Hiring for Character: Strategic Questions for Common Hiring Needs

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Table of Contents

This guide presents questions you can ask your next interview candidates to assess their…

  1. Level of Interest
  2. Customer Service Experience
  3. Selling Skills
  4. Ability to Work in a Team
  5. Attention to Detail
  6. Values and Priorities

Level of Interest

First you need to determine if the candidates wants this job, or just any job.

  • So what’s most important to you in a job?
  • What other types of jobs have you been applying for, and why?
  • What do you think you’d like most about the position we’re hiring for?
  • No job is 100% perfect… what do you think you’d like least about this position?

Listen for whether or not they’ve researched your industry and company. Evaluate whether they seem genuinely interested in more than just the paycheck.

Customer Service Experience

These questions will help you determine how well the candidate will serve your customers.

  • Tell me about a time that you really wow’d a customer?
  • Tell me about a time you had to work with a difficult or adversarial person?
  • We all make mistakes and that’s ok. Give me an example of a time that you made a mistake. What happened, and how did you handle it?

Listen for whether or not they speak negatively, blame others, or deride company policies.

Selling Skills

Can the candidate actually sell? These questions will help you find out.

  • Tell me about a time you influenced or changed someone’s opinion.
  • Tell me about a time that you sold to a price sensitive shopper based on something other than the price? (In other words, you sold on value rather than price.)
  • How often over the last 12 months did you meet or exceed your assigned goals?
  • Tell me about a time when you didn’t meet your goals. What did you do next?

Listen for whether or not they are accustomed to working with quotas, and whether they set goals for themselves in addition to goals the company sets for them. Do they make excuses for lack of results?

Ability to Work in a Team

Will the candidate fit into your team? Ask these questions related to teamwork.

  • Tell me about someone you had a difficult time working with.
  • How did you manage the situation, and how do you think the office environment handled it?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to pick up the slack for someone else who was failing or just needed a hand?
  • How do you prefer to be managed and held accountable?

Listen for how they would fit with your company culture, and whether or not they speak respectfully of past teammates or management.

Attention to Detail

Details count…. So does your candidate care about the details?

  • Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done?
  • What stresses you out?
  • Tell me about a time that you anticipated a potential problem and took action to prevent it?

Attention to detail is often best tested through an assignment.

As part of the interview process consider asking them to recreate a document or spreadsheet. Observe if they catch all the details, down to the correct use of fonts, colors, formatting, etc.

Values and Priorities

A person’s motivations (their “why”) can make a big difference. So what motivates your candidate? Heres a great question you can ask to find out.

  • I’d just like to get to know you a little better. If you don’t mind me asking, what in your life are you most proud of? (You can share whatever you’re comfortable sharing, whether it’s from your business or personal life, from childhood until now.)

As you listen to their answer, listen to what their sense of pride says about their values and priorities?

Be conversational and learn about their personality. Just keep asking open-ended questions. Use question softeners (ex. “only share as much as you feel comfortable”) so they don’t feel pressured or lead to potentially discriminatory information.

When hiring people, choose candidates with stellar character. You want to ensure you’re hiring someone who doesn’t have a sketchy past and isn’t hiding anything dangerous from you. Consider doing a criminal background check on candidates to vet your talent pool thoroughly. In countries like Canada, this will require consent from job applicants. While background checks may seem old-fashioned, they’re proven to reduce the risk of hiring problematic employees who can endanger your company and employees.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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