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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
Give me an example of what an organization/management should do to cushion or prevent the effects of stress from a job. Try to find out what about that job responsibility they anticipate will be troublesome. meditation or other methods. If your applicant claims that the pressure never affects the work. 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. 7. a tough deadline? Juggling priorities? Meeting others’ expectations? Why? The items stated indicate an important aspect of the candidate’s personality. 8. Probe as to what about the situation was stressful. Probe to determine whether the applicant has received what is needed in a past position. Could your organization supply these things? 5. 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. Some people never feel this kind of stress at work. The best employees know this adrenaline surge well and welcome it. Off the job.) 3. How do you handle the need to juggle priorities or projects? What have you done to accomplish this? 4 . working conditions. (For example. involvement in decisions or better supervision. if an applicant says “meeting deadlines”. In a past job. The aspect they state is most likely what they fear being able to handle. Which situations have made you feel pleasantly stressed or excited at work? Give me an example please. probe to determine what he or she has learned to do to reinterpret work pressures or shield him or herself from them.” On the other hand. Can your position supply the situation they desire? 6. 4. Watch out for the person who expects miracles from management to bail them out. it may simply mean they are not receiving the help from others they deserve on the job. see if your applicant has counterbalancing factors to cushion job stress. reasonable answers might include suggestions about break times.methods. An applicant of this nature may be steady. this may mean he/she is a perfectionist and dislikes letting go of their work. the support of friends. more irritations occurring or working faster with less enjoyment. but it is very unlikely that he or she will become an excellent employee. For example. On the other hand. Finally. Be suspicious of answers such as “supply enough staff” or “give us more picnics and social time. an exercise program. making them resentful of management. it may mean they are somewhat unorganized. what was most likely to create stress for you? For example.
3. Those candidates who seem not to care may be unfeeling — on the other hand.) 5 . Make sure the “excitement” can be generated again by factors within your current control. (Some organizations inhibit real motivation in all but the most internally-motivated. salary. 10. disability.” Be careful of discriminatory questions. training. which gave you the most meaningful experiences? Why? Ask follow-up questions to determine why they were meaningful. Work pressures can often place pressure on life at home. 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. etc. 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. substance abuse. they may have built up an internal mechanism which allows them to “block out” organizational stresses and still be productive. for instance)? The resourcefulness of the applicant is a test case for his/her ability to deal effectively with other stresses likely to be encountered on the job. What has made you feel excited about coming to work? When have you felt down or unfulfilled by a job? Probe for clear examples. How have you handled this? Your best strategy here is to listen. raises and organizational culture. be empathic and ask simple follow-up questions such as “why”. In all of your jobs. even those right out of college. 11. turnover is a fact of organizational life. Has the applicant responded by developing new techniques. Look for experiences that are available through the position you are filling. Find out whether factors were involved which were unique to past jobs. What do you need from an organization to feel motivated? Get specific answers which might include: working conditions. Watch closely whether the candidate seems truly to have faced and won the “burn out” baffle. too. and has developed a healthy coping strategy through research and selfdiscovery. Beware of those candidates who seem to care too deeply. 2.Many applicants have had to face this sort of stress before. supervision. but keep your ears open for possible patterns of sickness. Look for a person who understands stress. and ‘please tell me about that. Motivation 1. 9. lateness. a better “to do” list. emotional upheaval. for example? Better skills (such as increased assertiveness of an ability to manage upward”)? New values (learning to ‘roll with the punches”. not how and when. benefits.
Importantly. and many factors are beyond the manager’s control. The manager’s efforts sometimes fail because ultimately. he or she is. the candidate will be unlikely to become a long-term. you must determine if the job available matches the motivational need revealed. Finally. non-exempt positions. If he or she is unclear about this. When the applicant tells you what the manager should do. 8. When has your morale been the highest at work? Why? The answer should reveal what will motivate the candidate. happy employee of your organization. benefits and a “steady” job situation. Have you ever worked for or with someone who was highly motivated? In what ways are you like that person? Different? You should receive a surprisingly honest answer to this question. If he/she discusses wages. he or she must receive them through an interesting job well-suited to his or her talents. learning and increased responsibility. each employee must motivate himself or herself. you will be able to motivate him/her best through peer pressure and the “team” concept. Does your applicant understand this? Does he or she take some responsibility for motivation? 6. If he/she recalls times when they worked among talented. Most applicants open up when describing someone else. telling you what he or she wants. 5. as well as others. prestige or influence. security is the candidate’s biggest concern. of course. Try to discover how the job applied for will lead the applicant to his or her success goals. this question will help you determine what you cannot expect from the candidate if he/she is hired. it will often reveal the extent to which the applicant is self-directed as opposed to those who wait for others to motivate them. Why did you choose this profession? What rewards does it give you? Why do you stay in it? Look for a feeling of pride in work. if the candidate speaks about work that was challenging and that provided growth. of “that’s what I’m best at!” Watch out for a feeling of resignation. money. Obviously. For example. What should a manager do to motivate others? Why does it sometimes fail? This question can be used to interview supervisors and managers. If he/she discusses situations when others recognized their work and he/she received status or position. For the nonmanagement employee. if the answer puts success in terms of power. 7.4. the applicant will not be happy for long in most low-paying. 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. Goal Orientation 6 . friendly people. your applicant may need a good bit of help with his or her self esteem.
4. can your candidate find more than one way to accomplish his/her goals? 6. 7. measurable and specific. and which activities make them feel productive. Have you ever suggested ideas which were not accepted by management? What were they? What did you do then? When ideas are not accepted. Highly goal-oriented individuals may speak in terms of being given procedures. but their primary regret will not be that they were unable to achieve a goal. Do you think M. until the whole picture is assembled. some people give up. works? How do you adjust to working under a goal setting program? M. which one required the fastest actions or decisions? How did you feel in those situations? Please describe one. measuring tools.B. requires much planning. unrealistic for certain jobs and leads to quotas. 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. regular updates. 3. and will speak about what he or she was able to accomplish anyway. discussing. Please describe how you set and measure your work goals.1. step-bystep. demanding work atmospheres. Is the applicant results-oriented? Determine how detailed the goals are and whether they seem realistic. In fact.B.O. monitoring and adjusting of goals and objectives to succeed. This question should help you discover how fast the applicant prefers to move toward a goal. Does the candidate fit this profile? 2. Others may feel it is restrictive. Management by Objectives. The very goal-oriented applicants should adjust easily it to it and will help make it a success. goals. they are uncomfortable with the accountability that M. Of your recent jobs. placing each piece of a puzzle in front of them. forces. They are uncomfortable in ambiguous. they usually set goals for non-work activities as well.B. this situation will be almost intolerable. How do you monitor the progress of assignments and projects? 7 . 5.O. For others. Others reintroduce them in a better package or find ways to accomplish their goals which avoid a ‘sales job” to management. they may speak about being unfairly treated. In other words.O. Most important. Some goal-oriented people are methodical. What made that situation so productive? This question allows the applicant to tell you how they like to be managed. He or she will relate how hard they fought to overcome the situation.. and accountability with enough authority. The extremely goal-oriented candidates set their own goals without waiting for others to instruct them. Describe which job and which manager got the most out of your potential.
3. “tickler” files. What do you feel is a fair lateness standard to hold employees to? For instance. traffic or other problems. and whether they are likely to prevent good attendance and punctuality. For example. car troubles. but also because they constantly measure the progress of their journey. follow-up to see whether they are still present. 2. do they have family obligations? Another job? A carpool? After their answer is clear. a person may offer. In your last job. what obstacles have you had to overcome to get to work on time? Candidates may tell you about their day care arrangements. You could count on that person to regularly arrive a few minutes late in the morning. If factors other than illness are offered. For example. to “I never feel it is necessary”. Ask for their reaction. “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”. Keep the conversation away from the personal. Answers may range from “whenever my supervisor asks”. and watch for signs of hidden disagreements. your responses should show the applicant that it is easy to share these reasons with you and that you won’t judge them harshly. Probe to find out how severe the symptoms of an illness were and how often they occurred. you should feel comfortable giving the candidate a realistic estimate of the amount of overtime the new position might require. Does the candidate use methods such as project boards. If necessary. you can determine how serious the problems are. 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 . When do you feel it is necessary to work overtime? Please give me examples from recent jobs. 4. or simple reminder notes to keep track of his or her accomplishments? Attendance/Punctuality 1. follow-up with question #5 below. progress reports. Listen for what is volunteered. What the applicant presents as “fair” will be a standard or policy which would allow them to avoid trouble. By probing. give me some examples of things that made it necessary for you not to come to work a day or longer. In your last few jobs.Goal-oriented people often accomplish a lot not only because they have a destination. Be sympathetic and act unsurprised by any answer. Followup to determine the reasons for their answers. 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. 5.
what would it be? Job innovation depends partly upon a clear-eyed assessment of traditional. 4. 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.) If the example cited is more than a few years old. too. Please tell me a great idea you have seen in your field recently. Did these examples have a long-lasting impact? Did others benefit from them? Problem Solving / Analytical Skills 1. and the applicant should become energized when describing it. or truly new? Is it a practical idea. Follow up: Would the manager tell me you were dependable? How did you demonstrate that dependability through you attendance/punctuality? Creativity and Innovation 1. If you could change one thing which is inefficient at your current job. or more abstract? 3. Have you ever been assigned several important projects at roughly the same time? How did you go about setting priorities for your time? 9 . routine methods. planned day. Surprisingly. innovative people like to “free lance” their way through a day. Why was it unique? The idea cited will reveal something about the applicant’s measuring stick for creativity. is the idea a synthesis of old approaches. Match the applicant’s answers with their likely work day in the new position. 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. or whether it was selfgenerated. Which have you preferred to work with — a set. preferring not to be tied down by a restricted schedule. truly creative people enjoy presenting new ideas.Variations of this question have been used for many years by interviewers. 2. The applicant generally assumes the interviewer may call the past manager and that he or she should therefore be truthful. For example. Applicants who struggle with this question or who offer trivial changes are unlikely to create innovations which save you time. The answer should sound realistic and well organized. ask for a more recent example. money or energy. or a day you create for yourself? Why? Often. some applicants are more creative under very structured conditions because their creativity is stimulated when bordered by time pressures. (This will help you know what their new manager should do to maximize the applicant’s creativity. Use follow-up questions to determine if this is a cover to hide a disorganized approach to the work day.
for example. 5. the job search is a problem like any other business problem. or at least thought about. If they create such a structure. 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. Look for a problem situation analogous tones he/she might face in the new position. they analyze the need for one and begin designing forms. etc. delivery date. or simply blames the system. deadlines. standardized forms. Why did you choose that method rather than another solution? The applicant should explain how he/she identified the real problem.Look for an answer that demonstrates an analytical process. procedures. What has been a stubborn or recurring problem which you would have liked to solve in your current job — but haven’t yet? 10 . analyze various factors and take the initiative to advance various courses of action. What information or technical support has helped you succeed on the job? (For example. Applicants will usually describe their problem solving ability in terms or either. Some applicants have a high need for “structural” support — if a system isn’t in place. and organizational politics. The applicant might consider factors such as the impact on production. acquire data. a “people” problem or a “hard data” problem of facts and statistics. Probe to find out the methods used to analyze the problem and the questions the applicant had to answer to arrive at possible solutions. This self-description question can be very revealing. The applicant must first set a goal or intended result. Please describe your current approach to searching for employment. procedures. or (c) creative problem-solving (formulating new approaches. If they were satisfied with organizational structures in place. 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. perhaps innovating on-the-spot solutions). 3. An analytical applicant might have analyzed the situation as a problem and recommended. etc. In one sense. ask for examples of why and how they were worthwhile structures or procedures. (a) concrete skills (“give me the pieces of the puzzle and I’ll put them together for you”). What kinds of problems do you feel you are uniquely qualified to solve? Give me an example of how you have demonstrated this. goals. what change they initiated and what the results were. others’ expectations. 2. others what experience has taught them. Notice whether the applicant takes responsibility for creating a solution. (b) abstract (the ability to analyze and organize ideas and concepts). Some applicants will describe their training or education. probe to find out what the initial problems were.) Which have you created on your own to make things more efficient? This question will help determine the applicant’s need to “systemize” work. 4. procedures to prevent its constant reoccurrence. Give me an example of a difficult decision you had to make at your last job? How did you solve it? Follow up. 6.
An applicant with highly developed analytical skills should be able to answer this question easily. 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 . notice whether the applicant’s presentation of the problem is orderly and systematic. or simply made an unthinking blunder. 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. the process an individual wants to follow might not match the reality of what he/she actually does. Then match the answers to the authority allowed in the new position. He or she will genuinely be challenged by the problem. 8. 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. 10. determine what he or she learned from the experience. or a more careful structured one? Ask for an example to illustrate the approach discussed.Look for an orderly examination of the problem into its component parts. Ask whether he or she would like more authority. Look for tenacity and determination in discussing a possible solution. 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. What process do you follow in solving problems? Consider the problems your candidate might face in the position. and even enjoy discussing the problem and the various “blind alleys” traveled to solve it. This question makes it clear how much leeway the applicant had or has to make decisions. 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. Would a “shoot from the hip” approach work best. Career Ambitions 1. ask him/her how they have since guarded against those kinds of errors. What methods do you use to make decisions? Please give me an example of your approach. Assess whether he or she took a calculated risk. As a follow-up. Finally. Watch out for a tendency to blame others rather than accepting responsibility to work within the limits of the problem variables. When the facts are all in. Finally. No problem solver makes the right judgment every time.
etc. You are safest if they have more than a “feeling” of what they want — i. 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. 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. Be firm that they honestly tell you their expectations before you predict how much is possible. but don’t ask discriminatory questions. A year or eighteen months from now. ages. As they describe what they will be doing. Some applicants will talk about money. How did you know it was time? This important question will reveal their values. Describe the ideal work day for you. 12 . and confidence about the change. a lack of confusion.Center their answers on past experiences. 2. and with enthusiasm. Ideally.. the activities they describe first. The achievements presented are quick guides to what the candidate wants out of his or her career. 4. Be careful to listen and probe. 7. activities and interactions. Avoid the “cat and mouse game” about money. 3. tasks. Generally. rather than a complaint about what was lacking. 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. If they are overly ambitious and have unrealistic ambitions. specific responsibilities. do they seem fearful? Confident? Confused? What does this tell you about them? 5. others about feeling “stuck”. what do you need to support your professional growth? Personal growth? This question will often give you information about applicant’s personal lives -.their families. Look for consistent reasons to leave each job. expect trouble — unless they have a real plan to get where they expect to go.e. Make sure their past experiences reflect realistic expectations. study their reactions. At this stage of your life. will be those they are best at. 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. Give me an example of when you have outgrown previous jobs and knew it was time to move on. 6. still others will describe what their manager or co-workers didn’t have or didn’t supply. 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.
Follow up: “How do you see this job allowing you to develop in those ways?” 10. This question also allows you to find out how well the applicant understands what skills. on-the-job training. information) in your field? For many jobs. 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. surprised at the twists and turns they must negotiate. knowledge and abilities are needed in the job. Does your applicant perceive this need? Does he/she seek knowledge through a variety of sources – for example. Regardless of the career path taken. Others move through their careers. How did you close the gap? The self-motivated person will close the gap by self-study and asking questions of qualified people. as well as through formal channels. each job leading neatly to the one in front of it. as well as opportunities for training and guidance. but will work long hours to catch up. 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. Give me an example of a situation at your previous employer when others knew more than you. Does it mean outside classroom learning. In what areas would you like to develop further? The areas cited may be potential trouble areas. 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. training and education are necessities.8. and conventions? Follow up with questions concerning new technology or techniques in your field. Ask specific questions to determine what the applicant did without organizational support. If you could acquire one skill or bit of job knowledge. He or she will ask for extra help. Does the applicant seem aware of them and speak about them knowledgeably? 3. or in-house seminars? 13 . make sure how he/she understands the term the way you do. 2. 9. How do you keep up with the changes in technology (terminology. If the applicant asks for ‘training”. Also. a sharp-thinking applicant can assess what talents and skills he or she can bring from past experiences to apply to a new position. self-study. How have your past jobs prepared you for this one? Some candidates see their careers as a steady progression. you should hear how motivated he/she is to attend classes or learn through self-study. books.
upon hiring. Ask follow up questions. Again. did you ever have to alter your standards to meet your companies'? When? Why? What did you do about it? 14 . 2. Try to ascertain whether the applicant is confident about learning and. 3. and how formal.4. How soon could you learn this job well enough to become productive and valuable to us? Much learning depends on confidence and commitment. Dependability 1. how thorough he/she expects the training to be. or whether it is simply a guess meant to impress you. If applicants are unable to answer this question easily. some applicants have no idea of what training they will need. it may mean they are unsure of their own dependability. For example. After finding the answer. if the applicant says. a simple “Why?” question will reveal how the applicant sees his/her natural abilities and aptitudes. or “the work gets out on time”. or more “people-oriented”?) 6. “My manager lets me know”. In a past job. What would you expect from us to get you oriented or trained? Expectations which are not met can lead to disappointment on both sides. the more concrete and confident their announced commitment. the more you can be certain of it. use follow-up questions to determine how the applicant went about learning. 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. whether he/she is making an estimate based on experience and knowledge. Internally motivated applicants might talk about their own standards . Which courses gave you trouble in school? Which came easily? This simple question works best for younger applicants whose school experience is still fresh. “to give-you my best every day”. How do you know you’re doing a good job? Possible answers conclude.goals which they set for themselves over and beyond the job demands. If we hired you. especially when the knowledge wasn’t readily available through his/her company. it is part of your job to clarify this issue in the interview and later. this will give you an idea whether your applicant can learn quickly. Of course. Probe extensively as to which areas the applicant wants to be trained in. (Is he/she “number-oriented”. you might ask. what could we count on you for without fail? Watch carefully what the applicant speaks clearly and confidently about. However. of equal importance. These answers are indicative of applicants who are oriented to external standards. 7. 5. “Can you give me an example of how you’ve demonstrated that at your last position?” Generally.
is most likely an employee who can be coached and challenged to produce. and therefore what they would aspire to at their best. it almost surely was the case in one or more jobs. If you were a manager here. the time frame within which it was accomplished. or still is. 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. and who succeeded at reaching them. you will also place “excessive” demands on the applicant at times on the job. Try to get an idea of the actual impact on their organization of the example they give. unless your applicant is a true superstar. stubborn and resentful about the adjustment. or a new attention to service or quality. An applicant who admits his standards needed to be raised.” Does it sound out of line? Can you imagine yourself asking for something similar? Second. probe to find out whether the company seemed justified and whether the applicant was. 6. it is a quality which will wear thin very quickly on the job. It’s important to understand what might happen when you do. too. faster. and who else deemed it as excellent. However. What did they want? What did you do? Consider two aspects: First. sometimes doing it “too perfectly” leads to work problems. What is an example of something you’ve done that showed your most excellent performance? Be specific. Their answer to this question will generally indicate their highest ideal of what they feel others can produce. but watch out for self-righteousness. What did you expect of yourself in your last job? In what ways did it differ from what your manager expected of you? 15 . how did the applicant handle it? Did he or she try to negotiate? Rise to the occasion? Sabotage? Odds are.Very few applicants will tell you their company’s high standards were in conflict with their low ones. better. An applicant who lowered his standards to meet his company’s way has learned a valuable lesson. Give me an example of a time when your manager or others in your company placed excessive demands on you. 5. However. 4. 7. or in your past job. Most of us have discovered that an organization or manager demanded more than we were accustomed to producing. more accurate results. what the applicant deems “excessive. This gives applicants an opportunity to “fire their best shot”. He or she may have been very justified in resisting.
and still another money-saving idea. The resultsoriented person will try to set their own standards. as well as their understanding of the importance of clear goals and measures. specific and clear-cut. 11. “in working with others” or “in selfdevelopment. 10. What the applicant feels employees owe a company usually is very similar to what you can expect the applicant to give your organization. such as “in the area of working hours”. These contributions reflect what the candidate feels proud about accomplishing.” If you reinforce the applicant’s first few statements. Flexibility 1. don’t accept them.A variation of question three. and confidently. you may then obtain some revealing answers. regardless of management’s approach. a change in work procedures. If the candidate blames management. The results they describe will be measurable. probe to uncover exactly how significant the contributions were. (For example. this one will help to elicit a clear description of the applicant’s own standards. such as “to be at work everyday ready to do her best”. 9. try to determine what results he/she set on their own. 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. Other applicants will answer vaguely. in a very specific way. assess how well the applicant sizes up “success” with minimal information about the position. regardless of their content. For example. Please give me an example of a time when management would not allow you to take a necessary action. they will answer this question quickly. one of the contributions may describe volume of work. another change in procedures or operations. or blame management for being unclear regarding results. “in accuracy”. Ask for examples to demonstrate the generalities.) 16 . In other words. What were your three most impressive tangible contributions to your company? The contributions the applicant lists unavoidably reflect his/her values and standards. and an “educated guess” concerning the position applied for. easily determined measures. However. What results were you expected to accomplish in your last job? How were they measured? Some individuals are oriented to results. 8. how the organization recognized them at the time. What do you think an employee owes his/her company? If you get clichés or vague answers. if necessary. even though you felt it was necessary to do so. and what long-lasting impact they had. Look for specific. and what areas he/she perhaps would feel confident in at your organization. Give prompters.
engage in sabotage. accept the directive quietly and smolder silently. 17 . Attention to Detail and Time Usage 1. Can the applicant be flexible enough to change with the position? Look for signs of resistance and a need for overly secure job duties which might impede needed changes and additions to the job duties. find co-workers who also disagree and organize a protest. how did he/she react? Notice whether this common situation seems to make the applicant uncomfortable. Organization. Ask also if he/she tried to find out the reasons for the changes. 5. What did you do? When the applicant was faced with a quick decision and insufficient data. If the applicant expresses anger or disgust with the changes. find out how quickly the applicant accepted the changes and tried to understand the reasons for them. was it appropriately assertive without being divisive? 2. you will need to assess whether this demonstrates unwarranted impatience or inflexibility. How did the applicant react. Among them: ask management for the reasons and argue his/her case. 3. 4. while not necessarily pleased with the changes. Give me an example of a time when you were given tasks to accomplish without advance warning. 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. overtly or covertly.Does the applicant speak about the situation with anger? Resignation? Find out if the applicant resisted management — if so. Has a policy or directive come down with which you really disagreed? What did you do? If the applicant experienced this situation. After you have clearly understood the example. leave the organization. and what does this tell you about his/her flexibility? 6. Have you worked in an organization which changed its policies or procedures frequently? How did you deal with that? Look for the person who. accepted them and tried to make them work. 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. Have you ever had to make a decision before you had all the data you wanted? Give me an example. he/she had many options.
7. If they are managers. They will not be comfortable in linear. If an applicant tells you he/she likes to control both planning and execution. get specific examples of how they have gone about it. 18 . the agenda. If the job involved coordinating with people in other departments. How do you keep track of your own paperwork. Some people are “doers” — they like to be given a task to do and they’ll make it happen. This question will also unearth an applicant’s confidence and ability to take initiative with new projects. 2. monitor the results and follow through. 4. schedules. Only a few people can truly succeed at both planning and executing the plan. They are often detail-oriented. 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. and may be easily interrupted. the roles various people took. 3. If your position requires the ability to juggle priorities and be flexible. and a meeting that started and ended punctually.” unless they are given time to do a job well in an atmosphere of trust. etc? Please be specific. to delegate necessary tasks. determine how the applicant obtained agreements and held others to their time and quality commitments. Others see the big picture — they are comfortable strategizing the result and assigning resources to the project. They are uncomfortable with managers who are oriented only to the “big picture. 5. Applicants who are especially detail-oriented need to be given lots of direction and data when a manager delegates to them. routine jobs. find out the degree to which they are willing to give others authority to make decisions. this sort of applicant may tackle too many projects to get them all completed. A detail-oriented person might describe the seating. how much information and direction did they usually give you? Give me an example of what seemed to be the right amount for you. internal deadlines and interim meetings. Probe for their ability to draw help from others. Would you rather formulate a plan or carry it out? Why? Give me an example of a plan you have implemented. 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. However. but less effective at doing follow through on the specific tasks to make it a success. such as “tickler files”. it may be a good match. planning before the meeting. 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. 6. When your past managers have given you projects to do. Find out whether the applicant set up internal controls.This question will often unearth the applicant’s awareness of details. What they would like to “give away” is what they typically will avoid doing for you when they have to make a choice. This question is a good lead-in to discussing the applicant’s organizational methods.
when and how did you approach getting it done? Perfectionists typically will be uncomfortable waiting to begin a project. he/she will volunteer examples quickly. They will do the job “right” if it contains a lot of details. Next. Of course. 14. detailed approach to the work. However some individuals know how to minimize the time wastes and consciously give attention to improving their time usage. Describe how you handled the details of your last major project. 8. look for an applicant who seems comfortable with his/her productivity regardless of occasional time wasters. Note the extent of detail in the answer. What did you do the day before yesterday? 19 . They may not take the time to do the detail work necessary to fully complete some jobs. 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.It doesn’t matter a great deal how the applicant keeps track. Those who would rather write memos often prefer a structured. 12. They will begin work early so it can be done “right. In your last job. see whether the busy day actually sounds busy to you. The truth is.” 9. and whether the applicant had a system to monitor the project which prevented details from being lost. 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. we all waste time. if something wasn’t due for several weeks. Describe a busy day at your last job. you’ll have to judge if their systems will add to or detract from the ones you presently have in place. If so. see how excitedly or readily the applicant volunteers the answer. You can count on them to communicate all the information and to document their efforts. what’s important is that they have established their own workable approach and sound confident of its success.” Other applicants will wait until they “really need to do it. Those who are well-organized will usually be pleased to share their systems with you. 10. In addition. How do you organize a day like that? First. Where do you waste most of your time (when you do)? Accept almost any answer if the applicant seems honest and forthright. Did the applicant depend on others to handle details? Did he/she track details with the computer? Write extensive documentation? 11. 13.
Does he/she depend on a set. if very aggressive people bother him/her. even vital to success. What kind of performance feedback do you want and how often would you like it? 20 . and tries to solve the problem constructively. If the applicant expresses dislike of open disagreement. 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. gossip. If he or she seems unafraid of open disagreement. When. 16. Give me an example of the kind of co-worker (manager. In addition. etc. or do whatever catches their eye next. Some believe that well-organized people can easily remember and that others will not. in a past job. What does he/she want to share and want to hear? Match the applicant’s answers. you have got an overly aggressive person.? 2. genuinely refuses to blame. 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. you will want to evaluate the applicant’s toughness and assertiveness. Well-organized applicants set priorities according to an orderly system and allow for normal interruptions.) whom you find difficult to communicate with? Why? The personality type or individual described will point to areas in the applicant’s make-up where he/she may need to change. he/she may be more passive. you will need to discuss typical personalities he/she will have to deal with in the position. and find out the applicant’s reaction to them. you can assume the applicant is assertive. Does the expectation involve inappropriate guidance. They may “hop” from one demand to another. And if he/she attempts to win (and make the boss lose). counseling. 15. What sorts of things do you feel are important for an employee to share with a manager? And vice versa? First. 4. customer. organized approach to monitor needed items? Does he/she seem to have a good grasp of which items need attention? Interpersonal Communication Skills 1. For example.This is an old-fashioned interview question which may or may not yield reliable data. did you find it important to disagree with your boss? How did you approach him/her and what was the result? [Assertiveness. etc. you will want to understand the manager who will be communicating with the person to be hired.] Assertive people see disagreement as healthy. 3.
“chatty” environment. 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. this one focuses on the applicant’s willingness and skill at mending relationships at work.”) This question will help you determine how self-aware the applicant is. Don’t be reluctant to ask for specifics. 6. Can you describe the person or people you got along with best at XYZ Company? A variation of question 2 above. 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. The employee must be willing to hear criticism and even ask for it on occasion. 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. Does the applicant know how to listen to other’s needs and vary their approach accordingly? 8. you may be living with their “personal” life for a long time. “I get along with people who just do the job and don’t chatter a lot”. vendor. this is a judgment every employee must make. 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. and in part. 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. an applicant who says. Assure the applicant that there is no “right” answer. when and how does he/she want to hear it? 5. could be unhappy in an extremely personal. Listen well and you should get a good picture of the typical pattern of behavior in a group situation. etc. 7. 10. (“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. Follow-up: “How do you change when the group is composed of people you don’t know well?” 21 .Open communication is a two-way street.) How did you accomplish it? In describing their success. 9. How much of your personal life do you typically share with others at work? Where do you draw the line? Obviously. applicants will usually describe how they view themselves in relation to others. or “I kept my cool no matter what he said. Name one recent success you’ve had in dealing with (a patient. customer.
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.)? Conflict 1. Are you convinced? Do they seem to understand what management expects from an employee (dependability. Does your applicant seem to want total availability? To be able to get appointments or meetings with the boss? Again. notice how the applicant treats the emotions involved — were they discussed and acknowledged. working conditions. 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. 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. punctuality. Ask why he/she was able to handle those people and situations easily. From the answers given. They know that future productivity depends upon good relationships. etc. or disregarded as not important? 2. When you’ve been criticized at work. it is also a vehicle to improve one’s performance when we can learn from the criticism.) or the type of personality which made it so difficult? 3. When you have started new jobs. expectations.11. Are they defensive about any criticism. try to gauge the candidate’s sensitivity to criticism. Was it the situation (time factors. Ask follow-up questions to determine whether the example cited is representative. 12. Probe the difficult situation to learn more. Probe particularly how they have done this with management. match the applicant’s need with the manager’s openness and availability. he or she will tell you what skills or traits come easily to bear upon conflict situations. 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. However. flexibility. Give me an example of a recent situation when you disagreed with someone on the job. 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. does your applicant go on the 22 . and then attempt to find a long-lasting solution? Finally. Typically. or criticisms over a certain part of their work? Is timing an issue? Proof? Finally. 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. work load. etc.
or paraphrase the other person’s argument. get the applicant to demonstrate what he or she said. openness. listening. he or she may try to provide quick answers and easily get hooked into an argument. etc. If the applicant had a good “cause”. What situations got you irritated or angry on the job? Follow-up to discuss the situations — how the applicant dealt with them and how often they occurred. rather that to attacking the person. When (customers. Try to put yourself in the place of the other person. 7. If possible. 8. 4. your candidate may speak softly. 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. Alternately. Have you ever had a situation when you found it necessary to confront someone at work? How did you handle it? Look for an assertive approach which emphasized honesty. Others look for a “dad or mom” to bail them out. vendors. keep silent. you will find out the most by pursuing a reallife example.counter-attack. Cooperation 23 . 6. co-workers.) get angry at you. Probe the example. or silently withdraw? Ask lots of questions about this issue if your candidate is inexperienced or if their manager is the critical type. 5. Was the applicant justified in his/her feelings and actions? Follow-up “Do you think competition between individuals or departments is a healthy thing?” 9. and a commitment to solving the problem. how did he or she deal with criticism and unresponsiveness. As always. Those who are more mature generally don’t need or want help solving conflicts. For example. 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. 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. Look at your own organization to determine whether you truly tolerate unpopular stands. What is the most unpopular stand you have taken? Please describe. Listen for signs of inappropriate blaming and self-righteousness.
and working through conflict positively. Does he/she support those who are not personal friends? Was the support an aid to the organization. which later may be used to get work done. Others expect management to earn their respect. By discussing their answer thoroughly. setting clear plans. please. Some applicants look at the manager as someone whom they want to cooperate with to solve problems beyond their expertise or authority. Which problems do you feel are appropriate to bring to your manager? Give me an example. In which of your past positions have you found it easiest to buy in to the management philosophy and objectives? The hardest? Some individuals give their loyalty and cooperation easily. Examples may range from emotional support to providing physical. they are sensitive to issues of timing. Give me an example of a time you had to take the lead with your work group to get a task done. personality and presentation of the problem (should it be in writing or presented verbally?). Others are creative bargainers. How did you get cooperation? Can the candidate enlist the cooperation of others? Look for a knowledge of team functioning for example. How much did the applicant offer that was not already expected? Find out why the applicant chose to offer support. to their possible manager’s problem-solving style. 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. This question addresses the issue of the applicant’s ability to cooperate with his/her boss. goals and objectives. recognizing team member’s contributions. as well as to the individual? 2. psychological. How do you get cooperation from other departments? (Vendors. or knowledge assistance. Does the applicant’s answer sound convincing? Can you imagine other’s following him/her confidently? 4. They also provide suggested solutions whenever possible. Match their answer. Others see the manager more as someone to be “bothered” with problems only as a last resort. you can learn the applicant’s expectations for giving loyalty and cooperation to an organization. of course. it is a fair bet he/she can obtain cooperation when necessary. listening well. the importance of setting an example. Management has to perform very poorly for them to become uncooperative. 5. Cooperative employees bring problems in with clear.1. achieving consensus decisions. Does your applicant seem to have conscious approach? Does he/she speak positively of their experiences in this regard? If so. loyalty and cooperation. documented facts. of how you usually approach a manager with a problem. suppliers. customers?) Give me an example? Some people are skilled at building and maintaining friendships. Finally. 24 . 3.
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. Ask lots of “why’s” and “what do you mean’s”. step-by-step analytical decision maker? Or does he or she go by the “gut feeling”? Some decisions require careful research. 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. more spirit. What do you require from a boss? A simple question which may yield crucial answers. 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. more fun. Try to determine. 8. however. Why do you do it this way? Is the applicant a careful. 7. more anonymity.6. inability to set and maintain individual standards or plans). others creative brainstorming. and match to the management style of their future manager. 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. 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. 25 . higher expertise. 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. 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. A candidate who hasn’t evolved a successful decision-making approach will be a certain risk. etc. the “team-oriented” individual prefers teams for a positive reason (better creativity. 2.) or for a more negative reason (dependency.
Did the candidate know when to back off? When to push? In short. Probe for factors such as awareness of proper timing. find out how the candidate would have approached the situation given more time. whether the recommendations were in writing or presented orally. What did you do? Many terrific decisions and plans rot on the vine of poor follow-through.3. Probe for specific examples of the kind of decisions allowed. and sets priorities and objectives to organize the research effort. look for a candidate who accepts. Probe to discover where the pressure was coming from -. 7. Are they of major importance? Did the candidate truly support the employees while still overseeing factors such as time. Notice whether the applicant seems excited by the creative process. even thrives upon the pressurized atmosphere of management. Look for a candidate who delegates data collection. He/she will never collect enough data. Look for a systematic implementation plan. 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”. and subordinates will be frustrated waiting for a decision. does he/she know when and how to “manage upward?” 4. 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. budget. Notice whether the candidate understands the “politics” of the situation. 6. Also. range of options. Their egos allow them to give power to employees. what approach do you usually use? Give me a recent example. 5. Notice whether subordinates are assigned the details and held accountable for them. Describe a recent time when you had to implement one of your decisions. 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. and others’ participation? 8. Was it arrived at through a structured process — or through intuition? Through group 26 . with timetables and checkpoints.was it real or imagined? If possible. How did you approach it and how did it work out? The manager who can make sound decisions under pressure is a valuable player. When you recommend something to management. Many supervisors and managers have failed because they couldn’t sell their ideas and decisions to upper management. where possible. What have you done to get creative solutions to problems? Be specific. and whether the candidate was sensitive to selling benefits and meeting potential objections. Give me an example of a decision you had to make quickly or under pressure. but only to the extent that their subordinates can handle. Get an example of a creative solution.
brainstorming — or individual initiative? You’ll want a manager who values creativity and knows how to stimulate it in others. How do you make sure that your employees are accountable? Look for two steps: First. your applicant must request very specifically what he/she wants and must attempt to negotiate a commitment with an employee. can the candidate innovate new systems if necessary? Is he/she willing to try your organization’s current methods? 4. the candidate must track current problems and spot trends. discover how well your candidate assesses his/her responsibilities and knows (as opposed to assumes) whether the operation is functioning correctly.)? Some managers are good at setting up reporting systems — logs. Second. determining whether problems are temporary. What do you typically do when you hear of a problem in your area? Give me a current example. sure performance feedback or coaching. He or she will usually institute written guidelines if there are none present. 5. A more spontaneous manager dislikes all but the loosest structures. Try 27 . changes. What areas are within your sphere of responsibility? How do you make sure that you know what is happening (problems. etc. The good administrator knows that others will perform best if they clearly know what to expect and are held accountable for results. 3. Flexibility is important. As an administrator. Most importantly. or indicators of deep-seated troubles. This question is meant to unearth whether your candidate is a “studier” or a “leaper” into problems. At issue here is whether the candidate can monitor an area of accountability and judge when and how to get involved. Administration 1. etc. thoroughly detail-oriented candidate prefers written procedures and dislikes varying from them. Others depend on personal visits or a few chosen advisers. finding them generally restrictive. How useful have you found written procedures and guidelines in helping you manage your area? An analytical. meetings. he or she must make an effort to reward good performance and halt poor or mediocre performance through quick. 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. production statistics. regular reports. Beware of overly sophisticated systems that could not be “grafted” upon your organization. 2.
If the candidate always writes his or her own letters. or someone who must be both? 6. Finally. When you have to write letters. they like to add their own special innovations and touches. Listen to the applicant’s answer to determine his/her frustration level with the chain of command. 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. Also. Look for a candidate who keeps simple notes on employee performance and keeps statistics on production which are organized around clear. an administrator. The leader/innovator may chafe under it. What do you think is important to document? How do you document it? Documentation has become an increasingly important issue in management. Does he/she write an outline before beginning. the candidate should have a 28 . or simply “jump in”? 2. 3. find out how much time it takes. How do you keep track of incoming and outgoing correspondence? Correspondence can become a time-consuming part of a manager’s day. a memo vs. What do you see as the difference in writing strategy for a report vs. He or she also knows that a memo should be brief and readable. proper documentation to defend against a discrimination claim or wrongful termination suit. Do you need an innovator. and whether a form letter could accomplish the same purpose. and should present the primary information at the beginning. Some managers feel it stifles creative ideas and people. Notice whether the candidate can access the information easily. 5. Would you prefer to write letters “from scratch” or use form letters? The best writers don’t mind using a “form” letter at times. The administrator/manager can make it work to their advantage. 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. logical themes. search for the documenting employee performance — for example. how do you usually get started? This question will help to understand the candidate’s approach to writing.to judge the need for structure in the position the chosen candidate will manage. Others feel it gives the organization safety and stability. Writing Skills 1. 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. However. military model of management.
Do you struggle to write a letter or report. What responsibility do you have for budgeting? What budgeting method do you use? This question establishes whether the candidate speaks knowledgeably and confidently about the budgetary responsibility. If the candidate says writing comes easily. Watch out for the candidate who is unaware of other’s time and financial commitments and who complains of too much “pressure”. apology. find out what was truly an original idea and what ideas came from others (an employee. Uncover whether the action was in response to an external pressure for example. or can he or she suggest modifications? Be sure to distinguish between complaints and realistic improvements. Give me an example of something you did which saved money for your organization. The best writers are generally careful editors — they may edit a piece several times to hit the right tone. and whether the impact was truly significant. 3. a management demand. Next. How could your organization’s budgetary process be improved? Most organizations have a budgetary process in place. Try to gauge the sophistication of the candidate’s methods by asking follow-up questions.working knowledge of different business letters — those for persuasion. 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. Some managers view it as an annual headache and others are aware of it as an important management tool. 5. Their idea of “pressure” may be what others call organizational reality. perhaps he or she sets low standards for it. 2. Does the candidate simply accept it. Probe to uncover how sophisticated the method is and how it has been adapted through time. or other purposes. What recent decision have you made that had an impact on finances? How did you assess its impact? 29 . Few managers initiate cost-cutting or money-saving ideas. for example). information. determine how the candidate monitored and measured the savings. 4. Finally. Financial 1. 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. 6.
3. and his/her ability to follow through and monitor. few managers think about it logically. Ask for examples which illustrate the style. How would you describe your management style? Undoubtedly.The example named may be significant. For example. A hesitation or inability to answer may be a tip-off that he or she doesn’t have an orientation to the financial aspect of management. or what would be the most logical way to explain its details? By pursuing questions about a recent delegation. Leadership 1. you’ll learn a good bit about how the candidate assesses employee skill levels. and what kinds of assignments he or she refuses to delegate. setting goals (how many. and that they also want to feel powerful. Look for answers which indicate an easy acceptance. for instance. whom you chose. some probing follow-up questions are in order. or to include others in decisions. what and how you delegated the assignment. 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. in what areas. planning of assignments. yet a healthy respect for others’ abilities and their mutual goals. 30 . 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. Ask how much detail the applicant usually provides when he/she delegates. his/her awareness of communication principles. Don’t accept general terms used to describe the style. how many really think about how to best prepare a job before delegating it. Delegation is a fundamental part of management. even enjoyment. 4. make sure that your candidate enjoys using power but uses it for unselfish purposes. however. and structuring activities and assignments for subordinates. that others dislike being made to follow. you might ask about his/her style in dealing with conflict situations. “give me an example of how you actually do that. 2. However. In other words. For example. training. and what you did to monitor it. it should vary according to an employee’s experience and maturity. of the uses of power and influence.” Look for a strong. Managers may talk about their ability to set goals and direction. or to lead by example. Give me an example of how you delegated responsibility for a recent assignment. Notice whether the applicant cares about developing and teaching employees through delegation. probe by asking. how monitored). such as “participative” or hard-driving”. Surprisingly. confident answer and notice whether you could be persuaded to follow him or her. the applicant will describe his/her style in complimentary terms. running meetings. This question will help you discover if the applicant is oriented to making decisions which save money — or make it.
and make decisions which may appear to others to be unconventional. expect to be asked for direction. but an important one. They enjoy being a leader. 7. 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. perhaps they need to learn how to slow down. and areas in which they will want to become more effective in. few managers have given this issue much thought. If so. Others indicate they have more trouble with louder. Good evaluators may also keep records to remember specific examples and situations. Some managers only learn how to do the same (wrong) things more frequently! Others learn from mistakes. they know that memory is unreliable and biased. your chances of hiring a winner will go up significantly. The applicant should express an understanding that objectivity is a fleeting goal. What have you learned about management since your first supervisory job? The old saying. What do you enjoy most about being a manager? Least? According to recent research. constructive evaluations. listen and coach and counsel subordinates. 8. This suggests a need to learn skills in discipline and conflict resolution. they are ready to take decisive action. 31 .5. 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. Look for an applicant who has attempted to clarify job expectations and job standards with employees and who understand the importance of regular. Finally. enthusiastically projecting a sense of excitement to employees. 6. it is only true if people take the time for reflection and introspection. “experience is the best teacher” is usually true. they appear to be strongly focused on delegation -that is. non-assertive employees. However. effective managers are comfortable exercising authority. enjoyable part of their role as a manager. Evaluating Performance 1. For example. What do you do to insure objectivity when you evaluate others’ work? Surprisingly. his/her idea of a “correct” approach to management. or problems on the job. 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. If your applicant expresses some or all of these factors. and gradually acquire important new skills. rebellious. power-seeking employees. If you can get a clear picture of their model. some applicants state they find it hardest to manage quiet. Furthermore. they recognize the importance of getting subordinates to do the work rather that themselves. and they see this as a major. it will help you learn areas in which they are likely to be effective.
probe what the applicant means by “evaluation”. 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. monitor. What sort of performance standards have you held employees to? Were they written? How did you (could you) improve them? The manager who evaluates employees well takes the time to discuss performance standards. Be wary of applicants who feel that job standards are “unrealistic” for their kind of work. or as the need arises? Does it cover areas for improvement. Is the candidate supportive? Is he/she tough enough to pressure the marginal employee. but doesn’t agonize over it.many managers are unaware that the best evaluations include active employee participation. How do you evaluate your department’s overall performance? This question will help determine the applicants’ ability to plan. etc. (Those managers will probably be the ones who procrastinate in completing the job. When you evaluate someone’s performance verbally.) 4. How do you get your employees involved in their own evaluation? Notice whether your applicant seems surprised by the question -. as well as positive performance areas? 5.” The result may be less objective evaluations and. more importantly. quarterly. rather than a “coach. Notice whether the applicant has developed a reporting system and whether he has a handle on his department’s performance at various intervals (weekly. Follow-up to determine whether their standards seem realistic. fair and measurable. 6. and assess the factors he/she must be responsible for. measurable goals.). If your applicant doesn’t take steps to get the employee involved. but compassionate enough to understand an employee’s circumstances? For those employees who are exceptionally good. This attitude might indicate a manager who avoids the messy work of making others accountable for specific behaviors and outputs. 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. Look for an orientation to clear production standards and specific. does the candidate know how to 32 . However. what approach do you take? What if they are exceptionally good? Marginal? This question gets at some important issues. 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. Does he/she put it in writing? Does it occur in a regularly scheduled meeting. 3.” Look for a manager who takes an organized approach to the task. 7. he or she may be more aligned with the role of a “judge” in the evaluation process.2. employees who feel estranged from their own manager. monthly. specific.
What should a performance evaluation system or form look like? Does at matter? Every manager has an opinion about the “right” form. How do you measure performance in your area? Standards for performance are useless unless they can be measured. For example. promotions. measurable goals for improvement which are set collaboratively with the employee. those who successfully help employees develop through planning. about what is expected of them.? Or does he or she talk about increased responsibility. Look for an approach which emphasizes specific. What is more important is that your candidate can use any form. you can bet their employees will feel that way. (Sample answer: “I send them to training classes when they ask. those who talk about development but haven’t figured out how to accomplish it. or “shoot from the hip. candidates will fall into one of three categories: First. Employee Relations 1.”) Second. coaching. If he or she seems tentative. training. Ultimately. Look also for a candidate who is optimistic about the possibility of performance improvement. how organized is the candidate when he/she evaluates work? Does he/she seem to weigh comments thoroughly. A good manager knows and feels comfortable with “behavioral” standards as well as quantitative ones. Have you had an employee who you successfully motivated? What did you do? How about one who you tried but could not motivate? Notice whether your candidate seems to understand and use a variety of motivational techniques which are matched to the personality and values of his/her employees. Notice whether the candidate speaks confidently and comfortably about measurement. How do you go about developing the people you manage? Can you supply a current example? Typically. Third. challenging work. The current examples cited should help you sort out in which category your candidate fits. it doesn’t matter which form is used. positive reinforcement. and delegation. he or she will use what is available and do the homework necessary to write and talk about performance objectively. How do you plan for performance improvements? Evaluating performance isn’t enough. A good manager must plan and monitor improvements in performance. does your applicant speak most often about tangible motivators. this positive attitude will inspire improvement in others. too. 9. 2. counseling. 33 . etc. such as bonuses. A good manager knows that evaluating employees is more important than the form. 10.” 8. those who don’t see much of a need to develop their employees and are uncomfortable with this question.give positive feedback and supply new challenges? Does the candidate “sugar coat” negative criticism or face it squarely? Finally.
whether formally or informally. scheduled “status-check” meetings. watch out for the candidate who seems to be a “counselor”. inspiring managers. Every “attitude” problem is a behavior problem in disguise. exceptions might include very experienced. if so. perceiving and receiving good rewards. the manager labels poor performance as an attitude problem. 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. look for an example which indicates the manager who sincerely tried.? Any motivational approach must take into account an understanding of the employee’s unique situation. they may be an untapped resource. assigning individual or group accountabilities. How have you dealt with an attitude problem? Please give me a specific example. does your candidate seem to grasp this? When discussing the employee who the applicant could not motivate. 5. That is. reviewing achievements. Some meeting topics (other than production problem-solving meetings) might include: soliciting ideas or suggestions. 4. 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.participation in decision-making. Managers who try to talk employees out of their attitude invariably get pulled down with their employees. Look for realistic examples which demonstrate specific actions which the candidate took. How have you handled complainers? Notice whether the candidate expresses disgust or displeasure. social talk. 6. has given up on solving attitude problems. having committed. setting goals. 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. 3. the candidate will ultimately be an ineffective manager. You may need to surmise whether the candidate will take others’ problems on as their own too readily. productive employees or employees not located in the same geographical area. employees become committed by acquiring job knowledge. make sure that your candidate after listening thoroughly. etc. Look for managers who meet frequently. However. being allowed to “own” the job and participate in decisions. How have you helped your employees become committed to a job or to the organization? Typically. Many “complainers” simply need more support and an open ear. Give me an example of an employee who you had to discipline. seems comfortable setting limits on how much time and effort he or she will give to chronic complainers. 7. What was your strategy? How successful were you? 34 . Therefore. listening sessions to hear concerns or problems. On the other hand. and meetings to reinforce performance and share success. or alternately. but has accepted gracefully the fact that a manager is only one of many motivating influences on an employee.
having the candidate staff an important upcoming position or project? 12. 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. 9. and what he/she did to increase the “risk” factor to the employee. 8. perhaps your candidate has trouble setting limits. They continually look for opportunities to upgrade employee’s skills without the easy method -. 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.The best discipline does not emphasize punishment.. If the example given describes hassles with documentation and organizational support. How do you develop trust and loyalty in your employees? 35 . based on the answer given. Creative managers know training doesn’t always occur in the classroom.e. find out how long they were willing to wait for a change. For instance. Managers in the 80’s have had to learn to manage more defensively. 11. developmental needs of the staff involved. If your candidate seems to be comfortable setting early and clear limits for performance.. if the example given concerns an employee who was rebellious. the time deadlines. 10. to take action confidently. legal counsel. and the amount of involvement the candidate wanted in the project? Would you feel comfortable. perhaps this indicates a lack of thoroughness and patience. notice whether the applicant sincerely wanted to help the employee in question. For example. Please tell me about a recent project you had to staff. or did they undertake a formal training needs assessment? Match answers against your budget and available training resources. the morale issues.“send them to a training class”. Also. consider whether the candidate assesses training needs logically. or whether the manager was drawn into a battle of egos. and be given realistic choices? Does the candidate appear to be comfortable with the necessity to document poor performance? Finally. Did he/she simply ask employees. 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 Human Resource Department. does the candidate speak about the project requirements. 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. 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. 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. Does the applicant seem comfortable setting tough boundaries without becoming vindictive? Does he/she understand that employees must choose to change. etc.
Knowing the employees who the candidate would manage. The best candidates will speak about demonstrating their own trust and loyalty to their employees. Assess whether the planning method seems sufficiently sophisticated. Planning 1. Do you think the open door policy works? How much time do you spend with your employees and what do you typically discuss? Where do you find it is best to talk to them? This question will help you determine whether. or solve it alone? Does he/she seem to understand the root cause of the problem. These candidates usually encourage open communication and give their time and expertise to others.Developing trust and loyalty is a two-way street. This question will help you determine whether. and will see them as inevitable in any organization. 15. more communicative and supportive. How far in advance do you typically plan activities for yourself and your employees? By what method? The time-frame for the plan given should match the complexity of the tasks the candidate and his/her employees must accomplish. and provide examples of how they have done so. Why did you handle it that way? Try to understand whether you have a “problem-solver” candidate or a “problem-avoider”. He or she will try to arrive at creative solutions to conflicts. your candidate is likely to become more task-oriented — that is. Describe a time when you had problems getting people to work together in solving a problem or completing an assignment. 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. 14. Knowing the employees whom the candidate would manage. do you think this approach would work. or did the candidate simply apply a “band-aid” to the situation. Did he/she seem to understand the root cause of the problem or did the candidate simply apply a “band-aid” to the situation. They genuinely respect their employees and go out of their way to help their employees advance. Describe a time when you had to intervene to solve a conflict. he or she should not hold a grudge against the people involved. more communicative and supportive. Did the candidate analyze the problem with the employees’ help.or more relationship oriented -that is. more directive and goal-oriented -. Does it take into account historical data? The potential impact of outside parties? 36 . Finally. The “problem-solver” will attempt to hear all sides and will not avoid the conflict. under pressure. do you think this approach would work.or more relationship-oriented – that is. under pressure. 13. more directive and goal-oriented -. your candidate is likely to become more task-oriented – that is.
2. What major activities do you have plans for right now? Please describe them. can he or she “play the game. Did the plans come from others. goal-setting and implementation.” Second. 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. First. Look also for an action which demonstrates the candidate’s ability to adjust the plan using creativity. or did the candidate initiate them? Planning is a necessary. logical manner. Describe a time when you had to sell a decision or policy to your employees when you didn’t agree with it? 37 . he or she looks for changes — both those from outside forces and those which must be self-initiated. will the candidate accept the political situation in your organization. and hard data. Rather than merely coping everyday. Give me an example of a change you saw coming. Does your candidate seem comfortable with this part of the manager’s job? Organizational Relationships 1. Probe for an understanding of both issues. How did you go about planning for it? An excellent candidate has one eye on the future. Describe a time when politics at work affected your job. creativity. other’s help. What did you do to recover? Look for determination and an ability to analyze the failure in a detached. key function which must involve forecasting research. can the candidate “read” and understand the norms or politics of an organization. Look closely to determine whether the candidate planned ahead to implement the change — and whether the plan was followed. How did you deal with it? Two issues should concern you. Does it seem that terrible to you? Your best candidate is one who can endure political storms and remain relatively dry. Notice whether the candidate seems excessively bothered by the situation. 5. Please describe a time when your plans didn’t work out. 3. Notice the degree of confidence and enthusiasm.Potential changes or deviations? Does it seem to fit the planning time available in the management position you are filling? 2. or something you thought was necessary to change. How do you assess priorities? How do you then assign them? Every manager must juggle priorities.
Whatever the answer. probe to find out what the applicant would do if that approach does not work. 38 . having a purpose and objectives. 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. In summary. If the candidate says a presentation was effective.. Do they seem so onerous to you? Did he or she make a good attempt to follow them? 6. How do you typically get cooperation from someone in another department? The applicant should first acknowledge the need to get cooperation from others. refuses to sabotage management decisions. Probe vague or general answers such as “to give 100 percent” or “to be there ready to work every day”.g. finding a common goal. 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. 3. ask him or her how one measures effectiveness. Find out how he or she organized the presentations. and accurately reports the effectiveness of the policy or decision after it is implemented. 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. Probe the rules the candidate finds bothersome. while getting maximum involvement. Ask for examples of times when the candidate went beyond the usual and did something special. or attempting to build relationships. Ask how closely his or her past meetings have met that standard. this question will help you know the extent to which your candidate enjoys oral presentations and is experienced at organizing them. setting time limits and an agenda. Notice whether your candidate looks at a presentation as a challenge or as something to be dreaded.Every manager must sell policies or decisions at times. alerting members to their expected contributions). 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. or merely to inform others. If the candidate has trouble listing the “unwritten rules” it is a good indication he or she has low awareness of organizational norms and could easily violate unspoken rules in your organization. and whether their purpose was to sell. 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. Have you had to make oral presentations to other managers? Describe what you did and how effective it was. 7. Answers might include actions such as bargaining. Notice whether the candidate talks about keeping control (e.
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
will be able to stay “up. 7.4. What sales situations have challenged you the most? The least? With this question. Which sales have you lost because you lacked experience or information? It’s a rare salesperson who hasn’t lost a sale for these reasons. Also. who have enthusiasm for the selling challenge. What sales have you made when you had to study or learn information quickly? Ask for a specific example. Probe to see why the situation occurred. as opposed to those who are selling simply to meet their personal financial needs. Ask the applicant how he/she has responded when customers favor a competitor’s product over his/her own. a high degree of retention indicates that the applicant has incorporated the information thoroughly. Was he/she prepared to counter the competition’s features and benefits? 6. if they were lacking information. discover if they are driven by the joy of success or the fear of failure. and complaints? And did he/she apply that information to remedy problems and improve the product or service they were selling? 5. should they have had it in the first place? Sales Drive and Career Goals 1. 3. Try to get applicants to talk about a specific example and see if they view the situation as an embarrassment or as a positive learning experience. Look to see if the applicant views education as a vital part of success. check to see how well the applicant remembers the information he/she learned. Does the applicant listen carefully to his/her customers’ comments. How do you keep yourself up for selling? Applicants who truly enjoy their work. How do you follow what the competition is doing? In many industries. curiosity about a customer’s business often indicates a real commitment to customer service and bigger sales. What makes a good salesperson? 42 . Do they speak of it aggressively? Try to gauge whether he/she seemed to enjoy the most challenging situation or the least challenging one. suggestions. 2. What do you do to learn about your customers’ problems? For salespeople. Also ask how they learn about the competition. see if the applicant responds positively to the challenge. In other words. notice how effectively the applicant applied newly gained information to close a sale.” Look for those who strive for victory in the deal. knowledge provides the competitive edge.
having positive energy. It is more important that applicants have a concrete idea of how they are going to meet the goals. Very often. but in fact it addresses an applicant’s self image. What is attractive about sales as a career? What’s not as attractive? This gives you an idea of how the person might perform in the long run. Is it reasonable? Is it consistent with your standards? If the number is excessive. 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. as opposed to what the goals are. what is the most important sales standard in this Industry?” Check to see if these standards are consistent with your own. Again. what skill made the sale for you?” As a second follow-up. or being persistent. Applicants should have a plan for dealing with each. What are your overall career goals? How are you working to achieve them? The second part of this question should be your focus. applicants refer to their best sales skill as most important. give applicants the opportunity to describe their role models. rephrase the question: “In past jobs. How do you prepare for a sales call? Sales calls come in all shapes and sizes. 2. if necessary. Look for preparatory steps they take to make the most of their customer contact. don’t be put-off it could be an indicator of a high-energy positive applicant. compare their goals to the opportunities your sales position offers. By doing this.” given their answer? 5. 6. How do you qualify customers? How do you determine which prospects to call on? 43 . What is the most important sales skill? This question may seem abstract. 7. this natural inclination can provide valuable information. or want to be. ask: “Besides dollar amount and sales volume. Organizational Skills 1. Follow-up question: “How have you demonstrated those same qualities?” 4. 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. Watch out for vagueness in the response. Their criteria may include: satisfying customer needs. they will tell you the kind of salesperson they are. from the cold call to the drop-in visit to the scheduled presentation. being goal-oriented.Here. what approach has the applicant taken to overcome the least attractive areas? Has he/she thought it out? Does your position seem “attractive.
Try sympathizing with them if they admit a dislike. make sure it was warranted. listen for the applicant’s willingness to examine his/her own efficiency. Be careful if you hear a lot of frustration. Look for established habits that are geared to produce predictable results. others confront it head on. Have you ever had the opportunity to improve your company’s sales system or approach? What did you do? This is an issue of adaptability: can the applicant improve company procedures and systems without disrupting them? Compare his/her willingness to innovate with your company’s structure and policies. they may more clearly reveal their attitude toward this part of the job. Do they know how to do the spade work that will let them hit pay dirt later? 3. Once again. 44 . 8. etc. watch for evidence of frustration or impatience. They should be able to distinguish “hot prospects” from “tire-kickers. Look for refinement of these habits throughout the applicant’s career. How do you stay on top of your paperwork responsibilities? Some salespeople avoid paperwork like the plague. Are they flexible in the face of changing priorities? Look for a consistent strategy. Which one organized your job (territory. 4. compare these standards to your own. Use this question to gauge the applicant’s strategic perspective. How do you get started on a typical day? What do you do from there? This question gets at daily motivation and routine. others do so as part of a long-term plan. Do they use a structured system? Probe to see how effective the method has been and what the applicant has done to improve it. Probe the applicant to see how they deal with administrative duties. 5. look for clear criteria and procedures. customers. Compare sales managers for whom you’ve worked.) best? Why? This question lets the applicant describe his/her concept of good organization. Use this question to compare the applicant’s needs with your company’s procedures. 9. Have you had situations when your schedule was interrupted unexpectedly? What did you do to overcome them? For a busy salesperson.Salespeople have to get the biggest bang for the buck. 7. What do you need from an organization to support your success? Please be specific. Look for an emphasis on independence and a willingness to set personal goals. one slip in a daily schedule can wreak havoc with the entire day. 6. probe to see how they live up to their own standards. How do you ensure a consistent base of customers? Prospects? Dollars? Some people organize for the sake of organization.” Examine their method of categorizing customers. Probe to see how applicants deal with this pressure.
dissatisfaction. Do they take responsibility for their slumps or blame them on external factors? 3. Don’t let the applicant evade. How long have you gone without making a sale? What did you do to change your luck? Even long-ball hitters go through slumps. or obsession. What did you do to bounce back from it? The first step in overcoming failure is accepting it. 45 . what did the applicant do to improve them? 5. without alienating his/her own company. along with the ability to change a sales pitch in response to customer concerns.excellent for seasoning. the salesperson who carries a torch too long may well end up burning you. What has been one of the biggest disappointments in your sales career? What happened? Setbacks are the salt of life -. 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. Do they accept that customers had these objections? Are the answers well thought out and presented? Probe with questions from the customer’s point of view. what objections did your customers have? How did you respond? Most customers have some objections. Look for creative new approaches and the applicant’s willingness to examine him/herself. Sales Strategies 1. Did the applicant have pre-prepared responses to deal with the most common objections? Were these effective? If not. Watch out for evidence of regret. 4. did the applicant have responses? Try to gauge his/her attitude. but deadly in overabundance. Give me an example of a difficult sale you lost. How did they deal with the incident? By taking time off from work? Discussing the lost sale with fellow employees? Leaping back into the fray with even greater energy? Have these efforts led to improved performance? 2. When you were selling at your previous employer. late delivery.? Look for the applicant’s willingness to go the extra distance and “make it right” with the customer. Give me an example of a time when you overcame a no from a customer. the icy wind of reality shows how brittle these may be. the question is how they broke the bad streak. Does the applicant accept responsibility for instances of miscommunication. probe for a specific example. What did you do? When is a “no” really a “no?” The best salespeople say never. Look for applicants’ ability to put disappointments firmly behind them. etc. Look for evidence of tenacity.Handling Rejection 1.
See if the applicant is enthusiastic and competent regarding the creative side of sales. Did they use a creative. Compare them with your own products and services. he/she is telling you what they know about the product and your company. can he/she sell you? 46 . 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.2. If the company sets the goals. He/she should be able to improvise -. 5. Self motivation is a key element to achieving these goals. they may be dealing with difficult parts of their own personalities. 6. 8. What special skills could you bring our company? Again. See if the applicant sets his/her own goals. positive approach? This question should show you the applicant’s degree of sales expertise.to seize opportunities. Determine how the applicant approached the problem. Is the candidate persuasive? Are these skills the ones you believe to be important? In short. did the applicant strive to exceed them? The best applicants will thrill in surpassing these objectives. Does the applicant dislike dealing with aggression? Perhaps he/she has trouble being assertive. Here. 4. 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. 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.” Probe to determine his/her specific involvement. as well as what they believe to be their best skills. or conversely. Have you ever had to modify your usual presentation? What did you do? Why? Improvisation is the birthplace of creativity. 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. to steer away from problems. Which kind of customer is difficult for you to sell? How do you overcome these difficulties? When applicants have problems with a certain type of customer. The applicant should be flexible even in scripted presentations. Does the applicant speak of the benefits with enthusiasm? 7. 3. the first sale any applicant must make is to the interviewer. Are the uncomfortable around cold people? Perhaps they have problems making friends. Examine the applicant’s disposition and compare it to your experience with your customers.
Does the applicant appear willing to listen? Can he/she ask a customer pertinent. 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. 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. and repeat sales. incisive questions? Probe for examples. 10. responsive attitude. search for those who can match a pitch to a customer’s specific needs. Customer Relations 1. How long does the applicant wait before making a callback? When do they call an account truly “dead?” Look for sensitivity to customer signals. Probe to discover the basis of this persuasion.e. Look for confidence without arrogance. 47 .. determination without a bulldozer attitude. 2. Perseverance and patience are also valuable here. How do you persuade your customers? Please give me an example. As you probe. Watch out for a complacent attitude or responses that show a lack of consideration for customer service. How do you get to know your customer’s needs? A salesperson’s most valuable professional skills may also be the most personal. 4. look at the details. 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.” Others maintain files on potential customers for years on end. 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? 3.9. Successful sales people should be persuasive without becoming manipulative. tickler file. Watch out for applicants who assume customer’s want their product. Look for the three R’s: relentless energy. 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. be sure to probe for specific examples and proven techniques. Closing is critical for sales success. callback sheet)? Look for dedication to customer satisfaction. How much contact do you have with customers after a sale? Please give me an example of what you usually do after the sale. Does the applicant have a system for keeping in touch with customers (i.
Give me an example of a customer who has stuck with you over the years. or your company’s?” 6. tempered by tolerance. What kind of criticism have you been given by your managers? How much is appropriate? 48 . others are time-consuming bores. look at the applicant’s transitions from company to company. 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. facts. Good follow-up: “Do you feel that a customer is yours. Did he/she provide insights on the competition or research new markets? Look for an emphasis on teamwork and a willingness to share tips. and what type of contribution did he/she make to those sessions? Ask for clarification about his/her opinion toward meetings: were they simply for reporting (one-way communication) or for strategic planning (two-way)? Examine attitudes toward fax and phone communication. Look closely at examples. Give me an example of a time when you had to deliver your product late. Does the applicant view sales tips and information as a commodity to be protected or a resource to be shared? If they weren’t required to work with other salespeople. How 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. 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. is there a trade-off between efficiency and depth of detail? 3.5. How did the applicant feel about meetings in past jobs. Did the applicant establish realistic deadlines? How much pressure did he/she place on production staff? Look for focus on customer satisfaction. Look for a willingness to go beyond the minimum requirements of the job. 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. 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 did you handle it? The last thing your company needs is finger pointing between the people in sales and those in production. etc. to provide managers with information as well as suggestions for improving operations. Good follow-up question: “How late can a delivery be and still remain acceptable?” Cooperation 1. he/she can also take them away. 2. What did you do to make this happen? Where applicable.
or hackneyed instead? Look also at the degree of risk that was involved. this may indicate the applicant’s depth of experience. Look for a willingness to place company concerns over personal issues. but so too is the ability to accept constructive criticism. Risk Taking 1. to sell a customer. The salesperson who treats production staff as secondary is sure to meet with resistance. 3. What risks do you feel are necessary in making a sale? How do you minimize these risks? Every sale involves some measure of risk. Have you had a situation when. Describe the type of relationship you had with the production people at your previous employer. you had to try something you’d never tried before? Here’s a chance to measure the applicant’s creativity. unbending tone. or a harsh. such as shifting delivery dates or including “extras” in a sale. Remain impartial to the response so the applicant feels free to talk. as criticism in sales is apt to address personal issues (appearance. probe to see if the applicant sees the sales position as the “hub” of the company’s operation. What’s the hardest directive you’ve had to follow from your company? Why? What did you do? The sales manager faces tough decisions every day. Probe the reasons behind the applicant’s example. this could indicate uneven performance. why was the order difficult to follow? Personal integrity? Independence? Convenience? Watch for a resentful attitude. how does the applicant define this? Does he/she anticipate customers’ questions and objections. Watch out for a defensive attitude. 5. What’s the riskiest career change you’ve made? Why did you make it? 49 . Follow up by asking how he/she assessed the cost/benefit of their creative approach. is their example truly innovative. 2. personality) as well as professional concerns.Self-confidence is crucial for a salesperson’s performance. 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. 4. or do you see more of a “wing-it” mentality? Watch out for applicants who complain about the “up and down” nature of sales. their willingness to alter company policy may show you how they will adhere to your guidelines. so he/she needs a staff that can execute responsibilities without creating more difficulty. Follow-up question: “How do you feel production staff in your past job viewed you?” 6. Watch out for a prima donna attitude.
Employees who take risks in their careers may tend to do the same for your company. 50 . this may reveal potential trouble spots or suggest incentives you can use to motivate the applicant. Does the applicant have a clear perspective on the downside as well as the upside of a change in employment? Do you feel comfortable with the balance they strike between risk and reward? Look also for the motivation behind a career change.
How are they handling this task? Have they conducted research? Capitalized on professional contacts? Look for actions that indicate tenacity. How are you conducting your job search? In the search for a job. 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. How is the applicant capitalizing on the opportunity to sell him? Herself to you? Have they done 51 . How do you go about researching a customer before the sales call? Sound preparation is the foundation of success. 5. What did you do to prepare for this interview? The old adage says that contacts can get you an interview. others create solutions to problems for their company. Look for attention to detail and complete followthrough. 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. no matter how many new customers they gain. Look for evidence of perseverance and drive. 7. What do you expect from a sales manager to help you make sales? Compatibility is the key in making a successful hire. What do you do to build a list of possible customers? Some salespeople are content with the client list they already have. 4. Ask for specific examples of how the applicant has found new customers. What ideas have you sold to your own management? Why? What happened? Some employees execute ideas. 2. How much supervision does the applicant expect? Does he/she depend on constant encouragement and handholding. creativity. or do you see more of a “free-lance” mentality? How do these parameters fit with your own management style? 6. applicants are selling the best products they have: themselves. Probe to see if the applicant is oriented toward an in-depth sales strategy (a few wellqualified customers) or a “shotgun” approach (selling to large numbers of customers).Self Starting 1. and an organized approach. but you have to get the job for yourself. others are never satisfied. 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. Compare the applicant’s methods with your company’s strategy and niche. Were they confident in selling the concept to management? What were the consequences of their idea and the rewards as they saw them? 3.
Please give me an example of a time when you needed to increase sales. as in sports. Have you had people who gave you assignments without complete instructions? How did you handle it? Please give a recent example. 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. champions thrive on challenge. Does the example given sound appropriately assertive for the people in your organization? For customers. yet secure enough not to blame or judge others too harshly. they’ve probably done their homework. and the lines of 52 . rather than merely blame the other person? Listen to hear whether the applicant seems to express empathy. yet forceful? Did he or she try to solve a problem. They care enough about themselves to not be abused. 2. Does the applicant sound tactful? Could he or she have accomplished the assignment anyway? 3. Who have you had to set limits with at work? (For example. Every clerical person must wrestle with this dilemma. Watch for method as well as attitude. Was the applicant respectful. Does this illustrate a “short fuse”. did they meet higher quotas by squeezing extra sales out of old customers or by penetrating new accounts? Look for attention to efficiency. or at least an understanding. please.) What did you do? Find out how long your candidate waited before finally setting limits. of the other person’s point of view.research on your firm? Are they psychologically prepared? Do they feel comfortal3le with this question? If so. etc. Have you ever had a situation when you found mistakes on an assignment someone else gave to you (to type. What did you do about it? The assertive person is confident enough to report the mistakes. ask for the words he or she actually used in the situation. INTERVIEWING QUESTIONS FOR CLERICAL POSITIONS Assertiveness 1. how much time did the applicant spend to get the increase? Watch for resentfulness toward higher objectives or quotas. If the applicant asked for clarification. Pursue the example with follow-up questions. a person who was rude or overly demanding. or those in other departments? 4.). 8. process. clients. What did you do? In sales. or appropriate patience? Those applicants who can gracefully set limits for others usually have a good degree of self-esteem. Listen for whether the applicant is sensitive to timing.
Again. What do you do when you have down time at work — those times when the work slows down? Please be specific. (If he or she claims this has never been a problem. Depending on the position of the person in question. 4. if not all. How did you get started on it? Why did you set it up that way? Look for pride in the accomplishment. What amount of supervision do you feel most comfortable working under? Why? The independent person may resent even normal amounts of supervision. social chitchat. Independence and Initiative 1. 6. and exactly how “complex” the assignment was. perhaps even taking notes. notice whether the applicant seems secure enough to speak up without being curt or brusque. The applicant should volunteer which interruptions he or she has had to curtail.) Ask about specific. Find out also whether the past positions were structured similarly to yours. knowing that many. yet not seem to resent the inevitable changes in their plans. Probe to find out what parameters were set by others. they ask incisive questions and summarize the major points. and dealing with visitors. what is he or she willing to give in return? In other words. notice whether the applicant seems to have genuinely enjoyed doing the assignment independently. Your applicant should be capable of organizing according to a prearranged or self-designed system. Does his or her expectation for independence fit what your position allows? 3. of their plans will be changed as priorities shift. Give me an example of a complex assignment you have accomplished on your own. He or she should also demonstrate the ability to anticipate peaks and valleys in the workload. this raises doubts. yet are able to speed others on their way gracefully. How do you organize your typical workday? Excellent clerical people often organize their day well. you may want to ask how the applicant has earned that level of independence in past jobs. How do you minimize interruptions on the job? This question covers interruptions such as phone conversations that continue too long. 53 . Finally. They are conscious of saving time. typical interruptions such as those listed above. 2. 5. Does the position allow the amount of supervision desired? If the applicant wants a great amount of independence. he or she should adjust their approach accordingly. 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.authority in the organization.
Assess their rewriting skill in light of the time available. try to clarify whether the applicant has received instructions from past supervisors regarding slow times. However. 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. or in response to a problem. (In some busy offices. assess the applicant’s need for delegation in light of the personalities on hand.For trainees. “down” times should be used for self-study. whether he or she needs written procedures. Many clerical people must receive delegation orders from more than one supervisor. or would you rather just know the highlights? Do you want them in writing? Some people want detailed instructions. Others figure they will “wing it”. this question will tell you a lot about the applicant’s ambition and integrity as well as their initiative. If this is your situation. filling in the blanks as necessary. 6. With follow up questions. 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. Some applicants are uncomfortable with too much “down” time because they want to use their talents better and grow more competent. What sort of directions do you want from a supervisor or someone who delegates work to you? Do you like detailed instructions. Was it completely selfgenerated. Then. you can determine whether the applicant is a quick study”. even in writing. 2. even encourage using it for personal pleasure. 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. it might be wise to supply a typical document and ask him or her to correct it or make suggestions for improvement. 7. Others may feel that using the slow times for personal business or pleasure is tantamount to stealing from the company. For others. the talents in your office. spelling. When typing. this question also deals with training issues. 5. and the complexity of the written material likely to be edited. ask the applicant where he or she learned this skill -. what sorts of mistakes can you catch quickly and correct for the original writer? 54 . training manuals. You may not have the time. or extensive training and hand-holding. punctuation or syntax. 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. How much training and guidance did you receive in past jobs? A variation of question number 3 above. the clerical person must be a combination mind-reader and handwriting expert!) Business Writing/Editing 1.whether through formal education or work experience. some organizations allow.
Handling Pressure 1. others sometimes explode in frustration or anger at a clerical employee. callers. 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. Ask the applicant to repeat both ends of a recent angry conversation. 55 . 6.) he/she used to deflect or cushion the pressure? Would those resources help in the new position? 2. What happened? How did you handle it? This is a general question which looks at the unique stresses clerical people must face. 5. He or she then corrects minor mistakes and suggests possible changes. 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. regardless of whether it is “fair”. assertiveness. if possible. memos. 4. relaxation. Match the answer to the type of instructions he or she is likely to encounter in your office. Give me a recent example of a situation you have faced when the “pressure” was on. can you set-up or write from scratch. What formats or form letters have you had experience working with? This question has two aspects. 3. Does the applicant seem to have a sense of humor about it? Does be or she share which internal resources (patience. When typing a document. etc. Ask for examples and. etc. etc. you must decide whether their experience can be utilized in producing the correspondence in your office. How much writing have you done from incomplete instructions or notes? Give me some examples. bosses) anger or frustration? Give me an example of how you have handled upset people (on the phone or face-to-face). please. How often have you had to deal with others’ (clients. What type of letters. Does the applicant appear to keep his/her cool? Listen well. overwhelming workload.Again. get the applicant to demonstrate how he or she would set up or “format” common documents in your office. hostile people. Second. Try to elicit a situation which might happen in the new position: a tight deadline. 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. First. this question may be best followed by a quick test to edit a typical report or memo. positive “self talk”. Unfortunately. many excellent applicants have agreements with their managers which allow them the latitude to rewrite or change documents independently. yet assertive person. However.
In past work situations. (For some people. Look for a simple system that is easy to communicate to others. and how he/she felt about that kind of pressure. Follow up: “What would you (have you) done when others demanded that you stay late to finish a project?” 5. 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. you will eventually discover how tough the applicant is under harassment or pressure. 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.. you will want to match his/her idea of “busy” to yours. managers and users) which priorities they wish him/her to follow? 2. 6. three phone lines is busy. whether he/she tried to prevent or avoid them.e. Give me an example of a time when you had to juggle several things at once. and how to handle the stress. 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. to others 40 is busy. Again. The answer to this question should reveal whether deadlines. and whether he/she can bend without breaking. Find out how frequent the tight deadlines were.3. Be wary of elaborate systems for prioritizing work. What system for prioritizing your work do you think works best? Clerical priorities can change with alarming speed. match the tight deadlines to those he/she is likely to face. Prioritizing Work 1. how they react. Producing within time constraints is the foundation of clerical success.) When the situation became too busy. disorganization. Probe to determine their reactions and what they did to overcome the pressures. How tight are the deadlines you have faced? Give me an example of a tight deadline you’ve faced recently. How often did this type of thing happen? How do you handle it? 56 . how closely does that match common situations in your office? Follow up: “When it became too busy. excessive work demands or other factors are most likely to make the candidate feel overwhelmed. Focus especially on the most common pressures in your own work environment. what did you do to cope?” 4. Look also for assertiveness. personalities. can the applicant effectively ask others (i. when have you felt most overwhelmed by work pressures? How did you react? Mature people know what stresses them.
.). you will want to avoid the applicant with “tunnel vision”. Those applicants who prefer to work every job through from beginning to end may be asking for frustration. 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”. 3.Some clerical people are master jugglers. 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. those who are in a position to decide alone should have no problem. etc. processing statistics.g. purposeful. 2.). 3. 4. 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. 57 . supervisors next. he or she cannot be attached to “owning” the more prestigious assignments. In fact. data entry. Those clerical people who want to predict and therefore control each day’s work are likely to be frustrated and under stress. At the same time. Orientation To Detail 1. categorizing material. Look for a flexible attitude. setting up forms). However. and prioritizing according to ease of the assignment (easiest task first). Look for an applicant who welcomes variety. Would you rather be able to predict the work coming in. He or she should speak confidently about assessing due dates. and an ability to stay in the present moment. Look for a calm. Have you had assignments that had too many tiny details? (e. ready answer to this question. not worrying over what might come in. etc. Walk me through how you set up and complete a job specific assignment. do you prefer to see a project through from beginning to end. the clerical part of the job may be very small and most clerical assignments are by nature piecemeal. Give me an example. 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. they enjoy keeping several projects in the air at once. In your specialty (word processing. and does not express the perfectionist’s need to work on an assignment until it is over and done “right”. organizational position (managers first.
clear-headed assessment from the applicant. Negatives may include low pay. A person who wants to expand and advance in his or her career has an interest in learning new technologies. technology. not because it is required. Career Goals 1. and frequent pressure. but cannot conceive of being challenged by it. If necessary. You don’t necessarily need a lifelong commitment. Be wary of overqualified applicants who can do the job. or is he/she simply 58 . etc. knowledge and training have become more important. if not eager.? Since the introduction of computers in clerical positions. 2.) did you find already in place? Were they helpful? Specific enough for you? Detail-oriented people like to follow detailed procedures. What are some of the positive things about working in the clerical field? What do you see as the drawbacks? Look for a realistic. What are your ultimate career goals? How are you going about reaching them? Generally. statistical typing?” 4. to organize others and their work assignments and a liking for a busy job which usually has few major decisions or responsibilities in it. The real question is: Is the applicant comfortably on a career track. Look for an applicant who is willing. to learn and has a track record of doing so. Following this through will help reveal areas where the applicant will be frustrated and ineffective with details on the job. instead. people who say they enjoy an activity usually are able to do it well. etc. He or she will ask for training and education because of a genuine interest. 5. they enjoy the hunt for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Follow up: “What is a comfortable amount for you of. 3. look for an applicant who looks at the clerical field with his or her eyes open. detailed types. filing. ask about other detailed work in your office rather than proofreading. How are you keeping up with the changes in software. low prestige. Do you enjoy proofreading or correcting other’s work? Why (or why not)? Proofreading is enjoyable work for detail-oriented persons.This question deals with the perception of what kind of work is “detailed”. what sorts of procedures for (data entry. and who feels the positives outweigh the negatives. software programs or new techniques. In past work situations. Feel free to ask for a demonstration of the applicant’s talents. If the procedures are not sufficient. 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. He or she is unlikely to be more than a temporary replacement. be suspicious of those applicants who profess to have a “five year plan” or similar long range goals. for example. Positives should include: the chance to serve others.
4. If the applicant appreciates this question. However. 3. Some people now see administrative support or clerical work as demeaning. What were your responsibilities in terms of ordering or maintaining supplies? How did you keep track of that responsibility? Like any responsibility. What keeps you challenged. one’s work seems remote from others. 6. and therefore not interfere with the job? Try to understand how impatient the applicant is to reach his/her goals. low status work. Observe whether this question makes the applicant uncomfortable. Organization 1. 2. How do you see it? Do you agree? “The world is as you see it. as a clerical or administrative support person? Is it enough? Challenges exist in clerical jobs. this one requires organization. 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. 5. Other clerical positions are direct opportunities for individual. Could it be accomplished at night or on weekends.” Those who see clerical work this way will never be really comfortable with it.taking jobs while waiting to discover what he/she would really like to do? Obviously. for those whose skills are well matched to the job. and the job affords the opportunity to provide service. 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. Those applicants who speak regretfully of the lack of challenge either need upgraded responsibilities or a new career. he or she is more likely to be a winning choice. What does service mean to you in this field? Some clerical positions demand little contact with others. as in every job. probe to discover how they plan to reach the goal. If the applicant changed or tried to improve the system of organization. group and organizational service. How much information did you have to locate? How did you keep track of it? 59 . Listen for signs of a systematic approach. the person who expresses career goals well out of line with your position is a greater risk. Those who understand the joy of unselfish service to further others can genuinely thrive in those kinds of positions. he or she will be a good bet to help get your office organized. including the ability to anticipate needs and keep track of inventory.
using the computer. note whether the candidate analyzes the factors involved in an organized manner. As you hear the answer. and can institute a variety of changes which uniquely fit the situation. Follow up: What is an example of something you have organized well away from work? 8. can your applicant juggle schedules and priorities to meet a deadline? This question will help you assess his/her flexibility and creativity. first find an area you would like to organize better. One of our biggest problems has always been keeping track of. Others find it difficult and tedious. If the applicant says the operation was already well-organized. It is not important that he/she is able to produce an immediate solution. get a feel for the applicant’s interest and confidence in the topic. will have mapped them out mentally. Match their skill with the need in your office. ask about workflow. If you were managing the clerical operation. However. They have the ability to evaluate another’s habits. They will have all ready suggested and made changes. what changes would you have made in your job/department? Well-organized people usually have no trouble with this question. How did you arrange your schedule and work to accomplish it? When the pressure is on. find out what worked so well and why.) For secretaries and many other clerical employees. as well as organization skills. Give the applicant enough information to understand the problem fully. 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. Find out how many of the systems were inherited and which ones the applicant set up. If you need to prompt their answer. your boss. and updating lists. 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. The best clerical people accomplish this responsibility with good-humor. Internal Relations 60 . What suggestions or ideas do you have for improving this? To ask this question. asks penetrating questions. 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. correspondence. filing or other responsibilities. charts and statistics. Give me an example of a recent time when you had to reorganize things to meet a tight deadline. phone messages. 6. 7. a primary responsibility is organizing others. or if unable to do so.This question can include responsibilities such as filing. 5. Does it seem to be something he or she enjoys . and seems able to use experience and creativity to propose solutions.or merely tolerates? 4.
Give me an example of a recent conflict situation with a co-worker that you were. 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. co-worker) did you find hardest to work with? What did they do that bothered you? Some clerical positions require a talent for interacting successfully with a large variety of personalities. try to get another example from the applicant. assertive. too? This question gets at the extent of on and off-the-job socializing your applicant is likely to do. What things are personal and should not be brought to work? Which are O. 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. Then. Is it vengeful? Regretful? Hostile? If in doubt.K. Which sort of manager (tenant. 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. 3. involved in.” 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. 61 . and whether he/she discriminates between gossip and harmless social talk. or to withdraw? Note the candidate’s tone when describing the conflict. This question will help you find out where the applicant draws the line.. 4. Try to nail down the specific irritants or personality types in question and what the candidate did to cope successfully. match to the personalities he/she will have to deal with in your situation. Give me an example of the kind of thing you have had to keep confidential. does their standard fit your office’s standard? 2. Is there a line? Most importantly.1. When was it most difficult to keep that confidence? Alternate questions: “Has your ability to keep confidences or secrets at work been tested? Give me an example. What was your part in it? Hear the story and get all the facts before you make a judgment. to discuss? Everyone has an opinion whether “personal life” or personal problems” should be brought to work.