Interview Questions 2

Job interviews can be unsettling for both interviewers and interviewees. Both sides have so much to gain or lose. We’ve all been interviewed once or twice, so we know what that feels like. However, not everyone can conduct and lead a good interview.

For HR professionals, the hiring decision is the most costly one you can make. The whole point of interviewing a candidate is to gain information that will give you more insight into the person’s personality, character, work ethic, and potential. There is no shortage of interview questions, assessments, or job preview strategies available. With so much riding on the decision, which interview question will reveal a superstar candidate?

Well, I don’t know if there is just one.

Beyond the skills, what’s the one thing you really want to know about a candidate? The answer is, “Are they an a**hole?” I don’t mean to shock or offend you, but there is a best-selling book by Robert I. Sutton titled “The A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t”. Honestly, it’s a good book. It breaks down the main question that we all want to know when forging a relationship with anyone. We really want to know if this person will be pleasant to work with. Will they do as they are asked, will they get along with others, and will they cooperate?

In an interview you can’t just ask candidates if they are arrogant jerks, so you have to ask other questions to get the information you need.

I actually have three interview questions that I love, and that I believe will get you all the information you need to make the best hiring choice. Here are my three favorite questions: Can you tell me about a time when you made a mistake? Can you tell me about a time when you had to show leadership or initiative? Can you tell me about a time when you faced adversity?

There is no shortage of interview questions one could use, but I think these three give you the best chance of finding the rock star in your midst.

  1. “Can you tell me about a time when you made a mistake?” I like this question because the answer tells you a lot about the person’s integrity. We have all made mistakes, but the thing is that if you are responsible and mature, you learn from them. When you ask this question, you’re looking for them to be up front and honest, and to tell you how they resolved a real problem.
  2.   “Can you tell me about a time when you had to show leadership or initiative?” I like this one because it gives the person the opportunity to boast a little bit about a time when he or she stepped up to the plate. There are times in our lives when we see things that need to be done and we either do it or we shy away. This is a good work ethic question.
  3.   “Can you tell me about a time when you faced adversity?” I love this one because life is all about overcoming obstacles and we’ve all been presented with challenges to overcome.  You learn a lot about yourself and life through adversity. A candidate who is thoughtful and introspective will openly share his or her stories of overcoming specific difficulties.

These questions are behavioral and situational, because I believe that if you interview someone, he or she should be already qualified for the job. With that being said, the interview is where you can get the answers to the questions that you really want to know – questions of character, personality, work ethic, behavior, and attitude.


  • torin ellis says:

    Solid questions.

    Not sold that they are the best, as I tend to ask a few good ones in my screening process, but they are certainly good. Smiling.

    Seriously, you shared three solid questions for even the novice interviewer to use as a barometer of key workplace attributes.

    Nice post.

  • Chris aka new_resource says:

    Exactly Torin, these are my 3 best basic questions. I think every skilled interviewer has a set of questions they love to use during an interview. Noticed I said “skilled interviewer” there are too many who are not skilled and ask questions that are totally irrelevant and confusing.

    Thanks for the comment.

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