One of the most common things you’ll hear from employers is good people are hard to find. It’s a universal truth.
That I employ smart, hardworking, and creative people in Buffalo is something that I’m very proud of. Since day one, I’ve made a point to be actively involved in the hiring of every employee at my company. No matter the job or company, there are always a few questions that I ask each candidate. I’m judging their communication skills, creativity, and ability to solve problems. Here’s a list of ten questions that I always ask in an interview.
What’s your story?
It’s always surprising to me how most people focus on school and professional experience. This is an opportunity to get creative and still be professional. I’ve already read your resume. Tell me something I don’t know. This is always the first question I ask.
What makes you a good fit for this company?
This is your opportunity to show me that you know about the company and make the case for hiring you. You should be confident. Don’t be a wet noodle.
If you could take a vacation anywhere, where would you go, and why?
Where you want to travel (regardless of time or money) says a lot about who you are. Backpacking through Europe is very different than vacationing at an all-inclusive resort. Is this a critically important question? No, but it helps paint a more holistic picture. When you’re building a team, understanding the whole person is important.
Walk me through how you’d solve (insert challenge or problem here).
Just like high school chemistry and physics, I don’t need you to get the right answer, but I need for you to demonstrate that you can think. It’s okay to say that you’ve never worked in a specific field, provided you can apply your problem-solving skills to anything. Walk me through your thought process.
What do you do with your time outside of work?
I want to know how you’re developing personally and professionally. What are you reading? Are you a good cook? Do you spend time with your family? Don’t tell me that you like to sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix (although there’s nothing wrong with that). It’s not appropriate for a job interview.
How would you run a brainstorming or ideation session?
Every company is full of problems. If you can impress in this area, you’ll be a rock star because so many people are completely incapable of critical problem-solving. This can be applied everywhere, at every company, and at every level. This could prove that you’re invaluable to the organization.
How can we improve our (insert subject here)?
This is a tricky question, but one you need to knock out of the park. “Nothing” is the worst answer you can give. I get asked this question all the time when I’m “interviewing” to win client business. I always speak my mind and am always honest. Most people who are executives or business owners appreciate that because they’ve had to take risks to get ahead. Be smart but not necessarily safe with this question.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Everyone is capable of being creative. The way we express our creativity varies from person to person. Your experiences out in the world should inspire that creativity. You never know what non-work related experience might help you problem solve or innovate at work. I just want to know that you’re actively looking to be inspired.
In any situation, how do you keep multiple stakeholders aligned and informed?
At any organization and with any project, work is typically done on teams or in groups. When I ask this question, I want to know how you communicate effectively with your teammates and project stakeholders. I like answers that start with the end in mind, building consensus as a group, and working back from there. Once everyone is in alignment with the project vision, it’s much easier to keep the group working in that direction.
Do you have any questions for me?
Be prepared to ask some smart questions. Demonstrate that you’ve researched the company and the position and that you were paying attention during the interview. “No” is not a good answer.
After the interview is over, I run through a small checklist. Did the candidate bring a resume and letters of recommendation? Did the candidate say that he or she wants the job? I also look for a strong handshake and eye contact throughout the interview. Most importantly, did the candidate say thank you? Within 24 hours, there should be a follow-up email in my inbox. I’m not an HR expert, but these questions have always served me well. Whether you’re an employer or job candidate, I hope these help you, too.