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