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The 10 Best Interview Questions to Ask Potential Employees

As a business owner, interviewing candidates is a tricky task — one that may leave you feeling just as anxious as your applicants (especially if you’re hiring your very first employee). But with a little preparation and some well-chosen questions, you’ll be well on your way to finding the newest addition to your team. Read on for 10 of the best interview questions to ask potential employees.

1. Why are you interested in this position? What makes you the best person for the job?

Let’s start with the tried and true: Give your potential hire a chance to explain why they are a good fit for the role. The answer helps you ensure the applicant understands the day-to-day responsibilities of the role and is familiar with your business — both of which are vital to finding the right fit.

2. What are your career goals?

By asking about goals, you can determine whether your potential new employee’s short- and long-term career aspirations align with your business. Their answer will reveal their level of ambition and their expectations for where the role can take them, which you’ll know if your business can fulfill. Be on the lookout for a match in values too. It’s important to find someone who cares about your business’s mission and top priorities.

3. What is your ideal work environment?

Good interview questions help you envision how a potential hire will fit into your team. The takeaway here is not just the answer, but the why behind it. Watch for red flags based on the position you’re hiring for and the vibe of your company. If you have a collaborative, open-concept office, someone who can’t get any work done with others around likely won’t be a good fit.

4. What do you think makes a good manager?

This question is good for two reasons: It helps you determine whether you will mesh with your new hire and whether they have a good mind for management. If the role you’re hiring for includes managing employees, go at this interview question from both sides: “What makes a good manager for you?” and “How do you successfully manage employees?”

5. What qualifies as a good workday in your book?

This one is all about defining expectations. Knowing what a candidate sees as a successful workday will give you an idea of how they manage their time and what they value as an employee. Answers that surprise you here are fine, but be sure they make sense for the job. For example, think twice before hiring an interviewee not motivated by hitting goals for a sales position.

6. Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a supervisor or coworker. How did you handle it, and what was the outcome?

Part of the interview process is understanding how a candidate will deal with conflict and manage relationships at work. Discussing a disagreement is also a good chance to see how the applicant thinks on their feet and recalls how they navigated an awkward situation. Look for answers that show the potential hire is willing to compromise and find solutions, even when the other party may not be.

7. Tell me about a time you had to solve a problem on the fly.

Problem-solving skills are essential for successful employees. As a business owner, you want to hire employees who take the initiative in finding and implementing solutions. An employee with strong problem-solving abilities usually also works well with others and remains relatively unflappable in stressful situations.

8. Describe a time you stepped out of your comfort zone at work.

Your new employee should be comfortable with ambiguity, role flexibility and learning on the job, given the small business setting they will be entering. Listen for a positive outlook in the face of challenges, a willingness to ask for help if needed and a readiness to roll with the punches when changes occur.

9. What kind of professional development have you done in the past year?

As a business owner, it’s important to find an employee who puts time into learning new skills and becoming better at their craft year after year. The candidate’s professional development history will give you insight into how motivated they are to grow. Taking advantage of workplace professional development is great, but keep an eye out for those who take it upon themselves to seek out growth opportunities. 

10. What’s one thing you’d like me to remember about you from this interview?  

This question gives the potential new hire a chance to shine and to end the interview on a friendly note. The candidate might mention relevant skills, experiences or insights that had not previously come up or provide a useful summary of who they are for you to keep in mind.

Be Prepared

Running your own business comes with many responsibilities — from finding the right person to hire to ensuring your business has the coverage it needs. Contact your local Farm Bureau agent to be sure your business insurance is keeping up.