The VGP Blog

Interviewing 101 – What You Should Be Asking & Why

Date posted: June 5, 2013

Interviewing prospective employees means a lot more than reviewing a resume and asking about hobbies, or why they want to work with your company, or why they received their degree in liberal arts when they really wanted a finance position.

Any executive recruiting firm or staffing agency will tell you: Asking questions that draw out somebody’s creative and critical thinking thought process can help to assess how that person will handle certain aspects of their job. The following are some key questions to consider:

1. Ask them to relate an experience in which they were required to practice time management and to tell you the outcome. The candidate’s ability to effectively manage time is paramount to how they will ultimately handle specific activities and this, subsequently, will have a critical impact on your bottom line. Did they have a specific project that required finite management of time – processes, tools, techniques, and methods – in order to get all of the aspects of that project completed? What was the experience like? What did they learn from it? This helps the interviewer to judge how well the candidate is at time management – how well they handled the example they gave in interview, and whether that style fits with your organization’s goals.

2. Ask them a strength finding question. This could be as simple as, What do you consider to be your best asset? What are you most proud of? or could strive to delve more deeply into the candidate’s skill set. Give a scenario in which the candidate will have to manage multiple projects while having everything go wrong at once. What would they do if this happened? And what if the deadline on that work was in two hours? An answer to this question will provide you with a glimpse into that candidate’s particular strengths, as well as weaknesses.

3. Don’t forget the drain cover – sometimes referred to as the manhole cover – question. Microsoft made this famous in its job interviews by asking candidates, “Why are manhole covers round?” The typical answer might be: “Manhole covers are round because round is the only shape that can fit the hole and never fall in.” The question is designed to test creative thinking ability. Is there a value to round covers? Is there a property to a round cover over a square cover that makes it more beneficial? You can see by the questions where this conversation might go – and how it would reveal the ability of the interviewee to think on his/her feet.

If you want the right person for the job, you have to probe. Asking these questions will help to assess a candidate’s skills and thinking abilities – and will ultimately get you the best person for the job.