Building your business to the point where you need to hire extra staff is a huge accomplishment, but that doesn’t make it any easier to find the right people to fill those new roles. Between effectively targeting candidates, sifting through piles of resumes, and interviewing your top applicants, there is a lot of work to be done throughout the entire process.
It is tough for a small business owner to find someone who cares as much about their company as they do. You may not have many chances to meet with your candidates, so it is crucial that you use the limited time you have with prospects to ask the right questions. Otherwise, you risk hiring the wrong person.
Here is a list of the core questions I suggest you ask your potential hires. Each of these questions serves a dual purpose: It helps you understand what makes a candidate tick, and it also reveals behavioral traits that suggest how well the candidate would fit into your culture.
1. What Motivates You at Work?
The best interview questions are those that tell you how a person approaches their work, what kind of value they might bring to the company, and how their personality fits within the organization. Asking about a person’s motivation can give you a glimpse of all three.
A candidate’s motivations can also give you a sense of their values. Their answer to this question will help you understand why they want the job and whether or not they’d be committed for the long term. If your candidate doesn’t provide a strong or direct answer, you may want to ask follow-up questions to probe further into why the position interests them.
2. How Would You Describe Your Work Style?
Determining a candidate’s skill set is only one part of the interviewing equation; it is equally important to uncover how they approach their work.
Some people prefer to work on their own rather than in teams. Others relish the opportunity to work with clients and customers, considering themselves great collaborators on the job. Asking your candidate how they prefer to work can help you determine if they’re the right personality fit for the job. For example, you’d likely want to hire someone extraverted for an external-facing role, while an introvert may be better suited for a job that doesn’t require a lot of external communication.
3. What Professional Achievement Are You Most Proud Of?
This question gives you a sense of what kind of tasks your candidate has handled in other roles while also offering a look at what matters most to them. This question also gives you a better sense of how well your candidate thinks on their feet. Good interviewees have a rehearsed answer for this question; great interviewees have an answer that ties back to the job they’re interviewing for. If your candidate doesn’t have either of these, you should pay close attention to how they handle the question, as this will give you perspective on how they handle unexpected issues in the workplace as well.
4. What Do You Want Out of Your Next Position?
Small business owners have strong connections to their companies, and they want to hire people who will feel similarly passionate. Your employees may not have the exact same level of dedication — after all, it isn’t their venture — but you do want to hire someone who sees the job as something more than a paycheck. By asking what a candidate wants in a job, you can determine whether their priorities are aligned with the company’s.
Asking a person what they want out of the position also helps you project a career path for your new hire. If their ambitions outpace what you can provide, you might want to have an honest discussion about where you see the role realistically going. It costs an employer $4,000 on average to make a hire, so the last thing you want to do is spend that money on an employee who is going to leave in search of bigger things within a year.
5. If You Could Change One Thing About the Company, What Would It Be?
This is a bit of a trick question. You want to see how your candidate thinks they could add value to the company, but you also want to test their knowledge of the organization. Asking what they’d change about the business accomplishes both.
On a shrewder note, this question might help you do a bit of consumer research as well. Every interview is an opportunity for a small business owner to get a fresh perspective on their business. You may find that the answers you get uncover questions, issues, or growth opportunities you hadn’t considered before.
6. What Did You Like Least About Your Last Job?
Asking someone to go into detail about what they disliked at their last job may cause a bit of awkwardness, but it is worth it. To an unseasoned interviewee, it might seem like there is no good answer, but savvy candidates know how to provide answers that focus more on what they want out of a new job than on the shortcomings of their last one.
A positive answer that doesn’t come off as a screed against a previous employers shows that the candidate has tact, which goes a long way within a small business environment. The best answers should focus on what the individual wished they could have improved within their past role.
The best interview questions are those that quickly and effectively uncover whether or not a candidate has what you need in your next employee. Focus on questions that give you insight into both a person’s personality and their professional skills and knowledge, and you will be able to differentiate with ease between those prospects who would make great hires and those who would not.
Jared Hecht is the cofounder and CEO of Fundera.