………………. Page 37 Interviewing Questions for Sales Staff Analytical Skills……………………………………. Page 39 1
Performance Standards…………………………….. Page 40 Learning Ability……………………………………. Page 41 Sales Drive and Career Goals……………………… Page 42 Organizational Skills………………………………..Page 43 Handling Rejection………………………………… Page 44 Sales Strategies…………………………………….. Page 45 Customer Relations………………………………… Page 47 Cooperation………………………………………... Page 48 Risk Taking………………………………………… Page 49 Self Starting………………………………………... Page 50 Interviewing Questions for Clerical Positions Assertiveness………………………………………. Page 51 Independence and Initiative………………………... Page 52 Business Writing/Editing…………………………... Page 53 Handling Pressure………………………………….. Page 54 Prioritizing Work…………………………………... Page 55 Orientation to Detail……………………………….. Page 56 Career Goals……………………………………….. Page 57 Organization………………………………………...Page 58 Internal Relations…………………………………... Page 60
Interview Questions for Any Position Initiative 1. What ideas have you sold to your own management? Why? What happened? Examine two aspects of the answer. First, did the idea seem worth selling? Second, notice whether the applicant took extra steps to demonstrate the idea’s practicality, profitability or efficiency. Did he/she wait to be discovered? Or did he/she assertively put forth a solid idea? 2. Give me an example of something you recommended which was not adopted? Why? What could you have done differently? A variation on the question above, this one gives the applicant a chance to tell you what he or she has learned about timing, research, politics or other factors necessary to consider when selling an idea. 3. If you were a manager, how much leeway would you give your employees to do things their own way? In which areas or situations should an employee simply follow procedures and guidelines and not try it his or her own way?
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
reasonable answers might include suggestions about break times.methods. Could your organization supply these things? 5. 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. an exercise program. In a past job. more irritations occurring or working faster with less enjoyment. On the other hand. Which situations have made you feel pleasantly stressed or excited at work? Give me an example please. Try to find out what about that job responsibility they anticipate will be troublesome. The aspect they state is most likely what they fear being able to handle. 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. For example. it may mean they are somewhat unorganized. what was most likely to create stress for you? For example. involvement in decisions or better supervision.) 3. Some people never feel this kind of stress at work. Watch out for the person who expects miracles from management to bail them out. An applicant of this nature may be steady. it may simply mean they are not receiving the help from others they deserve on the job. a tough deadline? Juggling priorities? Meeting others’ expectations? Why? The items stated indicate an important aspect of the candidate’s personality. Finally. Probe as to what about the situation was stressful. the support of friends. If your applicant claims that the pressure never affects the work. this may mean he/she is a perfectionist and dislikes letting go of their work. Give me an example of what an organization/management should do to cushion or prevent the effects of stress from a job. How do you handle the need to juggle priorities or projects? What have you done to accomplish this? 4 . if an applicant says “meeting deadlines”.” On the other hand. meditation or other methods. Probe to determine whether the applicant has received what is needed in a past position. The best employees know this adrenaline surge well and welcome it. Be suspicious of answers such as “supply enough staff” or “give us more picnics and social time. see if your applicant has counterbalancing factors to cushion job stress. 4. but it is very unlikely that he or she will become an excellent employee. working conditions. 7. Can your position supply the situation they desire? 6. (For example. 8. probe to determine what he or she has learned to do to reinterpret work pressures or shield him or herself from them. Off the job. making them resentful of management.
they may have built up an internal mechanism which allows them to “block out” organizational stresses and still be productive. Those candidates who seem not to care may be unfeeling — on the other hand. Find out whether factors were involved which were unique to past jobs. for example? Better skills (such as increased assertiveness of an ability to manage upward”)? New values (learning to ‘roll with the punches”.” Be careful of discriminatory questions. (Some organizations inhibit real motivation in all but the most internally-motivated.Many applicants have had to face this sort of stress before. substance abuse. 10. How have you handled this? Your best strategy here is to listen. 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. What do you need from an organization to feel motivated? Get specific answers which might include: working conditions. Motivation 1. raises and organizational culture. training. Has the applicant responded by developing new techniques. In all of your jobs. which gave you the most meaningful experiences? Why? Ask follow-up questions to determine why they were meaningful. supervision. Look for experiences that are available through the position you are filling. too. Work pressures can often place pressure on life at home. etc. be empathic and ask simple follow-up questions such as “why”. turnover is a fact of organizational life. and has developed a healthy coping strategy through research and selfdiscovery. and ‘please tell me about that. 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. emotional upheaval. 2. 3. but keep your ears open for possible patterns of sickness. Look for a person who understands stress. salary. 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. 9.) 5 . 11. disability. a better “to do” list. Beware of those candidates who seem to care too deeply. What has made you feel excited about coming to work? When have you felt down or unfulfilled by a job? Probe for clear examples. not how and when. lateness. Make sure the “excitement” can be generated again by factors within your current control. Watch closely whether the candidate seems truly to have faced and won the “burn out” baffle. benefits. even those right out of college.
7. 8. of course. if the answer puts success in terms of power. as well as others. If he/she discusses wages. your applicant may need a good bit of help with his or her self esteem. prestige or influence. of being at a dead end. The manager’s efforts sometimes fail because ultimately. each employee must motivate himself or herself. the applicant will not be happy for long in most low-paying. non-exempt positions. if the candidate speaks about work that was challenging and that provided growth. 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. you will be able to motivate him/her best through peer pressure and the “team” concept. it will often reveal the extent to which the applicant is self-directed as opposed to those who wait for others to motivate them. 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. Importantly. Finally. If he or she is unclear about this. money. he or she is. Most applicants open up when describing someone else. What should a manager do to motivate others? Why does it sometimes fail? This question can be used to interview supervisors and managers. When the applicant tells you what the manager should do. of “that’s what I’m best at!” Watch out for a feeling of resignation. security is the candidate’s biggest concern. you must determine if the job available matches the motivational need revealed. friendly people. When has your morale been the highest at work? Why? The answer should reveal what will motivate the candidate. Does your applicant understand this? Does he or she take some responsibility for motivation? 6. Obviously. he or she must receive them through an interesting job well-suited to his or her talents. and many factors are beyond the manager’s control. learning and increased responsibility. telling you what he or she wants. Goal Orientation 6 . Try to discover how the job applied for will lead the applicant to his or her success goals. this question will help you determine what you cannot expect from the candidate if he/she is hired. If he/she discusses situations when others recognized their work and he/she received status or position. benefits and a “steady” job situation. the candidate will be unlikely to become a long-term. For the nonmanagement employee. happy employee of your organization. For example. 5. 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. If he/she recalls times when they worked among talented.4.
How do you monitor the progress of assignments and projects? 7 . Have you ever suggested ideas which were not accepted by management? What were they? What did you do then? When ideas are not accepted. What made that situation so productive? This question allows the applicant to tell you how they like to be managed. In other words. This question should help you discover how fast the applicant prefers to move toward a goal. 3. Do you think M. regular updates. Describe which job and which manager got the most out of your potential. discussing. goals.B. step-bystep. measurable and specific. In fact. and which activities make them feel productive. which one required the fastest actions or decisions? How did you feel in those situations? Please describe one. they are uncomfortable with the accountability that M. Of your recent jobs. The very goal-oriented applicants should adjust easily it to it and will help make it a success. demanding work atmospheres.. Management by Objectives.B. Most important. unrealistic for certain jobs and leads to quotas. Others reintroduce them in a better package or find ways to accomplish their goals which avoid a ‘sales job” to management. but their primary regret will not be that they were unable to achieve a goal. 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 usually set goals for non-work activities as well. placing each piece of a puzzle in front of them. He or she will relate how hard they fought to overcome the situation. For others.B. and will speak about what he or she was able to accomplish anyway. They are uncomfortable in ambiguous. Some goal-oriented people are methodical. and accountability with enough authority. forces. some people give up. works? How do you adjust to working under a goal setting program? M. monitoring and adjusting of goals and objectives to succeed. they may speak about being unfairly treated.O. can your candidate find more than one way to accomplish his/her goals? 6.1. Is the applicant results-oriented? Determine how detailed the goals are and whether they seem realistic. until the whole picture is assembled. 5. 4. The extremely goal-oriented candidates set their own goals without waiting for others to instruct them. measuring tools.O. Please describe how you set and measure your work goals. requires much planning.O. Does the candidate fit this profile? 2. Highly goal-oriented individuals may speak in terms of being given procedures. Others may feel it is restrictive. this situation will be almost intolerable. 7.
4. progress reports. 5. When do you feel it is necessary to work overtime? Please give me examples from recent jobs. and whether they are likely to prevent good attendance and punctuality. For example. and watch for signs of hidden disagreements. 3. your responses should show the applicant that it is easy to share these reasons with you and that you won’t judge them harshly. you can determine how serious the problems are. but also because they constantly measure the progress of their journey. Does the candidate use methods such as project boards. give me some examples of things that made it necessary for you not to come to work a day or longer. “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”. you should feel comfortable giving the candidate a realistic estimate of the amount of overtime the new position might require. What the applicant presents as “fair” will be a standard or policy which would allow them to avoid trouble. Ask for their reaction. follow-up to see whether they are still present. 2. What would your last supervisor or manager say about your attendance or punctuality? How many times would he/she say you were absent or late this year? 8 . Listen for what is volunteered.Goal-oriented people often accomplish a lot not only because they have a destination. to “I never feel it is necessary”. In your last few jobs. what obstacles have you had to overcome to get to work on time? Candidates may tell you about their day care arrangements. traffic or other problems. If factors other than illness are offered. a person may offer. Answers may range from “whenever my supervisor asks”. “tickler” files. 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. What do you feel is a fair lateness standard to hold employees to? For instance. For example. do they have family obligations? Another job? A carpool? After their answer is clear. In your last job. follow-up with question #5 below. car troubles. Be sympathetic and act unsurprised by any answer. By probing. Probe to find out how severe the symptoms of an illness were and how often they occurred. Keep the conversation away from the personal. If necessary. You could count on that person to regularly arrive a few minutes late in the morning. Followup to determine the reasons for their answers. or simple reminder notes to keep track of his or her accomplishments? Attendance/Punctuality 1.
Did these examples have a long-lasting impact? Did others benefit from them? Problem Solving / Analytical Skills 1.Variations of this question have been used for many years by interviewers. truly creative people enjoy presenting new ideas. 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. and the applicant should become energized when describing it. or truly new? Is it a practical idea. Why was it unique? The idea cited will reveal something about the applicant’s measuring stick for creativity. Have you ever been assigned several important projects at roughly the same time? How did you go about setting priorities for your time? 9 . If you could change one thing which is inefficient at your current job. too. Surprisingly. is the idea a synthesis of old approaches. For example. 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. The applicant generally assumes the interviewer may call the past manager and that he or she should therefore be truthful. innovative people like to “free lance” their way through a day. Follow up: Would the manager tell me you were dependable? How did you demonstrate that dependability through you attendance/punctuality? Creativity and Innovation 1. or more abstract? 3. Match the applicant’s answers with their likely work day in the new position. Applicants who struggle with this question or who offer trivial changes are unlikely to create innovations which save you time.) If the example cited is more than a few years old. what would it be? Job innovation depends partly upon a clear-eyed assessment of traditional. (This will help you know what their new manager should do to maximize the applicant’s creativity. Which have you preferred to work with — a set. Use follow-up questions to determine if this is a cover to hide a disorganized approach to the work day. routine methods. preferring not to be tied down by a restricted schedule. or whether it was selfgenerated. or a day you create for yourself? Why? Often. some applicants are more creative under very structured conditions because their creativity is stimulated when bordered by time pressures. planned day. 4. ask for a more recent example. Please tell me a great idea you have seen in your field recently. 2. money or energy. The answer should sound realistic and well organized.
acquire data. a “people” problem or a “hard data” problem of facts and statistics. or simply blames the system. etc. Applicants will usually describe their problem solving ability in terms or either. In one sense. or (c) creative problem-solving (formulating new approaches. the job search is a problem like any other business problem. Look for a problem situation analogous tones he/she might face in the new position. others’ expectations. probe to find out what the initial problems were. Notice whether the applicant takes responsibility for creating a solution. 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. Why did you choose that method rather than another solution? The applicant should explain how he/she identified the real problem. This self-description question can be very revealing.) Which have you created on your own to make things more efficient? This question will help determine the applicant’s need to “systemize” work. An analytical applicant might have analyzed the situation as a problem and recommended. 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. ask for examples of why and how they were worthwhile structures or procedures. The applicant must first set a goal or intended result. procedures. perhaps innovating on-the-spot solutions). what change they initiated and what the results were. Some applicants will describe their training or education. What has been a stubborn or recurring problem which you would have liked to solve in your current job — but haven’t yet? 10 . 3. 5. 2. Probe to find out the methods used to analyze the problem and the questions the applicant had to answer to arrive at possible solutions. or at least thought about. What kinds of problems do you feel you are uniquely qualified to solve? Give me an example of how you have demonstrated this. delivery date.Look for an answer that demonstrates an analytical process. Some applicants have a high need for “structural” support — if a system isn’t in place. If they were satisfied with organizational structures in place. goals. and organizational politics. If they create such a structure. Please describe your current approach to searching for employment. What information or technical support has helped you succeed on the job? (For example. procedures. standardized forms. for example. they analyze the need for one and begin designing forms. 6. The applicant might consider factors such as the impact on production. deadlines. Give me an example of a difficult decision you had to make at your last job? How did you solve it? Follow up. (a) concrete skills (“give me the pieces of the puzzle and I’ll put them together for you”). (b) abstract (the ability to analyze and organize ideas and concepts). 4. analyze various factors and take the initiative to advance various courses of action. procedures to prevent its constant reoccurrence. others what experience has taught them. etc.
Look for tenacity and determination in discussing a possible solution. or simply made an unthinking blunder. Assess whether he or she took a calculated risk. ask him/her how they have since guarded against those kinds of errors. Career Ambitions 1. When the facts are all in. This question makes it clear how much leeway the applicant had or has to make decisions. notice whether the applicant’s presentation of the problem is orderly and systematic. or a more careful structured one? Ask for an example to illustrate the approach discussed. Ask whether he or she would like more authority.Look for an orderly examination of the problem into its component parts. the process an individual wants to follow might not match the reality of what he/she actually does. Would a “shoot from the hip” approach work best. Then match the answers to the authority allowed in the new position. An applicant with highly developed analytical skills should be able to answer this question easily. Finally. determine what he or she learned from the experience. What are you looking for in a job that you haven’t had before? What would make you want to stay in a job? 11 . No problem solver makes the right judgment every time. 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. 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. He or she will genuinely be challenged by the problem. As a follow-up. 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. Watch out for a tendency to blame others rather than accepting responsibility to work within the limits of the problem variables. 8. What process do you follow in solving problems? Consider the problems your candidate might face in the position. Finally. What methods do you use to make decisions? Please give me an example of your approach. 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. 10.
expect trouble — unless they have a real plan to get where they expect to go. activities and interactions. 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. Generally. rather than a complaint about what was lacking. 3. If they are overly ambitious and have unrealistic ambitions. Give me an example of when you have outgrown previous jobs and knew it was time to move on. Ideally. and with enthusiasm. ages. Some applicants will talk about money. You are safest if they have more than a “feeling” of what they want — i. what do you need to support your professional growth? Personal growth? This question will often give you information about applicant’s personal lives -. tasks. a lack of confusion. 6.their families. Be firm that they honestly tell you their expectations before you predict how much is possible. but don’t ask discriminatory questions. How did you know it was time? This important question will reveal their values. specific responsibilities. As they describe what they will be doing. Make sure their past experiences reflect realistic expectations. study their reactions. do they seem fearful? Confident? Confused? What does this tell you about them? 5. Look for consistent reasons to leave each job. Avoid the “cat and mouse game” about money. 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. The achievements presented are quick guides to what the candidate wants out of his or her career. 2. 12 . Be careful to listen and probe. 7. the activities they describe first. Describe the ideal work day for you. At this stage of your life. etc. still others will describe what their manager or co-workers didn’t have or didn’t supply.Center their answers on past experiences. A year or eighteen months from now. 4. will be those they are best at.. 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. 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. others about feeling “stuck”.e. and confidence about the change. 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.
books. a sharp-thinking applicant can assess what talents and skills he or she can bring from past experiences to apply to a new position. but will work long hours to catch up. Does your applicant perceive this need? Does he/she seek knowledge through a variety of sources – for example. How did you close the gap? The self-motivated person will close the gap by self-study and asking questions of qualified people. Others move through their careers. you should hear how motivated he/she is to attend classes or learn through self-study. 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. 2. periodicals. each job leading neatly to the one in front of it. as well as through formal channels. Give me an example of a situation at your previous employer when others knew more than you. How have your past jobs prepared you for this one? Some candidates see their careers as a steady progression.8. Does the applicant seem aware of them and speak about them knowledgeably? 3. or in-house seminars? 13 . 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. Does it mean outside classroom learning. 9. training and education are necessities. knowledge and abilities are needed in the job. self-study. How do you keep up with the changes in technology (terminology. In what areas would you like to develop further? The areas cited may be potential trouble areas. 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. Regardless of the career path taken. Also. make sure how he/she understands the term the way you do. If the applicant asks for ‘training”. He or she will ask for extra help. Follow up: “How do you see this job allowing you to develop in those ways?” 10. surprised at the twists and turns they must negotiate. and conventions? Follow up with questions concerning new technology or techniques in your field. information) in your field? For many jobs. as well as opportunities for training and guidance. This question also allows you to find out how well the applicant understands what skills. Ask specific questions to determine what the applicant did without organizational support. on-the-job training. If you could acquire one skill or bit of job knowledge.
you might ask. if the applicant says. Try to ascertain whether the applicant is confident about learning and. or “the work gets out on time”. For example. If applicants are unable to answer this question easily. and how formal. of equal importance. After finding the answer. “My manager lets me know”. 3. whether he/she is making an estimate based on experience and knowledge. 5. In a past job. 7. Again. how thorough he/she expects the training to be. did you ever have to alter your standards to meet your companies'? When? Why? What did you do about it? 14 . this will give you an idea whether your applicant can learn quickly. How soon could you learn this job well enough to become productive and valuable to us? Much learning depends on confidence and commitment. How do you know you’re doing a good job? Possible answers conclude. upon hiring.4. what could we count on you for without fail? Watch carefully what the applicant speaks clearly and confidently about. “to give-you my best every day”. some applicants have no idea of what training they will need. Probe extensively as to which areas the applicant wants to be trained in. or more “people-oriented”?) 6. use follow-up questions to determine how the applicant went about learning. or whether it is simply a guess meant to impress you. Which courses gave you trouble in school? Which came easily? This simple question works best for younger applicants whose school experience is still fresh. a simple “Why?” question will reveal how the applicant sees his/her natural abilities and aptitudes. it may mean they are unsure of their own dependability. (Is he/she “number-oriented”.goals which they set for themselves over and beyond the job demands. Of course. Dependability 1. If we hired you. it is part of your job to clarify this issue in the interview and later. However. the more concrete and confident their announced commitment. 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. “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. 2. What would you expect from us to get you oriented or trained? Expectations which are not met can lead to disappointment on both sides. Internally motivated applicants might talk about their own standards . especially when the knowledge wasn’t readily available through his/her company. Ask follow up questions. the more you can be certain of it.
or in your past job. you will also place “excessive” demands on the applicant at times on the job. Most of us have discovered that an organization or manager demanded more than we were accustomed to producing. Try to get an idea of the actual impact on their organization of the example they give. more accurate results. He or she may have been very justified in resisting. how did the applicant handle it? Did he or she try to negotiate? Rise to the occasion? Sabotage? Odds are. it is a quality which will wear thin very quickly on the job. too. Give me an example of a time when your manager or others in your company placed excessive demands on you. 7. What did they want? What did you do? Consider two aspects: First. the time frame within which it was accomplished. This gives applicants an opportunity to “fire their best shot”. What is an example of something you’ve done that showed your most excellent performance? Be specific. is most likely an employee who can be coached and challenged to produce. However. and therefore what they would aspire to at their best. or still is. 5. what the applicant deems “excessive. 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. sometimes doing it “too perfectly” leads to work problems. What did you expect of yourself in your last job? In what ways did it differ from what your manager expected of you? 15 . However. it almost surely was the case in one or more jobs. and who succeeded at reaching them. stubborn and resentful about the adjustment. An applicant who lowered his standards to meet his company’s way has learned a valuable lesson.” Does it sound out of line? Can you imagine yourself asking for something similar? Second. better. Their answer to this question will generally indicate their highest ideal of what they feel others can produce. unless your applicant is a true superstar. and who else deemed it as excellent.Very few applicants will tell you their company’s high standards were in conflict with their low ones. faster. or a new attention to service or quality. 6. If you were a manager here. It’s important to understand what might happen when you do. probe to find out whether the company seemed justified and whether the applicant was. but watch out for self-righteousness. 4. An applicant who admits his standards needed to be raised.
a change in work procedures. What results were you expected to accomplish in your last job? How were they measured? Some individuals are oriented to results. this one will help to elicit a clear description of the applicant’s own standards. and what areas he/she perhaps would feel confident in at your organization. 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.A variation of question three. “in accuracy”. 10. as well as their understanding of the importance of clear goals and measures. such as “to be at work everyday ready to do her best”. such as “in the area of working hours”. they will answer this question quickly. However. and an “educated guess” concerning the position applied for. one of the contributions may describe volume of work. Please give me an example of a time when management would not allow you to take a necessary action. assess how well the applicant sizes up “success” with minimal information about the position. easily determined measures. if necessary. you may then obtain some revealing answers. Look for specific. and what long-lasting impact they had. and confidently.) 16 . try to determine what results he/she set on their own. 8.” If you reinforce the applicant’s first few statements. don’t accept them. What do you think an employee owes his/her company? If you get clichés or vague answers. In other words. For example. Ask for examples to demonstrate the generalities. Give prompters. regardless of management’s approach. even though you felt it was necessary to do so. The resultsoriented person will try to set their own standards. another change in procedures or operations. Other applicants will answer vaguely. “in working with others” or “in selfdevelopment. specific and clear-cut. What were your three most impressive tangible contributions to your company? The contributions the applicant lists unavoidably reflect his/her values and standards. The results they describe will be measurable. (For example. in a very specific way. 11. 9. Flexibility 1. how the organization recognized them at the time. These contributions reflect what the candidate feels proud about accomplishing. probe to uncover exactly how significant the contributions were. regardless of their content. What the applicant feels employees owe a company usually is very similar to what you can expect the applicant to give your organization. or blame management for being unclear regarding results. and still another money-saving idea. If the candidate blames management.
After you have clearly understood the example. was it appropriately assertive without being divisive? 2. while not necessarily pleased with the changes. 17 . Among them: ask management for the reasons and argue his/her case. Has a policy or directive come down with which you really disagreed? What did you do? If the applicant experienced this situation. 5. find out how quickly the applicant accepted the changes and tried to understand the reasons for them. What did you do? When the applicant was faced with a quick decision and insufficient data. Have you worked in an organization which changed its policies or procedures frequently? How did you deal with that? Look for the person who. Give me an example of a time when you were given tasks to accomplish without advance warning. leave the organization. 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. overtly or covertly. and what does this tell you about his/her flexibility? 6. Organization. you will need to assess whether this demonstrates unwarranted impatience or inflexibility. 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. how did he/she react? Notice whether this common situation seems to make the applicant uncomfortable. accept the directive quietly and smolder silently. Ask also if he/she tried to find out the reasons for the changes. If the applicant expresses anger or disgust with the changes.Does the applicant speak about the situation with anger? Resignation? Find out if the applicant resisted management — if so. accepted them and tried to make them work. 4. 3. How did the applicant react. he/she had many options. 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. Have you ever had to make a decision before you had all the data you wanted? Give me an example. Attention to Detail and Time Usage 1. engage in sabotage.
They will not be comfortable in linear. and may be easily interrupted. determine how the applicant obtained agreements and held others to their time and quality commitments. get specific examples of how they have gone about it. find out the degree to which they are willing to give others authority to make decisions. how much information and direction did they usually give you? Give me an example of what seemed to be the right amount for you. the agenda. etc? Please be specific. Probe for their ability to draw help from others. the roles various people took. 4. They are often detail-oriented. it may be a good match. and a meeting that started and ended punctually. but less effective at doing follow through on the specific tasks to make it a success. 5. 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. 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.” unless they are given time to do a job well in an atmosphere of trust. Others see the big picture — they are comfortable strategizing the result and assigning resources to the project. 6. Some people are “doers” — they like to be given a task to do and they’ll make it happen. If an applicant tells you he/she likes to control both planning and execution. 2. What they would like to “give away” is what they typically will avoid doing for you when they have to make a choice. Only a few people can truly succeed at both planning and executing the plan. If the job involved coordinating with people in other departments. When your past managers have given you projects to do. They are uncomfortable with managers who are oriented only to the “big picture. This question will also unearth an applicant’s confidence and ability to take initiative with new projects. routine jobs. 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. planning before the meeting. schedules. such as “tickler files”.This question will often unearth the applicant’s awareness of details. However. 3. Would you rather formulate a plan or carry it out? Why? Give me an example of a plan you have implemented. 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. Applicants who are especially detail-oriented need to be given lots of direction and data when a manager delegates to them. monitor the results and follow through. A detail-oriented person might describe the seating. Find out whether the applicant set up internal controls. internal deadlines and interim meetings. 7. to delegate necessary tasks. 18 . If they are managers. How do you keep track of your own paperwork. this sort of applicant may tackle too many projects to get them all completed.
Where do you waste most of your time (when you do)? Accept almost any answer if the applicant seems honest and forthright. see how excitedly or readily the applicant volunteers the answer. detailed approach to the work. In your last job. The truth is. Describe how you handled the details of your last major project. If so. 14.It doesn’t matter a great deal how the applicant keeps track. They may not take the time to do the detail work necessary to fully complete some jobs. Those who are well-organized will usually be pleased to share their systems with you. How do you organize a day like that? First. see whether the busy day actually sounds busy to you. You can count on them to communicate all the information and to document their efforts. we all waste time. 13. if something wasn’t due for several weeks.” Other applicants will wait until they “really need to do it. and whether the applicant had a system to monitor the project which prevented details from being lost. look for an applicant who seems comfortable with his/her productivity regardless of occasional time wasters.” 9. when and how did you approach getting it done? Perfectionists typically will be uncomfortable waiting to begin a project. In addition. you’ll have to judge if their systems will add to or detract from the ones you presently have in place. 12. 8. what’s important is that they have established their own workable approach and sound confident of its success. Of course. What did you do the day before yesterday? 19 . 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. Describe a busy day at your last job. Did the applicant depend on others to handle details? Did he/she track details with the computer? Write extensive documentation? 11. Next. They will begin work early so it can be done “right. Do you typically write memos to others or do you usually deliver messages on the phone or in person? Those who would rather see people in person or talk to them on the telephone are most at home in the realm of ideas. Those who would rather write memos often prefer a structured. They will do the job “right” if it contains a lot of details. Note the extent of detail in the answer. 10. he/she will volunteer examples quickly. However some individuals know how to minimize the time wastes and consciously give attention to improving their time usage.
Does the expectation involve inappropriate guidance. Some believe that well-organized people can easily remember and that others will not. genuinely refuses to blame. if very aggressive people bother him/her. 3. etc. 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.) 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. he/she may be more passive. They may “hop” from one demand to another. Give me an example of the kind of co-worker (manager. In addition. even vital to success. you have got an overly aggressive person. or do whatever catches their eye next. etc.? 2. and find out the applicant’s reaction to them. you will need to discuss typical personalities he/she will have to deal with in the position. 16.This is an old-fashioned interview question which may or may not yield reliable data. 15. you will want to evaluate the applicant’s toughness and assertiveness. If he or she seems unafraid of open disagreement. you will want to understand the manager who will be communicating with the person to be hired. and tries to solve the problem constructively. What does he/she want to share and want to hear? Match the applicant’s answers. If the applicant expresses dislike of open disagreement. What sorts of things do you feel are important for an employee to share with a manager? And vice versa? First. organized approach to monitor needed items? Does he/she seem to have a good grasp of which items need attention? Interpersonal Communication Skills 1. gossip. Does he/she depend on a set. 4. counseling. you can assume the applicant is assertive. did you find it important to disagree with your boss? How did you approach him/her and what was the result? [Assertiveness.] Assertive people see disagreement as healthy. When. in a past job. customer. And if he/she attempts to win (and make the boss lose). For example. Well-organized applicants set priorities according to an orderly system and allow for normal interruptions. What kind of performance feedback do you want and how often would you like it? 20 . How do you decide what you should work on next? Those who are not well-organized often have no idea what they will do next.
Does the applicant know how to listen to other’s needs and vary their approach accordingly? 8. Follow-up: “How do you change when the group is composed of people you don’t know well?” 21 . (“I was really just trying to help her”. 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. when and how does he/she want to hear it? 5. 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. Probe to uncover whether the applicant made an honest attempt to adjust his/her style to make the relationship work. 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 question will help you determine how self-aware the applicant is.) How did you accomplish it? In describing their success.Open communication is a two-way street. “I get along with people who just do the job and don’t chatter a lot”. The employee must be willing to hear criticism and even ask for it on occasion. you may be living with their “personal” life for a long time. Can you describe the person or people you got along with best at XYZ Company? A variation of question 2 above. vendor. this one focuses on the applicant’s willingness and skill at mending relationships at work. an applicant who says. Listen well and you should get a good picture of the typical pattern of behavior in a group situation. 9. Assure the applicant that there is no “right” answer. How much of your personal life do you typically share with others at work? Where do you draw the line? Obviously. customer. 7. Name one recent success you’ve had in dealing with (a patient. 6. and in part. etc. 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 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. 10. what he/she feels “success” means in interpersonal relations. this is a judgment every employee must make. could be unhappy in an extremely personal. “chatty” environment. Don’t be reluctant to ask for specifics. or “I kept my cool no matter what he said. applicants will usually describe how they view themselves in relation to others.
does your applicant go on the 22 . 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. etc. From the answers given. 12. 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. Does your applicant seem to want total availability? To be able to get appointments or meetings with the boss? Again. or disregarded as not important? 2.11. Typically. it is also a vehicle to improve one’s performance when we can learn from the criticism. and then attempt to find a long-lasting solution? Finally. Give me an example of a recent situation when you disagreed with someone on the job. punctuality. he or she will tell you what skills or traits come easily to bear upon conflict situations. etc. They know that future productivity depends upon good relationships. When you have started new jobs. Ask why he/she was able to handle those people and situations easily. Probe the difficult situation to learn more.)? Conflict 1. Was it the situation (time factors. 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. 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. Are they defensive about any criticism. Are you convinced? Do they seem to understand what management expects from an employee (dependability. or criticisms over a certain part of their work? Is timing an issue? Proof? Finally. try to gauge the candidate’s sensitivity to criticism. working conditions. work load. 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.) or the type of personality which made it so difficult? 3. match the applicant’s need with the manager’s openness and availability. notice how the applicant treats the emotions involved — were they discussed and acknowledged. flexibility. expectations. Probe particularly how they have done this with management. However. Ask follow-up questions to determine whether the example cited is representative. When you’ve been criticized at work. 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.
he or she may try to provide quick answers and easily get hooked into an argument. 8. Others look for a “dad or mom” to bail them out. keep silent. you will find out the most by pursuing a reallife example. etc. When (customers. listening. rather that to attacking the person. 7. Listen for signs of inappropriate blaming and self-righteousness. co-workers. 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. 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. get the applicant to demonstrate what he or she said. and a commitment to solving the problem. Look at your own organization to determine whether you truly tolerate unpopular stands. 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.counter-attack. openness. 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. Those who are more mature generally don’t need or want help solving conflicts. your candidate may speak softly. Cooperation 23 . If possible. As always. how did he or she deal with criticism and unresponsiveness. If the applicant had a good “cause”. 5. vendors. or silently withdraw? Ask lots of questions about this issue if your candidate is inexperienced or if their manager is the critical type. Try to put yourself in the place of the other person. For example. 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. 6. What is the most unpopular stand you have taken? Please describe. Alternately. 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. 4.) get angry at you. or paraphrase the other person’s argument. Probe the example.
setting clear plans. Does he/she support those who are not personal friends? Was the support an aid to the organization. customers?) Give me an example? Some people are skilled at building and maintaining friendships. Others see the manager more as someone to be “bothered” with problems only as a last resort. and working through conflict positively. Others are creative bargainers. How do you get cooperation from other departments? (Vendors. Does your applicant seem to have conscious approach? Does he/she speak positively of their experiences in this regard? If so. 24 .1. How did you get cooperation? Can the candidate enlist the cooperation of others? Look for a knowledge of team functioning for example. Management has to perform very poorly for them to become uncooperative. They also provide suggested solutions whenever possible. psychological. which later may be used to get work done. as well as to the individual? 2. personality and presentation of the problem (should it be in writing or presented verbally?). it is a fair bet he/she can obtain cooperation when necessary. goals and objectives. Does the applicant’s answer sound convincing? Can you imagine other’s following him/her confidently? 4. By discussing their answer thoroughly. Match their answer. This question addresses the issue of the applicant’s ability to cooperate with his/her boss. they are sensitive to issues of timing. please. 5. or knowledge assistance. achieving consensus decisions. 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. listening well. 3. Finally. Give me an example of a time you had to take the lead with your work group to get a task done. recognizing team member’s contributions. 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. of course. Which problems do you feel are appropriate to bring to your manager? Give me an example. to their possible manager’s problem-solving style. documented facts. the importance of setting an example. of how you usually approach a manager with a problem. Examples may range from emotional support to providing physical. loyalty and cooperation. suppliers. Others expect management to earn their respect. Some applicants look at the manager as someone whom they want to cooperate with to solve problems beyond their expertise or authority. you can learn the applicant’s expectations for giving loyalty and cooperation to an organization. Cooperative employees bring problems in with clear. How much did the applicant offer that was not already expected? Find out why the applicant chose to offer support.
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. the “team-oriented” individual prefers teams for a positive reason (better creativity. 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. 8. 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. more anonymity. 7. 25 . Why do you do it this way? Is the applicant a careful. higher expertise. 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. step-by-step analytical decision maker? Or does he or she go by the “gut feeling”? Some decisions require careful research. Ask lots of “why’s” and “what do you mean’s”. Try to determine. etc. inability to set and maintain individual standards or plans). however. more spirit. 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. and match to the management style of their future manager. Describe your approach to making decisions and solving problems. Remember that a manager must make many quick decisions every day and live with the consequences. What do you require from a boss? A simple question which may yield crucial answers. A candidate who hasn’t evolved a successful decision-making approach will be a certain risk.6. others creative brainstorming.) or for a more negative reason (dependency. 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. 2. more fun.
budget. where possible. Get an example of a creative solution. 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. but only to the extent that their subordinates can handle. When you recommend something to management. Notice whether subordinates are assigned the details and held accountable for them. What have you done to get creative solutions to problems? Be specific.was it real or imagined? If possible. Many supervisors and managers have failed because they couldn’t sell their ideas and decisions to upper management.3. 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. Probe for factors such as awareness of proper timing. 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”. Give me an example of a decision you had to make quickly or under pressure. Their egos allow them to give power to employees. Are they of major importance? Did the candidate truly support the employees while still overseeing factors such as time. Notice whether the applicant seems excited by the creative process. what approach do you usually use? Give me a recent example. does he/she know when and how to “manage upward?” 4. Look for a candidate who delegates data collection. even thrives upon the pressurized atmosphere of management. find out how the candidate would have approached the situation given more time. Look for a systematic implementation plan. What did you do? Many terrific decisions and plans rot on the vine of poor follow-through. 6. How did you approach it and how did it work out? The manager who can make sound decisions under pressure is a valuable player. and sets priorities and objectives to organize the research effort. Probe to discover where the pressure was coming from -. whether the recommendations were in writing or presented orally. and others’ participation? 8. 5. range of options. and whether the candidate was sensitive to selling benefits and meeting potential objections. and subordinates will be frustrated waiting for a decision. with timetables and checkpoints. He/she will never collect enough data. 7. Also. Notice whether the candidate understands the “politics” of the situation. Did the candidate know when to back off? When to push? In short. look for a candidate who accepts. Was it arrived at through a structured process — or through intuition? Through group 26 . Describe a recent time when you had to implement one of your decisions. Probe for specific examples of the kind of decisions allowed.
Others depend on personal visits or a few chosen advisers. The good administrator knows that others will perform best if they clearly know what to expect and are held accountable for results. What areas are within your sphere of responsibility? How do you make sure that you know what is happening (problems. As an administrator. Flexibility is important. How do you make sure that your employees are accountable? Look for two steps: First. discover how well your candidate assesses his/her responsibilities and knows (as opposed to assumes) whether the operation is functioning correctly. finding them generally restrictive. Administration 1. 2. What do you typically do when you hear of a problem in your area? Give me a current example. sure performance feedback or coaching. 3. production statistics. or indicators of deep-seated troubles.)? Some managers are good at setting up reporting systems — logs. This question is meant to unearth whether your candidate is a “studier” or a “leaper” into problems. A more spontaneous manager dislikes all but the loosest structures. changes. Second. meetings. How useful have you found written procedures and guidelines in helping you manage your area? An analytical. At issue here is whether the candidate can monitor an area of accountability and judge when and how to get involved. etc. can the candidate innovate new systems if necessary? Is he/she willing to try your organization’s current methods? 4. Most importantly. thoroughly detail-oriented candidate prefers written procedures and dislikes varying from them. regular reports. 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. the candidate must track current problems and spot trends. 5. etc. Try 27 . Beware of overly sophisticated systems that could not be “grafted” upon your organization.brainstorming — or individual initiative? You’ll want a manager who values creativity and knows how to stimulate it in others. he or she must make an effort to reward good performance and halt poor or mediocre performance through quick. determining whether problems are temporary. 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.
Look for a candidate who keeps simple notes on employee performance and keeps statistics on production which are organized around clear. they like to add their own special innovations and touches. or simply “jump in”? 2. Would you prefer to write letters “from scratch” or use form letters? The best writers don’t mind using a “form” letter at times. an administrator. find out how much time it takes. He or she also knows that a memo should be brief and readable. 5. or someone who must be both? 6. What do you think is important to document? How do you document it? Documentation has become an increasingly important issue in management. However. and should present the primary information at the beginning. the candidate should have a 28 . Writing Skills 1. how do you usually get started? This question will help to understand the candidate’s approach to writing. military model of management. Notice whether the candidate can access the information easily. Others feel it gives the organization safety and stability. logical themes. a memo vs. Also. If the candidate always writes his or her own letters. and whether a form letter could accomplish the same purpose. How do you keep track of incoming and outgoing correspondence? Correspondence can become a time-consuming part of a manager’s day. What do you see as the difference in writing strategy for a report vs. Do you need an innovator. 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. Finally. Some managers feel it stifles creative ideas and people. 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. Does he/she write an outline before beginning. 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. The leader/innovator may chafe under it.to judge the need for structure in the position the chosen candidate will manage. The administrator/manager can make it work to their advantage. When you have to write letters. Listen to the applicant’s answer to determine his/her frustration level with the chain of command. proper documentation to defend against a discrimination claim or wrongful termination suit. search for the documenting employee performance — for example. 3.
Does the candidate simply accept it. 4. Give me an example of something you did which saved money for your organization. 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. The best writers are generally careful editors — they may edit a piece several times to hit the right tone. Do you struggle to write a letter or report. Probe to uncover how sophisticated the method is and how it has been adapted through time. and whether the impact was truly significant. 5. Next. What recent decision have you made that had an impact on finances? How did you assess its impact? 29 . for example). perhaps he or she sets low standards for it. 2. 3. Finally. or other purposes. If the candidate says writing comes easily. 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. find out what was truly an original idea and what ideas came from others (an employee.working knowledge of different business letters — those for persuasion. Watch out for the candidate who is unaware of other’s time and financial commitments and who complains of too much “pressure”. or can he or she suggest modifications? Be sure to distinguish between complaints and realistic improvements. Few managers initiate cost-cutting or money-saving ideas. determine how the candidate monitored and measured the savings. How could your organization’s budgetary process be improved? Most organizations have a budgetary process in place. apology. Uncover whether the action was in response to an external pressure for example. a management demand. Some managers view it as an annual headache and others are aware of it as an important management tool. Their idea of “pressure” may be what others call organizational reality. 6. 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. Financial 1. information. Try to gauge the sophistication of the candidate’s methods by asking follow-up questions.
for instance. and what you did to monitor it. 30 . such as “participative” or hard-driving”. Managers may talk about their ability to set goals and direction. For example. Give me an example of how you delegated responsibility for a recent assignment.The example named may be significant. make sure that your candidate enjoys using power but uses it for unselfish purposes. 3. 2. and structuring activities and assignments for subordinates. in what areas. his/her awareness of communication principles. This question will help you discover if the applicant is oriented to making decisions which save money — or make it. Delegation is a fundamental part of management. probe by asking. that others dislike being made to follow. planning of assignments. what and how you delegated the assignment. However. it should vary according to an employee’s experience and maturity. even enjoyment. or to lead by example. you’ll learn a good bit about how the candidate assesses employee skill levels. some probing follow-up questions are in order. “give me an example of how you actually do that. confident answer and notice whether you could be persuaded to follow him or her. and that they also want to feel powerful. Whatever they volunteer. Look for answers which indicate an easy acceptance. whom you chose. 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. few managers think about it logically. or to include others in decisions. of the uses of power and influence. and his/her ability to follow through and monitor. Ask how much detail the applicant usually provides when he/she delegates. training. you might ask about his/her style in dealing with conflict situations. Notice whether the applicant cares about developing and teaching employees through delegation. In other words.” Look for a strong. 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. Surprisingly. Don’t accept general terms used to describe the style. how monitored). however. or what would be the most logical way to explain its details? By pursuing questions about a recent delegation. setting goals (how many. the applicant will describe his/her style in complimentary terms. How would you describe your management style? Undoubtedly. Ask for examples which illustrate the style. running meetings. Leadership 1. and what kinds of assignments he or she refuses to delegate. How do you get your employees (or others) to follow you? This broad question allows the applicant to reflect on his or her leadership. how many really think about how to best prepare a job before delegating it. yet a healthy respect for others’ abilities and their mutual goals. For example. 4.
What have you learned about management since your first supervisory job? The old saying. and areas in which they will want to become more effective in. This suggests a need to learn skills in discipline and conflict resolution. listen and coach and counsel subordinates. For example. they are ready to take decisive action. Look for an applicant who has attempted to clarify job expectations and job standards with employees and who understand the importance of regular. effective managers are comfortable exercising authority. 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. Some managers only learn how to do the same (wrong) things more frequently! Others learn from mistakes. expect to be asked for direction. enjoyable part of their role as a manager. “experience is the best teacher” is usually true. If so. 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. non-assertive employees. constructive evaluations. your chances of hiring a winner will go up significantly. and gradually acquire important new skills. and make decisions which may appear to others to be unconventional. Furthermore. 8. They enjoy being a leader. they appear to be strongly focused on delegation -that is. perhaps they need to learn how to slow down. 6. some applicants state they find it hardest to manage quiet. 31 . power-seeking employees. few managers have given this issue much thought. The applicant should express an understanding that objectivity is a fleeting goal. What do you enjoy most about being a manager? Least? According to recent research. Finally. they know that memory is unreliable and biased. Others indicate they have more trouble with louder. it will help you learn areas in which they are likely to be effective. or problems on the job. If your applicant expresses some or all of these factors. If you can get a clear picture of their model. and they see this as a major. 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. enthusiastically projecting a sense of excitement to employees.5. 7. but an important one. his/her idea of a “correct” approach to management. What do you do to insure objectivity when you evaluate others’ work? Surprisingly. rebellious. Evaluating Performance 1. it is only true if people take the time for reflection and introspection. 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.
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. monthly. 6. 3. When you evaluate someone’s performance verbally. Notice whether the applicant has developed a reporting system and whether he has a handle on his department’s performance at various intervals (weekly. he or she may be more aligned with the role of a “judge” in the evaluation process.) 4. more importantly. (Those managers will probably be the ones who procrastinate in completing the job. employees who feel estranged from their own manager. 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. How do you get your employees involved in their own evaluation? Notice whether your applicant seems surprised by the question -. but compassionate enough to understand an employee’s circumstances? For those employees who are exceptionally good. as well as positive performance areas? 5. How do you evaluate your department’s overall performance? This question will help determine the applicants’ ability to plan. This attitude might indicate a manager who avoids the messy work of making others accountable for specific behaviors and outputs. what approach do you take? What if they are exceptionally good? Marginal? This question gets at some important issues. specific.many managers are unaware that the best evaluations include active employee participation. but doesn’t agonize over it. If your applicant doesn’t take steps to get the employee involved. probe what the applicant means by “evaluation”. 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.” Look for a manager who takes an organized approach to the task. 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.). and assess the factors he/she must be responsible for. Follow-up to determine whether their standards seem realistic. does the candidate know how to 32 . Be wary of applicants who feel that job standards are “unrealistic” for their kind of work. measurable goals. 7. quarterly. Does he/she put it in writing? Does it occur in a regularly scheduled meeting. Is the candidate supportive? Is he/she tough enough to pressure the marginal employee. Look for an orientation to clear production standards and specific. However. fair and measurable. etc.2.” The result may be less objective evaluations and. or as the need arises? Does it cover areas for improvement. rather than a “coach. monitor.
A good manager must plan and monitor improvements in performance. For example. too. 9. A good manager knows and feels comfortable with “behavioral” standards as well as quantitative ones. Have you had an employee who you successfully motivated? What did you do? How about one who you tried but could not motivate? Notice whether your candidate seems to understand and use a variety of motivational techniques which are matched to the personality and values of his/her employees. What should a performance evaluation system or form look like? Does at matter? Every manager has an opinion about the “right” form. 33 . If he or she seems tentative. Employee Relations 1. and delegation. How do you go about developing the people you manage? Can you supply a current example? Typically. coaching.? Or does he or she talk about increased responsibility. about what is expected of them. Notice whether the candidate speaks confidently and comfortably about measurement. How do you measure performance in your area? Standards for performance are useless unless they can be measured. it doesn’t matter which form is used. Look for an approach which emphasizes specific. Ultimately. how organized is the candidate when he/she evaluates work? Does he/she seem to weigh comments thoroughly. Look also for a candidate who is optimistic about the possibility of performance improvement. The current examples cited should help you sort out in which category your candidate fits. What is more important is that your candidate can use any form. promotions. positive reinforcement. Third. he or she will use what is available and do the homework necessary to write and talk about performance objectively. such as bonuses. etc. 10.give positive feedback and supply new challenges? Does the candidate “sugar coat” negative criticism or face it squarely? Finally. counseling. or “shoot from the hip. those who successfully help employees develop through planning. training.” 8. (Sample answer: “I send them to training classes when they ask. does your applicant speak most often about tangible motivators. measurable goals for improvement which are set collaboratively with the employee. challenging work. How do you plan for performance improvements? Evaluating performance isn’t enough. candidates will fall into one of three categories: First. those who don’t see much of a need to develop their employees and are uncomfortable with this question.”) Second. you can bet their employees will feel that way. A good manager knows that evaluating employees is more important than the form. those who talk about development but haven’t figured out how to accomplish it. this positive attitude will inspire improvement in others. 2.
That is. However. Managers who try to talk employees out of their attitude invariably get pulled down with their employees. perceiving and receiving good rewards. Look for managers who meet frequently. being allowed to “own” the job and participate in decisions. 7. How have you handled complainers? Notice whether the candidate expresses disgust or displeasure. How have you dealt with an attitude problem? Please give me a specific example. Give me an example of an employee who you had to discipline. having committed. watch out for the candidate who seems to be a “counselor”. if so. Every “attitude” problem is a behavior problem in disguise. How have you helped your employees become committed to a job or to the organization? Typically. listening sessions to hear concerns or problems. Many “complainers” simply need more support and an open ear. productive employees or employees not located in the same geographical area. does your candidate seem to grasp this? When discussing the employee who the applicant could not motivate. scheduled “status-check” meetings. assigning individual or group accountabilities. but has accepted gracefully the fact that a manager is only one of many motivating influences on an employee. whether formally or informally. etc. and meetings to reinforce performance and share success. and talk freely and openly with their employees about a variety of topics without overemphasizing regular. the candidate will ultimately be an ineffective manager.? Any motivational approach must take into account an understanding of the employee’s unique situation. setting goals. the manager labels poor performance as an attitude problem. reviewing achievements. seems comfortable setting limits on how much time and effort he or she will give to chronic complainers. Some meeting topics (other than production problem-solving meetings) might include: soliciting ideas or suggestions. has given up on solving attitude problems. they may be an untapped resource. On the other hand. 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. 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. make sure that your candidate after listening thoroughly. What was your strategy? How successful were you? 34 . and having clear expectations for performance from caring managers. 3.participation in decision-making. Therefore. employees become committed by acquiring job knowledge. You may need to surmise whether the candidate will take others’ problems on as their own too readily. 6. social talk. 4. or alternately. 5. Look for realistic examples which demonstrate specific actions which the candidate took. inspiring managers. look for an example which indicates the manager who sincerely tried. exceptions might include very experienced.
How many employees have you had to terminate? Which was the hardest one to fire? Why? The hardest case to fire may indicate a weaker area. Also. does the candidate speak about the project requirements. or did they undertake a formal training needs assessment? Match answers against your budget and available training resources. the time deadlines. notice whether the applicant sincerely wanted to help the employee in question. If your candidate seems to be comfortable setting early and clear limits for performance. For example. 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. Does the applicant seem comfortable setting tough boundaries without becoming vindictive? Does he/she understand that employees must choose to change. legal counsel. or whether the manager was drawn into a battle of egos. perhaps your candidate has trouble setting limits. 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. 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. etc. 10. If the example given describes hassles with documentation and organizational support. 8. the morale issues. Managers in the 80’s have had to learn to manage more defensively. 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. They continually look for opportunities to upgrade employee’s skills without the easy method -. Please tell me about a recent project you had to staff. For instance. find out how long they were willing to wait for a change.“send them to a training class”.e. having the candidate staff an important upcoming position or project? 12. consider whether the candidate assesses training needs logically. if the example given concerns an employee who was rebellious. and the amount of involvement the candidate wanted in the project? Would you feel comfortable. based on the answer given. Did he/she simply ask employees.The best discipline does not emphasize punishment.. the Human Resource Department. 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. 9. How do you develop trust and loyalty in your employees? 35 . to take action confidently. developmental needs of the staff involved. 11. Creative managers know training doesn’t always occur in the classroom. and be given realistic choices? Does the candidate appear to be comfortable with the necessity to document poor performance? Finally. perhaps this indicates a lack of thoroughness and patience. and what he/she did to increase the “risk” factor to the employee..
14. Finally. 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. 15. He or she will try to arrive at creative solutions to conflicts. The “problem-solver” will attempt to hear all sides and will not avoid the conflict. he or she should not hold a grudge against the people involved. Did the candidate analyze the problem with the employees’ help. Knowing the employees whom the candidate would manage. 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. and provide examples of how they have done so. more communicative and supportive. Knowing the employees who the candidate would manage. your candidate is likely to become more task-oriented – that is. your candidate is likely to become more task-oriented — that is. The best candidates will speak about demonstrating their own trust and loyalty to their employees. do you think this approach would work. do you think this approach would work. This question will help you determine whether.or more relationship oriented -that is. 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. or did the candidate simply apply a “band-aid” to the situation.Developing trust and loyalty is a two-way street. or solve it alone? Does he/she seem to understand the root cause of the problem. under pressure. and will see them as inevitable in any organization. more directive and goal-oriented -. Did he/she seem to understand the root cause of the problem or did the candidate simply apply a “band-aid” to the situation. These candidates usually encourage open communication and give their time and expertise to others. 13. Describe a time when you had to intervene to solve a conflict.or more relationship-oriented – that is. Does it take into account historical data? The potential impact of outside parties? 36 . under pressure. Why did you handle it that way? Try to understand whether you have a “problem-solver” candidate or a “problem-avoider”. Describe a time when you had problems getting people to work together in solving a problem or completing an assignment. Planning 1. They genuinely respect their employees and go out of their way to help their employees advance. more directive and goal-oriented -. Assess whether the planning method seems sufficiently sophisticated. more communicative and supportive.
Probe for an understanding of both issues. How did you deal with it? Two issues should concern you. Notice whether the candidate seems excessively bothered by the situation. Look also for an action which demonstrates the candidate’s ability to adjust the plan using creativity. Please describe a time when your plans didn’t work out. Rather than merely coping everyday. 3. or did the candidate initiate them? Planning is a necessary. 5. How do you assess priorities? How do you then assign them? Every manager must juggle priorities. can the candidate “read” and understand the norms or politics of an organization. Give me an example of a change you saw coming. other’s help. Did the plans come from others. he or she looks for changes — both those from outside forces and those which must be self-initiated.Potential changes or deviations? Does it seem to fit the planning time available in the management position you are filling? 2. Notice the degree of confidence and enthusiasm. Does it seem that terrible to you? Your best candidate is one who can endure political storms and remain relatively dry. can he or she “play the game. and hard data. Does your candidate seem comfortable with this part of the manager’s job? Organizational Relationships 1. 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. Describe a time when politics at work affected your job. will the candidate accept the political situation in your organization. What did you do to recover? Look for determination and an ability to analyze the failure in a detached. Describe a time when you had to sell a decision or policy to your employees when you didn’t agree with it? 37 . 2. First.” Second. or something you thought was necessary to change. How did you go about planning for it? An excellent candidate has one eye on the future. goal-setting and implementation. key function which must involve forecasting research. creativity. Look closely to determine whether the candidate planned ahead to implement the change — and whether the plan was followed. What major activities do you have plans for right now? Please describe them. logical manner.
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. Answers might include actions such as bargaining. this question will help you know the extent to which your candidate enjoys oral presentations and is experienced at organizing them. In summary. Probe the rules the candidate finds bothersome. Find out how he or she organized the presentations. or attempting to build relationships. finding a common goal. 7. Can the candidate put personal reservations aside and speak positively to his or her group? The effective manager voices disagreement behind closed doors. Ask how closely his or her past meetings have met that standard. 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. and whether their purpose was to sell.g. Notice whether the candidate talks about keeping control (e. and accurately reports the effectiveness of the policy or decision after it is implemented. Do they seem so onerous to you? Did he or she make a good attempt to follow them? 6. alerting members to their expected contributions). How do you typically get cooperation from someone in another department? The applicant should first acknowledge the need to get cooperation from others. 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. Probe vague or general answers such as “to give 100 percent” or “to be there ready to work every day”. while getting maximum involvement. Whatever the answer. How have you demonstrated your loyalty or help to your current management? What the applicant offers is a good description of what he or she will offer you. Notice whether your candidate looks at a presentation as a challenge or as something to be dreaded. having a purpose and objectives. 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. 38 . or merely to inform others. probe to find out what the applicant would do if that approach does not work. ask him or her how one measures effectiveness.Every manager must sell policies or decisions at times. 3. Have you had to make oral presentations to other managers? Describe what you did and how effective it was. refuses to sabotage management decisions.. setting time limits and an agenda. 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. If the candidate says a presentation was effective. Ask for examples of times when the candidate went beyond the usual and did something special.
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
3. if they were lacking information. 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. What do you do to learn about your customers’ problems? For salespeople. Do they speak of it aggressively? Try to gauge whether he/she seemed to enjoy the most challenging situation or the least challenging one. a high degree of retention indicates that the applicant has incorporated the information thoroughly. What sales situations have challenged you the most? The least? With this question. Probe to see why the situation occurred.” Look for those who strive for victory in the deal. In other words.4. What sales have you made when you had to study or learn information quickly? Ask for a specific example. and complaints? And did he/she apply that information to remedy problems and improve the product or service they were selling? 5. Was he/she prepared to counter the competition’s features and benefits? 6. will be able to stay “up. Does the applicant listen carefully to his/her customers’ comments. see if the applicant responds positively to the challenge. discover if they are driven by the joy of success or the fear of failure. who have enthusiasm for the selling challenge. curiosity about a customer’s business often indicates a real commitment to customer service and bigger sales. 2. 7. How do you keep yourself up for selling? Applicants who truly enjoy their work. suggestions. check to see how well the applicant remembers the information he/she learned. should they have had it in the first place? Sales Drive and Career Goals 1. How do you follow what the competition is doing? In many industries. knowledge provides the competitive edge. Ask the applicant how he/she has responded when customers favor a competitor’s product over his/her own. Look to see if the applicant views education as a vital part of success. Also ask how they learn about the competition. Also. as opposed to those who are selling simply to meet their personal financial needs. notice how effectively the applicant applied newly gained information to close a sale. 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. What makes a good salesperson? 42 .
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. 2. give applicants the opportunity to describe their role models. 6. It is more important that applicants have a concrete idea of how they are going to meet the goals. Organizational Skills 1. Look for preparatory steps they take to make the most of their customer contact.Here. they will tell you the kind of salesperson they are. but in fact it addresses an applicant’s self image. Applicants should have a plan for dealing with each. as opposed to what the goals are. Again. How do you prepare for a sales call? Sales calls come in all shapes and sizes. having positive energy. What are your overall career goals? How are you working to achieve them? The second part of this question should be your focus. 7. don’t be put-off it could be an indicator of a high-energy positive applicant. compare their goals to the opportunities your sales position offers. By doing this. Very often. applicants refer to their best sales skill as most important.” given their answer? 5. what skill made the sale for you?” As a second follow-up. Is it reasonable? Is it consistent with your standards? If the number is excessive. Their criteria may include: satisfying customer needs. 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. rephrase the question: “In past jobs. 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. Watch out for vagueness in the response. ask: “Besides dollar amount and sales volume. How do you qualify customers? How do you determine which prospects to call on? 43 . or being persistent. from the cold call to the drop-in visit to the scheduled presentation. if necessary. what approach has the applicant taken to overcome the least attractive areas? Has he/she thought it out? Does your position seem “attractive. being goal-oriented. this natural inclination can provide valuable information. or want to be. Follow-up question: “How have you demonstrated those same qualities?” 4. What is the most important sales skill? This question may seem abstract. what is the most important sales standard in this Industry?” Check to see if these standards are consistent with your own.
make sure it was warranted. 6. 7. Try sympathizing with them if they admit a dislike. Use this question to compare the applicant’s needs with your company’s procedures. probe to see how they live up to their own standards. others do so as part of a long-term plan. 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. customers. watch for evidence of frustration or impatience. Probe the applicant to see how they deal with administrative duties. Do they use a structured system? Probe to see how effective the method has been and what the applicant has done to improve it. Are they flexible in the face of changing priorities? Look for a consistent strategy. Which one organized your job (territory. one slip in a daily schedule can wreak havoc with the entire day. Use this question to gauge the applicant’s strategic perspective. How do you ensure a consistent base of customers? Prospects? Dollars? Some people organize for the sake of organization. compare these standards to your own. They should be able to distinguish “hot prospects” from “tire-kickers. Be careful if you hear a lot of frustration. etc.) best? Why? This question lets the applicant describe his/her concept of good organization. Probe to see how applicants deal with this pressure. they may more clearly reveal their attitude toward this part of the job. Look for an emphasis on independence and a willingness to set personal goals. Have you had situations when your schedule was interrupted unexpectedly? What did you do to overcome them? For a busy salesperson. How do you get started on a typical day? What do you do from there? This question gets at daily motivation and routine. 8. Look for refinement of these habits throughout the applicant’s career. 4.Salespeople have to get the biggest bang for the buck. Do they know how to do the spade work that will let them hit pay dirt later? 3. listen for the applicant’s willingness to examine his/her own efficiency. Compare sales managers for whom you’ve worked.” Examine their method of categorizing customers. How do you stay on top of your paperwork responsibilities? Some salespeople avoid paperwork like the plague. 44 . 5. look for clear criteria and procedures. What do you need from an organization to support your success? Please be specific. Once again. others confront it head on. Look for established habits that are geared to produce predictable results. 9.
Look for applicants’ ability to put disappointments firmly behind them. Sales Strategies 1. Give me an example of a time when you overcame a no from a customer. dissatisfaction. what did the applicant do to improve them? 5. along with the ability to change a sales pitch in response to customer concerns. probe for a specific example. Watch out for evidence of regret. What has been one of the biggest disappointments in your sales career? What happened? Setbacks are the salt of life -.? Look for the applicant’s willingness to go the extra distance and “make it right” with the customer. what objections did your customers have? How did you respond? Most customers have some objections. the salesperson who carries a torch too long may well end up burning you. Look for creative new approaches and the applicant’s willingness to examine him/herself. Look for evidence of tenacity. late delivery. How long have you gone without making a sale? What did you do to change your luck? Even long-ball hitters go through slumps. without alienating his/her own company. the icy wind of reality shows how brittle these may be.Handling Rejection 1. Does the applicant accept responsibility for instances of miscommunication. or obsession. 45 . What did you do to bounce back from it? The first step in overcoming failure is accepting it. 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. Did the applicant have pre-prepared responses to deal with the most common objections? Were these effective? If not. Don’t let the applicant evade. the question is how they broke the bad streak. Do they take responsibility for their slumps or blame them on external factors? 3. 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. did the applicant have responses? Try to gauge his/her attitude. When you were selling at your previous employer. What did you do? When is a “no” really a “no?” The best salespeople say never. 4.excellent for seasoning. but deadly in overabundance. etc. Give me an example of a difficult sale you lost. 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.
See if the applicant is enthusiastic and competent regarding the creative side of sales.2.” Probe to determine his/her specific involvement. can he/she sell you? 46 . they may be dealing with difficult parts of their own personalities. 6. Are the uncomfortable around cold people? Perhaps they have problems making friends. Is the candidate persuasive? Are these skills the ones you believe to be important? In short. 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. What special skills could you bring our company? Again. 3. The applicant should be flexible even in scripted presentations. positive approach? This question should show you the applicant’s degree of sales expertise. or conversely. did the applicant strive to exceed them? The best applicants will thrill in surpassing these objectives. He/she should be able to improvise -. 4. See if the applicant sets his/her own goals. to steer away from problems. Does the applicant dislike dealing with aggression? Perhaps he/she has trouble being assertive.to seize opportunities. 8. as well as what they believe to be their best skills. Did they use a creative. Does the applicant speak of the benefits with enthusiasm? 7. 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. 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. Here. Self motivation is a key element to achieving these goals. Determine how the applicant approached the problem. 5. Compare them with your own products and services. the first sale any applicant must make is to the interviewer. 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. Have you ever had to modify your usual presentation? What did you do? Why? Improvisation is the birthplace of creativity. Examine the applicant’s disposition and compare it to your experience with your customers. he/she is telling you what they know about the product and your company. If the company sets the goals. 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.
Look for the three R’s: relentless energy. determination without a bulldozer attitude. 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. tickler file. Does the applicant have a system for keeping in touch with customers (i. responsive attitude. callback sheet)? Look for dedication to customer satisfaction. How do you get to know your customer’s needs? A salesperson’s most valuable professional skills may also be the most personal. 10. Successful sales people should be persuasive without becoming manipulative.9. How much contact do you have with customers after a sale? Please give me an example of what you usually do after the sale. 4. Customer Relations 1. look at the details. 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. Perseverance and patience are also valuable here.” Others maintain files on potential customers for years on end.e. Did you ever have a customer complain after a sale? What did you do in that situation? Customers trust salespeople who accept responsibility for occasional mishaps or missed deadlines. 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. Probe to discover the basis of this persuasion. Does the applicant appear willing to listen? Can he/she ask a customer pertinent. How do you persuade your customers? Please give me an example. How long does the applicant wait before making a callback? When do they call an account truly “dead?” Look for sensitivity to customer signals. As you probe. be sure to probe for specific examples and proven techniques. 47 . incisive questions? Probe for examples. Watch out for applicants who assume customer’s want their product. 2. Closing is critical for sales success. Watch out for a complacent attitude or responses that show a lack of consideration for customer service. and repeat sales. 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.
is there a trade-off between efficiency and depth of detail? 3. How did the applicant feel about meetings in past jobs. or your company’s?” 6. he/she can also take them away. facts. 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. Look closely at examples. look at the applicant’s transitions from company to company. Look for a willingness to go beyond the minimum requirements of the job. 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. What kind of criticism have you been given by your managers? How much is appropriate? 48 . tempered by tolerance. Good follow-up question: “How late can a delivery be and still remain acceptable?” Cooperation 1. Did he/she provide insights on the competition or research new markets? Look for an emphasis on teamwork and a willingness to share tips.5. Good follow-up: “Do you feel that a customer is yours. etc. Give me an example of a time when you had to deliver your product late. Did the applicant establish realistic deadlines? How much pressure did he/she place on production staff? Look for focus on customer satisfaction. 2. 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. What did you do to make this happen? Where applicable. to provide managers with information as well as suggestions for improving operations. How did you handle it? The last thing your company needs is finger pointing between the people in sales and those in production. 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. 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. Give me an example of a customer who has stuck with you over the years. 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. 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. others are time-consuming bores.
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.Self-confidence is crucial for a salesperson’s performance. probe to see if the applicant sees the sales position as the “hub” of the company’s operation. 4. Follow-up question: “How do you feel production staff in your past job viewed you?” 6. but so too is the ability to accept constructive criticism. What’s the riskiest career change you’ve made? Why did you make it? 49 . Describe the type of relationship you had with the production people at your previous employer. why was the order difficult to follow? Personal integrity? Independence? Convenience? Watch for a resentful attitude. how does the applicant define this? Does he/she anticipate customers’ questions and objections. What risks do you feel are necessary in making a sale? How do you minimize these risks? Every sale involves some measure of risk. 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. Watch out for a defensive attitude. unbending tone. is their example truly innovative. 3. personality) as well as professional concerns. The salesperson who treats production staff as secondary is sure to meet with resistance. their willingness to alter company policy may show you how they will adhere to your guidelines. you had to try something you’d never tried before? Here’s a chance to measure the applicant’s creativity. to sell a customer. or do you see more of a “wing-it” mentality? Watch out for applicants who complain about the “up and down” nature of sales. Risk Taking 1. or hackneyed instead? Look also at the degree of risk that was involved. such as shifting delivery dates or including “extras” in a sale. Watch out for a prima donna attitude. Look for a willingness to place company concerns over personal issues. or a harsh. this may indicate the applicant’s depth of experience. Probe the reasons behind the applicant’s example. 5. this could indicate uneven performance. 2. Remain impartial to the response so the applicant feels free to talk. Have you had a situation when. Follow up by asking how he/she assessed the cost/benefit of their creative approach. so he/she needs a staff that can execute responsibilities without creating more difficulty.
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. this may reveal potential trouble spots or suggest incentives you can use to motivate the applicant. 50 .
applicants are selling the best products they have: themselves. 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. What did you do to prepare for this interview? The old adage says that contacts can get you an interview. How are they handling this task? Have they conducted research? Capitalized on professional contacts? Look for actions that indicate tenacity. How is the applicant capitalizing on the opportunity to sell him? Herself to you? Have they done 51 . 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. What do you do to build a list of possible customers? Some salespeople are content with the client list they already have. or do you see more of a “free-lance” mentality? How do these parameters fit with your own management style? 6. 7. 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). others create solutions to problems for their company. What ideas have you sold to your own management? Why? What happened? Some employees execute ideas.Self Starting 1. How much supervision does the applicant expect? Does he/she depend on constant encouragement and handholding. How do you go about researching a customer before the sales call? Sound preparation is the foundation of success. Look for attention to detail and complete followthrough. others are never satisfied. and an organized approach. but you have to get the job for yourself. 4. Look for evidence of perseverance and drive. 2. Were they confident in selling the concept to management? What were the consequences of their idea and the rewards as they saw them? 3. How are you conducting your job search? In the search for a job. creativity. What do you expect from a sales manager to help you make sales? Compatibility is the key in making a successful hire. 5. 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. Ask for specific examples of how the applicant has found new customers. Compare the applicant’s methods with your company’s strategy and niche.
or appropriate patience? Those applicants who can gracefully set limits for others usually have a good degree of self-esteem. Listen for whether the applicant is sensitive to timing. Have you had people who gave you assignments without complete instructions? How did you handle it? Please give a recent example.research on your firm? Are they psychologically prepared? Do they feel comfortal3le with this question? If so. ask for the words he or she actually used in the situation. or those in other departments? 4. 2. If the applicant asked for clarification. a person who was rude or overly demanding. Does the example given sound appropriately assertive for the people in your organization? For customers. Was the applicant respectful. Pursue the example with follow-up questions. yet forceful? Did he or she try to solve a problem. clients. INTERVIEWING QUESTIONS FOR CLERICAL POSITIONS Assertiveness 1.). 8. What did you do? In sales. Does this illustrate a “short fuse”.) What did you do? Find out how long your candidate waited before finally setting limits. Please give me an example of a time when you needed to increase sales. What did you do about it? The assertive person is confident enough to report the mistakes. and the lines of 52 . 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. please. Every clerical person must wrestle with this dilemma. or at least an understanding. Have you ever had a situation when you found mistakes on an assignment someone else gave to you (to type. of the other person’s point of view. Watch for method as well as attitude. rather than merely blame the other person? Listen to hear whether the applicant seems to express empathy. process. They care enough about themselves to not be abused. how much time did the applicant spend to get the increase? Watch for resentfulness toward higher objectives or quotas. as in sports. Does the applicant sound tactful? Could he or she have accomplished the assignment anyway? 3. Who have you had to set limits with at work? (For example. did they meet higher quotas by squeezing extra sales out of old customers or by penetrating new accounts? Look for attention to efficiency. etc. champions thrive on challenge. they’ve probably done their homework. yet secure enough not to blame or judge others too harshly.
notice whether the applicant seems to have genuinely enjoyed doing the assignment independently. How did you get started on it? Why did you set it up that way? Look for pride in the accomplishment. What do you do when you have down time at work — those times when the work slows down? Please be specific. 53 . Your applicant should be capable of organizing according to a prearranged or self-designed system. 4. perhaps even taking notes. 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. (If he or she claims this has never been a problem. 5. knowing that many. and exactly how “complex” the assignment was. Again. this raises doubts. Probe to find out what parameters were set by others. Give me an example of a complex assignment you have accomplished on your own. 6. Independence and Initiative 1. yet are able to speed others on their way gracefully. Depending on the position of the person in question. of their plans will be changed as priorities shift. How do you organize your typical workday? Excellent clerical people often organize their day well. social chitchat. if not all. They are conscious of saving time. Finally. Does the position allow the amount of supervision desired? If the applicant wants a great amount of independence. what is he or she willing to give in return? In other words. What amount of supervision do you feel most comfortable working under? Why? The independent person may resent even normal amounts of supervision. Find out also whether the past positions were structured similarly to yours. notice whether the applicant seems secure enough to speak up without being curt or brusque.authority in the organization. he or she should adjust their approach accordingly. you may want to ask how the applicant has earned that level of independence in past jobs. The applicant should volunteer which interruptions he or she has had to curtail. yet not seem to resent the inevitable changes in their plans. they ask incisive questions and summarize the major points. He or she should also demonstrate the ability to anticipate peaks and valleys in the workload. and dealing with visitors. Does his or her expectation for independence fit what your position allows? 3.) Ask about specific. typical interruptions such as those listed above. How do you minimize interruptions on the job? This question covers interruptions such as phone conversations that continue too long. 2.
How much training and guidance did you receive in past jobs? A variation of question number 3 above. ask the applicant where he or she learned this skill -. it might be wise to supply a typical document and ask him or her to correct it or make suggestions for improvement. Some applicants are uncomfortable with too much “down” time because they want to use their talents better and grow more competent. You may not have the time. 6.whether through formal education or work experience. even encourage using it for personal pleasure. or in response to a problem. or extensive training and hand-holding. However. and the complexity of the written material likely to be edited. 2. this question will tell you a lot about the applicant’s ambition and integrity as well as their initiative. Then. Many clerical people must receive delegation orders from more than one supervisor. 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”. 7. training manuals. the clerical person must be a combination mind-reader and handwriting expert!) Business Writing/Editing 1. or would you rather just know the highlights? Do you want them in writing? Some people want detailed instructions. you can determine whether the applicant is a quick study”. this question also deals with training issues. Was it completely selfgenerated. (In some busy offices. spelling. punctuation or syntax. filling in the blanks as necessary. Others may feel that using the slow times for personal business or pleasure is tantamount to stealing from the company. When typing. “down” times should be used for self-study. Assess their rewriting skill in light of the time available. 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.For trainees. For others. 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. whether he or she needs written procedures. 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. What sort of directions do you want from a supervisor or someone who delegates work to you? Do you like detailed instructions. assess the applicant’s need for delegation in light of the personalities on hand. even in writing. try to clarify whether the applicant has received instructions from past supervisors regarding slow times. 5. the talents in your office. If this is your situation. what sorts of mistakes can you catch quickly and correct for the original writer? 54 . With follow up questions. some organizations allow.
Unfortunately. However. 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. Ask for examples and. regardless of whether it is “fair”. many excellent applicants have agreements with their managers which allow them the latitude to rewrite or change documents independently. What formats or form letters have you had experience working with? This question has two aspects. relaxation. Handling Pressure 1. please. assertiveness. Try to elicit a situation which might happen in the new position: a tight deadline. 4. When typing a document. memos. can you set-up or write from scratch. Second. 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. yet assertive person. positive “self talk”.) he/she used to deflect or cushion the pressure? Would those resources help in the new position? 2. callers. hostile people. you must decide whether their experience can be utilized in producing the correspondence in your office. Does the applicant seem to have a sense of humor about it? Does be or she share which internal resources (patience. Give me a recent example of a situation you have faced when the “pressure” was on. 5. get the applicant to demonstrate how he or she would set up or “format” common documents in your office. 3. etc. What happened? How did you handle it? This is a general question which looks at the unique stresses clerical people must face. Does the applicant appear to keep his/her cool? Listen well. bosses) anger or frustration? Give me an example of how you have handled upset people (on the phone or face-to-face).Again. 6. 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. etc. Match the answer to the type of instructions he or she is likely to encounter in your office. Ask the applicant to repeat both ends of a recent angry conversation. What type of letters. etc. He or she then corrects minor mistakes and suggests possible changes. if possible. First. others sometimes explode in frustration or anger at a clerical employee. How much writing have you done from incomplete instructions or notes? Give me some examples. How often have you had to deal with others’ (clients. this question may be best followed by a quick test to edit a typical report or memo. overwhelming workload. 55 .
Focus especially on the most common pressures in your own work environment. Be wary of elaborate systems for prioritizing work. what did you do to cope?” 4. Find out how frequent the tight deadlines were. How often did this type of thing happen? How do you handle it? 56 . three phone lines is busy. In past work situations. 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. 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. excessive work demands or other factors are most likely to make the candidate feel overwhelmed. whether he/she tried to prevent or avoid them. match the tight deadlines to those he/she is likely to face. Prioritizing Work 1. Probe to determine their reactions and what they did to overcome the pressures. to others 40 is busy. 6. can the applicant effectively ask others (i. Give me an example of a time when you had to juggle several things at once. The answer to this question should reveal whether deadlines. 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. disorganization. you will want to match his/her idea of “busy” to yours. personalities. how they react.) When the situation became too busy. you will eventually discover how tough the applicant is under harassment or pressure. and how he/she felt about that kind of pressure.. (For some people. What system for prioritizing your work do you think works best? Clerical priorities can change with alarming speed.e. Again. Look also for assertiveness.3. Producing within time constraints is the foundation of clerical success. managers and users) which priorities they wish him/her to follow? 2. Look for a simple system that is easy to communicate to others. how closely does that match common situations in your office? Follow up: “When it became too busy. Follow up: “What would you (have you) done when others demanded that you stay late to finish a project?” 5. 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. 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.
Those clerical people who want to predict and therefore control each day’s work are likely to be frustrated and under stress. 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. he or she cannot be attached to “owning” the more prestigious assignments. ready answer to this question.).g. Would you rather be able to predict the work coming in. 4. you will want to avoid the applicant with “tunnel vision”. Give me an example. organizational position (managers first. Have you had assignments that had too many tiny details? (e. they enjoy keeping several projects in the air at once. 57 . the clerical part of the job may be very small and most clerical assignments are by nature piecemeal. In your specialty (word processing. In fact. purposeful. etc.). Look for a flexible attitude. 2. Those applicants who prefer to work every job through from beginning to end may be asking for frustration.. and does not express the perfectionist’s need to work on an assignment until it is over and done “right”. do you prefer to see a project through from beginning to end. Walk me through how you set up and complete a job specific assignment. 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”. processing statistics. 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. 3. Look for an applicant who welcomes variety. setting up forms). categorizing material. etc. 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.Some clerical people are master jugglers. At the same time. those who are in a position to decide alone should have no problem. supervisors next. not worrying over what might come in. data entry. He or she should speak confidently about assessing due dates. 3. and an ability to stay in the present moment. However. and prioritizing according to ease of the assignment (easiest task first). Look for a calm. Orientation To Detail 1.
He or she will ask for training and education because of a genuine interest. for example. statistical typing?” 4. to learn and has a track record of doing so. detailed types.? Since the introduction of computers in clerical positions. What are some of the positive things about working in the clerical field? What do you see as the drawbacks? Look for a realistic. How are you keeping up with the changes in software. look for an applicant who looks at the clerical field with his or her eyes open. what sorts of procedures for (data entry. etc. if not eager.) did you find already in place? Were they helpful? Specific enough for you? Detail-oriented people like to follow detailed procedures. they enjoy the hunt for the proverbial needle in the haystack. instead. If necessary. Be wary of overqualified applicants who can do the job. be suspicious of those applicants who profess to have a “five year plan” or similar long range goals. or is he/she simply 58 . knowledge and training have become more important. filing. Feel free to ask for a demonstration of the applicant’s talents. Negatives may include low pay. and who feels the positives outweigh the negatives. Following this through will help reveal areas where the applicant will be frustrated and ineffective with details on the job. Career Goals 1. Look for an applicant who is willing.This question deals with the perception of what kind of work is “detailed”. Do you enjoy proofreading or correcting other’s work? Why (or why not)? Proofreading is enjoyable work for detail-oriented persons. You don’t necessarily need a lifelong commitment. low prestige. etc. people who say they enjoy an activity usually are able to do it well. but cannot conceive of being challenged by it. In past work situations. He or she is unlikely to be more than a temporary replacement. 3. A person who wants to expand and advance in his or her career has an interest in learning new technologies. Follow up: “What is a comfortable amount for you of. clear-headed assessment from the applicant. 5. software programs or new techniques. 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. ask about other detailed work in your office rather than proofreading. If the procedures are not sufficient. technology. The real question is: Is the applicant comfortably on a career track. not because it is required. 2. to organize others and their work assignments and a liking for a busy job which usually has few major decisions or responsibilities in it. What are your ultimate career goals? How are you going about reaching them? Generally. Positives should include: the chance to serve others. and frequent pressure.
for those whose skills are well matched to the job. and the job affords the opportunity to provide service. Organization 1. he or she is more likely to be a winning choice. as in every job. this one requires organization. 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. Those who understand the joy of unselfish service to further others can genuinely thrive in those kinds of positions. 3. 5. If the applicant appreciates this question. What were your responsibilities in terms of ordering or maintaining supplies? How did you keep track of that responsibility? Like any responsibility. the person who expresses career goals well out of line with your position is a greater risk. 2. This will give you a sense of how long their stay with you might be. Those applicants who speak regretfully of the lack of challenge either need upgraded responsibilities or a new career. However. If the applicant changed or tried to improve the system of organization. Some people now see administrative support or clerical work as demeaning. 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. he or she will be a good bet to help get your office organized. What does service mean to you in this field? Some clerical positions demand little contact with others. How do you see it? Do you agree? “The world is as you see it. 4. Other clerical positions are direct opportunities for individual. probe to discover how they plan to reach the goal. and therefore not interfere with the job? Try to understand how impatient the applicant is to reach his/her goals. Listen for signs of a systematic approach. How much information did you have to locate? How did you keep track of it? 59 . Observe whether this question makes the applicant uncomfortable. group and organizational service. What keeps you challenged. low status work. as a clerical or administrative support person? Is it enough? Challenges exist in clerical jobs. including the ability to anticipate needs and keep track of inventory. Could it be accomplished at night or on weekends.” Those who see clerical work this way will never be really comfortable with it.taking jobs while waiting to discover what he/she would really like to do? Obviously. 6.
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. will have mapped them out mentally. If you need to prompt their answer. Match their skill with the need in your office. find out what worked so well and why. What have you done that has organized others? (For example. As you hear the answer. first find an area you would like to organize better. as well as organization skills. 5.) For secretaries and many other clerical employees. Internal Relations 60 . what changes would you have made in your job/department? Well-organized people usually have no trouble with this question. Find out how many of the systems were inherited and which ones the applicant set up. note whether the candidate analyzes the factors involved in an organized manner.or merely tolerates? 4. a primary responsibility is organizing others. They will have all ready suggested and made changes. One of our biggest problems has always been keeping track of. filing or other responsibilities. Does it seem to be something he or she enjoys . and how the same ideas could be transferred to the unique circumstances in your office. Follow up: What is an example of something you have organized well away from work? 8. Others find it difficult and tedious. If the applicant says the operation was already well-organized. 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. correspondence. However. or if unable to do so. If you were managing the clerical operation. charts and statistics. They have the ability to evaluate another’s habits. The best clerical people accomplish this responsibility with good-humor. get a feel for the applicant’s interest and confidence in the topic. and updating lists.This question can include responsibilities such as filing. 7. It is not important that he/she is able to produce an immediate solution. phone messages. Give me an example of a recent time when you had to reorganize things to meet a tight deadline. and seems able to use experience and creativity to propose solutions. Give the applicant enough information to understand the problem fully. your boss. using the computer. What suggestions or ideas do you have for improving this? To ask this question. asks penetrating questions. How did you arrange your schedule and work to accomplish it? When the pressure is on. and can institute a variety of changes which uniquely fit the situation. 6. can your applicant juggle schedules and priorities to meet a deadline? This question will help you assess his/her flexibility and creativity. ask about workflow.
This question will help you find out where the applicant draws the line. 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. match to the personalities he/she will have to deal with in your situation. Give me an example of the kind of thing you have had to keep confidential. 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. 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. too? This question gets at the extent of on and off-the-job socializing your applicant is likely to do. 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.. assertive. 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. 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.” 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. or to withdraw? Note the candidate’s tone when describing the conflict. Is it vengeful? Regretful? Hostile? If in doubt. 3. and whether he/she discriminates between gossip and harmless social talk. Is there a line? Most importantly. What things are personal and should not be brought to work? Which are O. to discuss? Everyone has an opinion whether “personal life” or personal problems” should be brought to work. 61 . try to get another example from the applicant. Give me an example of a recent conflict situation with a co-worker that you were. 4. Then. Try to nail down the specific irritants or personality types in question and what the candidate did to cope successfully. involved in.K. Which sort of manager (tenant.1.