The Other Perspective of an Interview

Employees are our greatest asset, and going about finding that best talent is a challenging task. We dedicate a lot of time during the hiring process thinking about the types of candidates we need with the required skill set and experience, the right questions to ask during an interview, evaluating their responses, and then finally making a decision on whom to offer the position. Much less concentration and focus is spent thinking about the questions candidates should and/or could ask when researching opportunities and meeting with a potential new employer.  Recently I came across an article that addressed this view point and pointed out what questions the best candidates ask because they really want to know.  Below is the article that appeared on I thought it was informative and definitely worth the read.

5 Questions Great Job Candidates Ask – Jeff Haden

Be honest. Raise your hand if you feel the part of the job interview where you ask the candidate, “Do you have any questions for me?” is almost always a waste of time.

Thought so.

The problem is most candidates don’t actually care about your answers; they just hope to make themselves look good by asking “smart” questions. To them, what they ask is more important than how you answer.

Great candidates ask questions they want answered because they’re evaluating you, your company–and whether they really want to work for you.

Here are five questions great candidates ask:

What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?

Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to spend weeks or months “getting to know the organization.”

They want to make a difference–right away.

What are the common attributes of your top performers?

Great candidates also want to be great long-term employees. Every organization is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations.

Maybe your top performers work longer hours. Maybe creativity is more important than methodology. Maybe constantly landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Maybe it’s a willingness to spend the same amount of time educating an entry-level customer as helping an enthusiast who wants high-end equipment.

Great candidates want to know, because 1) they want to know if they fit, and 2) if they do fit, they want to be a top performer.

What are a few things that really drive results for the company?

Employees are investments, and every employee should generate a positive return on his or her salary. (Otherwise why are they on the payroll?)

In every job some activities make a bigger difference than others. You need your HR folks to fill job openings… but what you really want is for HR to find the right candidates because that results in higher retention rates, lower training costs, and better overall productivity.

You need your service techs to perform effective repairs… but what you really want is for those techs to identify ways to solve problems and provide other benefits–in short, to generate additional sales.

Great candidates want to know what truly makes a difference. They know helping the company succeed means they succeed as well.

What do employees do in their spare time?

Happy employees 1) like what they do and 2) like the people they work with.

Granted this is a tough question to answer. Unless the company is really small, all any interviewer can do is speak in generalities.

What’s important is that the candidate wants to make sure they have a reasonable chance of fitting in–because great job candidates usually have options.

How do you plan to deal with…?

Every business faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends… there’s rarely a Warren Buffett moat protecting a small business.

So while a candidate may see your company as a stepping-stone, they still hope for growth and advancement… and if they do eventually leave, they want it to be on their terms and not because you were forced out of business.

Say I’m interviewing for a position at your bike shop. Another shop is opening less than a mile away: How do you plan to deal with the new competitor? Or you run a poultry farm (a huge industry in my area): What will you do to deal with rising feed costs?

A great candidate doesn’t just want to know what you think; they want to know what you plan to do–and how they will fit into those plans.

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry from forklift driver to manager of a 250-employee book plant. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest innovators and leaders he knows in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list.


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Do You Think HR Is Boring?

Do you wince when you see HR calling on your phone? Just to prove that we are not without a sense of humor, here are some examples of real-life questions and answers that occurred during job interviews (not necessarily here, so don’t try and guess who said them).


1. Question: “Why did you leave your last job?”

     Answer: “I have a problem with authority.”

2. Question: “Tell us about a problem you had with a co-worker and how you resolved it.”

     Answer: “The resolution was we were both fired.”

3. Question: “Why should we hire you?”

     Answer: “I would be a great asset to the events team because I party all the time.”

4. Question: “Why are you currently seeking employment?”

     Answer: “My parents told me I need to get a job so that’s why I’m here.”

5. Question: “What are your assets (as in strengths)?”

     Answer: “Well, I do own a bike.”

6. Question: “Have you submitted your two weeks’ notice to your current employer?”

     Answer: “What is 2 week’s notice? I’ve never quit a job before—I’ve always been fired.”

7. Question (to the candidate): “Do you have any questions?”

     Answer: “Can we wrap this up fairly quickly? I have someplace I have to go.”

A few other interesting scenarios:

  • Candidate question:  “What is your company policy on Monday absences?”
  • Candidate question: “If I get an offer, how long do I have before I have to take the drug test?”
  • An applicant said she was a “people person” not a “numbers person” during her interview for an accounting position.
  • Applicant smelled his armpits on the way to the interview room.
  • When asked if he or she had experience with a certain programming language, the candidate said, “I don’t know, is it on my resume?”

For these and additional humorous interview situations, see:

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