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Adapted from 333 Interviewing Questions by the Council on Education Management. Published by Borgman Associates, 1993.

Table of Contents

Interview Questions for Any Position Initiative. Page 2 Stress.. Page 3 Motivation.. ... Page 5 Goal Orientation.Page 6 Attendance/Punctuality.. Page 8 Creativity and Innovation.. ... Page 9 Problem Solving/Analytical Skills.... Page 9 Career Ambitions... ... Page 11 Ability to Learn.. ... Page 13 Dependability. Page 14 Flexibility........................... Page 16 Organization/Attention to Detail/Time Usage.. Page 17 Interpersonal Communication Skills. Page 20 Conflict.. Page 22 Cooperation Page 23 Interviewing Questions for Management and Supervisory Positions Decision Making Page 25 Administration... Page 27 Writing Skills. Page 28 Financial.Page 29 Leadership.. Page 30 Evaluating Performance. Page 31 Employee Relations... Page 33 Planning. Page 36 Organizational Relationships. Page 37 Interviewing Questions for Sales Staff Analytical Skills. Page 39 1

Performance Standards.. Page 40 Learning Ability. Page 41 Sales Drive and Career Goals Page 42 Organizational Skills..Page 43 Handling Rejection Page 44 Sales Strategies.. Page 45 Customer Relations Page 47 Cooperation... Page 48 Risk Taking Page 49 Self Starting... Page 50 Interviewing Questions for Clerical Positions Assertiveness. Page 51 Independence and Initiative... Page 52 Business Writing/Editing... Page 53 Handling Pressure.. Page 54 Prioritizing Work... Page 55 Orientation to Detail.. Page 56 Career Goals.. Page 57 Organization...Page 58 Internal Relations... Page 60

Interview Questions for Any Position Initiative 1. What ideas have you sold to your own management? Why? What happened? Examine two aspects of the answer. First, did the idea seem worth selling? Second, notice whether the applicant took extra steps to demonstrate the ideas practicality, profitability or efficiency. Did he/she wait to be discovered? Or did he/she assertively put forth a solid idea? 2. Give me an example of something you recommended which was not adopted? Why? What could you have done differently? A variation on the question above, this one gives the applicant a chance to tell you what he or she has learned about timing, research, politics or other factors necessary to consider when selling an idea. 3. If you were a manager, how much leeway would you give your employees to do things their own way? In which areas or situations should an employee simply follow procedures and guidelines and not try it his or her own way?

The way the applicant answers this question will describe his/her tendencies and desires to strike out on their own. Listen to the areas in which he/she would likely take risks. Probe the answer carefully; the employee described here is, of course, the applicant. 4. What ways have you found to make your job easier or more interesting? Most jobs can be improved somewhat. Notice whether the answer demonstrates making the job easier. Did it make the job easier for management, as well as for the employee? Were the actions taken completely self-directed, or did they require prodding from management? 5. Give me an example of a project you were responsible for starting. What did you do? How did it work out? Probe to uncover how the applicant conceived of the goals and obstacles involved in the project, and whether he/she demonstrated planning and organizing efforts at the projects inception. Did they plunge right in, or test the waters carefully first? Does he or she seem to enjoy initiating projects such as the one described? 6. How much information do you need to get started on a new project or assignment?

Ask for a specific, recent example to illustrate the answer. The truly self-initiating person enjoys receiving only minimal information; he or she thrills at the challenge of working through the details independently. A person with a high degree of initiative usually gets impatient waiting to begin the next assignment. 7. When have you had to produce results without sufficient guidelines or information? What did you do? Faced with an ambiguous situation, the person with a high degree of initiative is unafraid to act. He or she boldly collects what information is possible and strides forward purposefully. He or she declares goals and objectives, enlists support from others and begins the first step with a minimum of complaints. Look for a pattern of confident, creative activity which produced results in a difficult situation. Stress 1. In your last job, when did you feel pressured? Why?

Notice whether the pressures were from external factors more than internal (psychological or emotional) pressures. Were the pressures possible to alleviate? To avoid? Probe to uncover how often these pressures surfaced. Match with the pressures likely to be faced in the new position. 2. What have you done on or off the job to alleviate job stress?

On the job, listen to determine whether the applicant knows how to use humor, communicate with others to work through conflicts, give and get support, take time outs, or use other stress-reducing 3

methods. Off the job, see if your applicant has counterbalancing factors to cushion job stress. (For example, the support of friends, an exercise program, meditation or other methods.) 3. In a past job, what was most likely to create stress for you? For example, a tough deadline? Juggling priorities? Meeting others expectations? Why? The items stated indicate an important aspect of the candidates personality. Probe as to what about the situation was stressful. For example, if an applicant says meeting deadlines, this may mean he/she is a perfectionist and dislikes letting go of their work. On the other hand, it may mean they are somewhat unorganized. Finally, it may simply mean they are not receiving the help from others they deserve on the job, making them resentful of management. 4. Give me an example of what an organization/management should do to cushion or prevent the effects of stress from a job. Watch out for the person who expects miracles from management to bail them out. Be suspicious of answers such as supply enough staff or give us more picnics and social time. On the other hand, reasonable answers might include suggestions about break times, working conditions, involvement in decisions or better supervision. Probe to determine whether the applicant has received what is needed in a past position. Could your organization supply these things? 5. Which situations have made you feel pleasantly stressed or excited at work? Give me an example please. Some people never feel this kind of stress at work. An applicant of this nature may be steady, but it is very unlikely that he or she will become an excellent employee. The best employees know this adrenaline surge well and welcome it. Can your position supply the situation they desire? 6. What happens to your work when you begin feeling pressured? How do you know stress is affecting your work? Most applicants will list results such as more mistakes, more irritations occurring or working faster with less enjoyment. If your applicant claims that the pressure never affects the work, probe to determine what he or she has learned to do to reinterpret work pressures or shield him or herself from them. 7. What do you think would be the most stressful aspects of this job for you? Why? This question is a good way to determine if the applicant truly understands what he or she will face on the job. The aspect they state is most likely what they fear being able to handle. Try to find out what about that job responsibility they anticipate will be troublesome. 8. How do you handle the need to juggle priorities or projects? What have you done to accomplish this?

Many applicants have had to face this sort of stress before, even those right out of college. Has the applicant responded by developing new techniques, a better to do list, for example? Better skills (such as increased assertiveness of an ability to manage upward)? New values (learning to roll with the punches, for instance)? The resourcefulness of the applicant is a test case for his/her ability to deal effectively with other stresses likely to be encountered on the job. 9. Have you ever had a key person you depended on who quit during an important job? What did you do? How did you feel about it? Ask this question especially if you are anticipating turnover in your organization. Those candidates who seem not to care may be unfeeling on the other hand, they may have built up an internal mechanism which allows them to block out organizational stresses and still be productive. Beware of those candidates who seem to care too deeply; turnover is a fact of organizational life. 10. What have you found to be the most effective way to avoid burn out? How did you discover it? The important issue is whether the applicant has discovered it, not how and when. Watch closely whether the candidate seems truly to have faced and won the burn out baffle. Look for a person who understands stress, and has developed a healthy coping strategy through research and selfdiscovery. 11. Work pressures can often place pressure on life at home, too. How have you handled this? Your best strategy here is to listen, be empathic and ask simple follow-up questions such as why, and please tell me about that. Be careful of discriminatory questions, but keep your ears open for possible patterns of sickness, lateness, disability, substance abuse, emotional upheaval, etc. Motivation 1. What has made you feel excited about coming to work? When have you felt down or unfulfilled by a job? Probe for clear examples. Find out whether factors were involved which were unique to past jobs. Make sure the excitement can be generated again by factors within your current control. 2. In all of your jobs, which gave you the most meaningful experiences? Why?

Ask follow-up questions to determine why they were meaningful. Look for experiences that are available through the position you are filling. 3. What do you need from an organization to feel motivated?

Get specific answers which might include: working conditions, benefits, supervision, training, salary, raises and organizational culture. (Some organizations inhibit real motivation in all but the most internally-motivated.) 5

4. Why did you choose this profession? What rewards does it give you? Why do you stay in it? Look for a feeling of pride in work, of thats what Im best at! Watch out for a feeling of resignation, of being at a dead end. 5. What should a manager do to motivate others? Why does it sometimes fail? This question can be used to interview supervisors and managers, as well as others. For the nonmanagement employee, it will often reveal the extent to which the applicant is self-directed as opposed to those who wait for others to motivate them. When the applicant tells you what the manager should do, he or she is, of course, telling you what he or she wants. The managers efforts sometimes fail because ultimately, each employee must motivate himself or herself, and many factors are beyond the managers control. Does your applicant understand this? Does he or she take some responsibility for motivation? 6. When has your morale been the highest at work? Why? The answer should reveal what will motivate the candidate. If he/she discusses wages, benefits and a steady job situation, security is the candidates biggest concern. If he/she discusses situations when others recognized their work and he/she received status or position, your applicant may need a good bit of help with his or her self esteem. If he/she recalls times when they worked among talented, friendly people, you will be able to motivate him/her best through peer pressure and the team concept. Finally, if the candidate speaks about work that was challenging and that provided growth, learning and increased responsibility, he or she must receive them through an interesting job well-suited to his or her talents. Obviously, you must determine if the job available matches the motivational need revealed. 7. Have you ever worked for or with someone who was highly motivated? In what ways are you like that person? Different? You should receive a surprisingly honest answer to this question. Most applicants open up when describing someone else. Importantly, this question will help you determine what you cannot expect from the candidate if he/she is hired. 8. What is your definition of success? Follow-up: How are you measuring up? How will you go about achieving that goal? The definition stated must be matched to the position available. For example, if the answer puts success in terms of power, money, prestige or influence, the applicant will not be happy for long in most low-paying, non-exempt positions. Try to discover how the job applied for will lead the applicant to his or her success goals. If he or she is unclear about this, the candidate will be unlikely to become a long-term, happy employee of your organization. Goal Orientation 6

1. Please describe how you set and measure your work goals. Is the applicant results-oriented? Determine how detailed the goals are and whether they seem realistic, measurable and specific. The extremely goal-oriented candidates set their own goals without waiting for others to instruct them. In fact, they usually set goals for non-work activities as well. Does the candidate fit this profile? 2. Have you ever been held accountable for reaching a goal that you knew wasnt possible to attain? What did you do? For the goal-oriented person, this situation will be almost intolerable. He or she will relate how hard they fought to overcome the situation, and will speak about what he or she was able to accomplish anyway. For others, they may speak about being unfairly treated, but their primary regret will not be that they were unable to achieve a goal. 3. Do you think M.B.O. works? How do you adjust to working under a goal setting program? M.B.O., Management by Objectives, requires much planning, discussing, monitoring and adjusting of goals and objectives to succeed. The very goal-oriented applicants should adjust easily it to it and will help make it a success. Others may feel it is restrictive, unrealistic for certain jobs and leads to quotas. Most important, they are uncomfortable with the accountability that M.B.O. forces. 4. Describe which job and which manager got the most out of your potential. What made that situation so productive? This question allows the applicant to tell you how they like to be managed, and which activities make them feel productive. Highly goal-oriented individuals may speak in terms of being given procedures, goals, measuring tools, regular updates, and accountability with enough authority. 5. Have you ever suggested ideas which were not accepted by management? What were they? What did you do then? When ideas are not accepted, some people give up. Others reintroduce them in a better package or find ways to accomplish their goals which avoid a sales job to management. In other words, can your candidate find more than one way to accomplish his/her goals? 6. Of your recent jobs, which one required the fastest actions or decisions? How did you feel in those situations? Please describe one. Some goal-oriented people are methodical, placing each piece of a puzzle in front of them, step-bystep, until the whole picture is assembled. They are uncomfortable in ambiguous, demanding work atmospheres. This question should help you discover how fast the applicant prefers to move toward a goal. 7. How do you monitor the progress of assignments and projects? 7

Goal-oriented people often accomplish a lot not only because they have a destination; but also because they constantly measure the progress of their journey. Does the candidate use methods such as project boards, tickler files, progress reports, or simple reminder notes to keep track of his or her accomplishments? Attendance/Punctuality 1. In your last job, give me some examples of things that made it necessary for you not to come to work a day or longer. Listen for what is volunteered. Probe to find out how severe the symptoms of an illness were and how often they occurred. If factors other than illness are offered, follow-up to see whether they are still present. Be sympathetic and act unsurprised by any answer; your responses should show the applicant that it is easy to share these reasons with you and that you wont judge them harshly. If necessary, follow-up with question #5 below. 2. When do you feel it is necessary to work overtime? Please give me examples from recent jobs. Answers may range from whenever my supervisor asks, to I never feel it is necessary. Followup to determine the reasons for their answers. For example, do they have family obligations? Another job? A carpool? After their answer is clear, you should feel comfortable giving the candidate a realistic estimate of the amount of overtime the new position might require. Ask for their reaction, and watch for signs of hidden disagreements. 3. What do you feel is a fair lateness standard to hold employees to? For instance, should people be allowed to make up lost time? How late is really late? The lateness standard offered will give you a good feel for what to expect from the candidate on the job. Keep the conversation away from the personal. What the applicant presents as fair will be a standard or policy which would allow them to avoid trouble. For example, a person may offer, I think anything within ten minutes of starting time should be OK as long as someone is allowed to make up for the time at lunch or after work. You could count on that person to regularly arrive a few minutes late in the morning. 4. In your last few jobs, what obstacles have you had to overcome to get to work on time? Candidates may tell you about their day care arrangements, car troubles, traffic or other problems. By probing, you can determine how serious the problems are, and whether they are likely to prevent good attendance and punctuality. 5. What would your last supervisor or manager say about your attendance or punctuality? How many times would he/she say you were absent or late this year?

Variations of this question have been used for many years by interviewers. The applicant generally assumes the interviewer may call the past manager and that he or she should therefore be truthful. Follow up: Would the manager tell me you were dependable? How did you demonstrate that dependability through you attendance/punctuality? Creativity and Innovation 1. Which have you preferred to work with a set, planned day, or a day you create for yourself? Why? Often, innovative people like to free lance their way through a day, preferring not to be tied down by a restricted schedule. Use follow-up questions to determine if this is a cover to hide a disorganized approach to the work day. Surprisingly, some applicants are more creative under very structured conditions because their creativity is stimulated when bordered by time pressures. Match the applicants answers with their likely work day in the new position. 2. Please tell me a great idea you have seen in your field recently. Why was it unique? The idea cited will reveal something about the applicants measuring stick for creativity. Does the example given strike you as truly creative or innovative? The idea may also tell you the kind of creative ideas you might expect from the applicant. For example, is the idea a synthesis of old approaches, or truly new? Is it a practical idea, or more abstract? 3. If you could change one thing which is inefficient at your current job, what would it be? Job innovation depends partly upon a clear-eyed assessment of traditional, routine methods. Applicants who struggle with this question or who offer trivial changes are unlikely to create innovations which save you time, money or energy. The answer should sound realistic and well organized, and the applicant should become energized when describing it; truly creative people enjoy presenting new ideas. 4. What is the most creative thing you have done in a past job? How did it occur? Find out if the creativity was in response to a demand or request from others, or whether it was selfgenerated. (This will help you know what their new manager should do to maximize the applicants creativity.) If the example cited is more than a few years old, ask for a more recent example, too. Did these examples have a long-lasting impact? Did others benefit from them? Problem Solving / Analytical Skills 1. Have you ever been assigned several important projects at roughly the same time? How did you go about setting priorities for your time? 9

Look for an answer that demonstrates an analytical process. The applicant might consider factors such as the impact on production, others expectations, deadlines, and organizational politics. Notice whether the applicant takes responsibility for creating a solution, or simply blames the system. An analytical applicant might have analyzed the situation as a problem and recommended, or at least thought about, procedures to prevent its constant reoccurrence. 2. Give me an example of a difficult decision you had to make at your last job? How did you solve it? Follow up. Why did you choose that method rather than another solution? The applicant should explain how he/she identified the real problem. Probe to find out the methods used to analyze the problem and the questions the applicant had to answer to arrive at possible solutions. Look for a problem situation analogous tones he/she might face in the new position; for example, a people problem or a hard data problem of facts and statistics. Find out the time pressures involved and whether he or she explored alternative courses of action alone or with others this will help you determine how the applicant will go about solving problems. 3. What kinds of problems do you feel you are uniquely qualified to solve? Give me an example of how you have demonstrated this. Some applicants will describe their training or education, others what experience has taught them. This self-description question can be very revealing. Applicants will usually describe their problem solving ability in terms or either, (a) concrete skills (give me the pieces of the puzzle and Ill put them together for you), (b) abstract (the ability to analyze and organize ideas and concepts), or (c) creative problem-solving (formulating new approaches, perhaps innovating on-the-spot solutions). 4. Please describe your current approach to searching for employment.

In one sense, the job search is a problem like any other business problem. The applicant must first set a goal or intended result, acquire data, analyze various factors and take the initiative to advance various courses of action. An analytical applicant will be conscious of the job search process he or she will have a plan to get a job and will be intellectually challenged by the process. 5. What information or technical support has helped you succeed on the job? (For example, standardized forms, procedures, goals, delivery date, etc.) Which have you created on your own to make things more efficient? This question will help determine the applicants need to systemize work. Some applicants have a high need for structural support if a system isnt in place, they analyze the need for one and begin designing forms, procedures, etc. If they create such a structure, probe to find out what the initial problems were, what change they initiated and what the results were. If they were satisfied with organizational structures in place, ask for examples of why and how they were worthwhile structures or procedures. 6. What has been a stubborn or recurring problem which you would have liked to solve in your current job but havent yet? 10

Look for an orderly examination of the problem into its component parts. An applicant with highly developed analytical skills should be able to answer this question easily. He or she will genuinely be challenged by the problem, and even enjoy discussing the problem and the various blind alleys traveled to solve it. Look for tenacity and determination in discussing a possible solution. Watch out for a tendency to blame others rather than accepting responsibility to work within the limits of the problem variables. Finally, notice whether the applicants presentation of the problem is orderly and systematic. Where does he/she begin the answer? Do the facts presented sound objective? Has he or she thought through the pros and cons of various approaches? What lessons did the applicant learn from the search for a solution? 7. What process do you follow in solving problems? Consider the problems your candidate might face in the position. Would a shoot from the hip approach work best, or a more careful structured one? Ask for an example to illustrate the approach discussed; the process an individual wants to follow might not match the reality of what he/she actually does. 8. What methods do you use to make decisions? Please give me an example of your approach. When the facts are all in, what does your candidate do when a firm decision must be made? Does he or she act quickly? Sleep on it for a day or two? Go for a gut feeling? 9. What is the biggest error in judgment you have made? Why did you make it? How did you recover? This question can help reveal weaknesses in the candidates approach to problem solving or decision-making. As a follow-up, ask him/her how they have since guarded against those kinds of errors. No problem solver makes the right judgment every time. Assess whether he or she took a calculated risk, or simply made an unthinking blunder. Finally, determine what he or she learned from the experience. 10. What kinds of decisions did you have authority over? Which ones did you have to check with your manager before making? Beware of the applicant who continually refers to what we did. This question makes it clear how much leeway the applicant had or has to make decisions. Ask whether he or she would like more authority. Then match the answers to the authority allowed in the new position. Career Ambitions 1. What are you looking for in a job that you havent had before? What would make you want to stay in a job?


Center their answers on past experiences. Make sure their past experiences reflect realistic expectations. You are safest if they have more than a feeling of what they want i.e., specific responsibilities, tasks, activities and interactions. 2. Describe the ideal work day for you. How would you spend your time? What activities applicants describe first will often be what they will value doing the most and what will attract them to the job. Generally, the activities they describe first, and with enthusiasm, will be those they are best at. 3. Ideally, what would an organization or company provide for you in terms of income progression over the next 2-3 years? The answer will reflect their confidence and drive to reach a salary level as well as their relative interest in money and raises. Avoid the cat and mouse game about money. Be firm that they honestly tell you their expectations before you predict how much is possible. 4. A year or eighteen months from now, what would you see yourself doing on a typical day if you got this job? Look for a realistic assessment that matches what you see them doing in about 6-9 months. If they are overly ambitious and have unrealistic ambitions, expect trouble unless they have a real plan to get where they expect to go. As they describe what they will be doing, study their reactions; do they seem fearful? Confident? Confused? What does this tell you about them? 5. Give me an example of when you have outgrown previous jobs and knew it was time to move on. How did you know it was time? This important question will reveal their values. Some applicants will talk about money, others about feeling stuck, still others will describe what their manager or co-workers didnt have or didnt supply. Look for consistent reasons to leave each job, a lack of confusion, and confidence about the change, rather than a complaint about what was lacking. 6. At this stage of your life, what do you need to support your professional growth? Personal growth? This question will often give you information about applicants personal lives -- their families, ages, etc. Be careful to listen and probe, but dont ask discriminatory questions. 7. What do you consider your three greatest career achievements? Why did you pick those? This simple question will help you discover how the applicant views his or her career. The achievements presented are quick guides to what the candidate wants out of his or her career. What does the applicant feel proud about? Money? Responsibility? Growth? Position? Learning? Its important to notice to what extent the position available offers these rewards.


8. How have your past jobs prepared you for this one? Some candidates see their careers as a steady progression, each job leading neatly to the one in front of it. Others move through their careers, surprised at the twists and turns they must negotiate. Regardless of the career path taken, a sharp-thinking applicant can assess what talents and skills he or she can bring from past experiences to apply to a new position. This question also allows you to find out how well the applicant understands what skills, knowledge and abilities are needed in the job. 9. In what areas would you like to develop further? The areas cited may be potential trouble areas, as well as opportunities for training and guidance. Follow up: How do you see this job allowing you to develop in those ways? 10. When have you felt most off track in your career progression? Why? Sometimes you can learn the most about an applicant from a job which proved to be a mistake. Why did he or she take the position (and what does this tell you about their values)? How did the candidate discover he or she was off track? What did they want that they couldnt have? Ability to Learn 1. Give me an example of a situation at your previous employer when others knew more than you. How did you close the gap? The self-motivated person will close the gap by self-study and asking questions of qualified people. He or she will ask for extra help, but will work long hours to catch up. Ask specific questions to determine what the applicant did without organizational support, as well as through formal channels. 2. How do you keep up with the changes in technology (terminology, information) in your field? For many jobs, training and education are necessities. Does your applicant perceive this need? Does he/she seek knowledge through a variety of sources for example, periodicals, books, and conventions? Follow up with questions concerning new technology or techniques in your field. Does the applicant seem aware of them and speak about them knowledgeably? 3. If you could acquire one skill or bit of job knowledge, what would it be? What do you need to do to acquire it? How can we help? The answer will reveal how the applicant evaluates his/her own skill or knowledge deficiencies. Also, you should hear how motivated he/she is to attend classes or learn through self-study. If the applicant asks for training, make sure how he/she understands the term the way you do. Does it mean outside classroom learning, self-study, on-the-job training, or in-house seminars?


4. Whats the fastest you have learned something new for a job? What did you do to learn on company time? On your own time? A variant of question 1 above, this will give you an idea whether your applicant can learn quickly. Again, use follow-up questions to determine how the applicant went about learning, especially when the knowledge wasnt readily available through his/her company. 5. Which courses gave you trouble in school? Which came easily? This simple question works best for younger applicants whose school experience is still fresh. After finding the answer, a simple Why? question will reveal how the applicant sees his/her natural abilities and aptitudes. (Is he/she number-oriented, or more people-oriented?) 6. What would you expect from us to get you oriented or trained? Expectations which are not met can lead to disappointment on both sides. Probe extensively as to which areas the applicant wants to be trained in, how thorough he/she expects the training to be, and how formal. Of course, some applicants have no idea of what training they will need. However, it is part of your job to clarify this issue in the interview and later, upon hiring. 7. How soon could you learn this job well enough to become productive and valuable to us? Much learning depends on confidence and commitment. Try to ascertain whether the applicant is confident about learning and, of equal importance, whether he/she is making an estimate based on experience and knowledge, or whether it is simply a guess meant to impress you. Dependability 1. If we hired you, what could we count on you for without fail? Watch carefully what the applicant speaks clearly and confidently about. If applicants are unable to answer this question easily, it may mean they are unsure of their own dependability. Ask follow up questions. For example, if the applicant says, to give-you my best every day, you might ask, Can you give me an example of how youve demonstrated that at your last position? Generally, the more concrete and confident their announced commitment, the more you can be certain of it. 2. How do you know youre doing a good job? Possible answers conclude, My manager lets me know, or the work gets out on time. These answers are indicative of applicants who are oriented to external standards. Internally motivated applicants might talk about their own standards - goals which they set for themselves over and beyond the job demands. 3. In a past job, did you ever have to alter your standards to meet your companies'? When? Why? What did you do about it? 14

Very few applicants will tell you their companys high standards were in conflict with their low ones. However, it almost surely was the case in one or more jobs. Most of us have discovered that an organization or manager demanded more than we were accustomed to producing; better, faster, more accurate results, or a new attention to service or quality. An applicant who admits his standards needed to be raised, and who succeeded at reaching them, is most likely an employee who can be coached and challenged to produce. An applicant who lowered his standards to meet his companys way has learned a valuable lesson; sometimes doing it too perfectly leads to work problems, too. However, probe to find out whether the company seemed justified and whether the applicant was, or still is, stubborn and resentful about the adjustment. He or she may have been very justified in resisting, but watch out for self-righteousness; unless your applicant is a true superstar, it is a quality which will wear thin very quickly on the job. 4. If you were a manager here, or in your past job, what would you require of your employees? Why? The standards applicants imagine they would set for employees are not necessarily the ones they might want others to for hold them. Their answer to this question will generally indicate their highest ideal of what they feel others can produce, and therefore what they would aspire to at their best. 5. Give me an example of a time when your manager or others in your company placed excessive demands on you. What did they want? What did you do? Consider two aspects: First, what the applicant deems excessive. Does it sound out of line? Can you imagine yourself asking for something similar? Second, how did the applicant handle it? Did he or she try to negotiate? Rise to the occasion? Sabotage? Odds are, you will also place excessive demands on the applicant at times on the job. Its important to understand what might happen when you do. 6. What is an example of something youve done that showed your most excellent performance? Be specific. This gives applicants an opportunity to fire their best shot. Try to get an idea of the actual impact on their organization of the example they give, the time frame within which it was accomplished, and who else deemed it as excellent. 7. What did you expect of yourself in your last job? In what ways did it differ from what your manager expected of you?


A variation of question three, this one will help to elicit a clear description of the applicants own standards. 8. What were your three most impressive tangible contributions to your company? The contributions the applicant lists unavoidably reflect his/her values and standards. For example, one of the contributions may describe volume of work, another change in procedures or operations, and still another money-saving idea. These contributions reflect what the candidate feels proud about accomplishing, and what areas he/she perhaps would feel confident in at your organization. However, probe to uncover exactly how significant the contributions were, how the organization recognized them at the time, and what long-lasting impact they had. 9. What do you think an employee owes his/her company? If you get clichs or vague answers, such as to be at work everyday ready to do her best, dont accept them. Ask for examples to demonstrate the generalities. Give prompters, if necessary, such as in the area of working hours, in accuracy, in working with others or in selfdevelopment. If you reinforce the applicants first few statements, regardless of their content, you may then obtain some revealing answers. What the applicant feels employees owe a company usually is very similar to what you can expect the applicant to give your organization. 10. What results were you expected to accomplish in your last job? How were they measured? Some individuals are oriented to results; they will answer this question quickly, and confidently, in a very specific way. The results they describe will be measurable, specific and clear-cut. Other applicants will answer vaguely, or blame management for being unclear regarding results. If the candidate blames management, try to determine what results he/she set on their own. The resultsoriented person will try to set their own standards, regardless of managements approach. 11. What are the three or four bottom line (most critical) ways you measure success in your job? What would you list for this job? The answer will reflect the applicants orientation or values, as well as their understanding of the importance of clear goals and measures. Look for specific, easily determined measures, and an educated guess concerning the position applied for. In other words, assess how well the applicant sizes up success with minimal information about the position. Flexibility 1. Please give me an example of a time when management would not allow you to take a necessary action, even though you felt it was necessary to do so. (For example, a change in work procedures.) 16

Does the applicant speak about the situation with anger? Resignation? Find out if the applicant resisted management if so, was it appropriately assertive without being divisive? 2. Have you worked in an organization which changed its policies or procedures frequently? How did you deal with that? Look for the person who, while not necessarily pleased with the changes, accepted them and tried to make them work. Ask also if he/she tried to find out the reasons for the changes. If the applicant expresses anger or disgust with the changes, you will need to assess whether this demonstrates unwarranted impatience or inflexibility. 3. Give me an example of a time when you were given tasks to accomplish without advance warning. After you have clearly understood the example, find out how quickly the applicant accepted the changes and tried to understand the reasons for them. 4. Have you ever had to make a decision before you had all the data you wanted? Give me an example. What did you do? When the applicant was faced with a quick decision and insufficient data, how did he/she react? Notice whether this common situation seems to make the applicant uncomfortable. 5. Has a policy or directive come down with which you really disagreed? What did you do? If the applicant experienced this situation, he/she had many options. Among them: ask management for the reasons and argue his/her case; accept the directive quietly and smolder silently; engage in sabotage, overtly or covertly; find co-workers who also disagree and organize a protest; leave the organization. How did the applicant react, and what does this tell you about his/her flexibility? 6. How much stability would you like in terms of a fixed job description? How much have you had at other organizations? Jobs change and evolve in most organizations. Can the applicant be flexible enough to change with the position? Look for signs of resistance and a need for overly secure job duties which might impede needed changes and additions to the job duties. Organization, Attention to Detail and Time Usage 1. How do you feel a meeting should be organized to be most effective? Give me an example of one youve attended or that worked well.


This question will often unearth the applicants awareness of details. A detail-oriented person might describe the seating, the agenda, the roles various people took, planning before the meeting, and a meeting that started and ended punctually. 2. When your past managers have given you projects to do, how much information and direction did they usually give you? Give me an example of what seemed to be the right amount for you. Applicants who are especially detail-oriented need to be given lots of direction and data when a manager delegates to them. They are uncomfortable with managers who are oriented only to the big picture, unless they are given time to do a job well in an atmosphere of trust. This question will also unearth an applicants confidence and ability to take initiative with new projects. 3. Would you rather formulate a plan or carry it out? Why? Give me an example of a plan you have implemented. Some people are doers they like to be given a task to do and theyll make it happen. They are often detail-oriented. Others see the big picture they are comfortable strategizing the result and assigning resources to the project, but less effective at doing follow through on the specific tasks to make it a success. Only a few people can truly succeed at both planning and executing the plan. If an applicant tells you he/she likes to control both planning and execution, get specific examples of how they have gone about it. Probe for their ability to draw help from others, to delegate necessary tasks, monitor the results and follow through. If they are managers, find out the degree to which they are willing to give others authority to make decisions. 4. What is the most irritating part of your current job the part you might wish you could delegate to someone else? Why? Applicants often mention paperwork requirements of past jobs. What they would like to give away is what they typically will avoid doing for you when they have to make a choice. 5. Have you ever had an experience when you were responsible for coordinating several small tasks to accomplish a large job? Please give me an example. This question is a good lead-in to discussing the applicants organizational methods. Find out whether the applicant set up internal controls, such as tickler files, internal deadlines and interim meetings. If the job involved coordinating with people in other departments, determine how the applicant obtained agreements and held others to their time and quality commitments. 6. Do you like to juggle a lot of activities at once or do them one at a time? People who juggle a lot of tasks at once usually like variety and diversity. They will not be comfortable in linear, routine jobs. If your position requires the ability to juggle priorities and be flexible, it may be a good match. However, this sort of applicant may tackle too many projects to get them all completed, and may be easily interrupted. 7. How do you keep track of your own paperwork, schedules, etc? Please be specific. 18

It doesnt matter a great deal how the applicant keeps track; whats important is that they have established their own workable approach and sound confident of its success. Of course, youll have to judge if their systems will add to or detract from the ones you presently have in place. 8. In your last job, if something wasnt due for several weeks, when and how did you approach getting it done? Perfectionists typically will be uncomfortable waiting to begin a project. They will begin work early so it can be done right. Other applicants will wait until they really need to do it. 9. Do you typically write memos to others or do you usually deliver messages on the phone or in person? Those who would rather see people in person or talk to them on the telephone are most at home in the realm of ideas. They may not take the time to do the detail work necessary to fully complete some jobs. Those who would rather write memos often prefer a structured, detailed approach to the work. You can count on them to communicate all the information and to document their efforts. They will do the job right if it contains a lot of details. 10. Describe how you handled the details of your last major project.

Note the extent of detail in the answer, and whether the applicant had a system to monitor the project which prevented details from being lost. Did the applicant depend on others to handle details? Did he/she track details with the computer? Write extensive documentation? 11. Describe a busy day at your last job. How do you organize a day like that?

First, see whether the busy day actually sounds busy to you. Next, see how excitedly or readily the applicant volunteers the answer. Those who are well-organized will usually be pleased to share their systems with you. 12. Where do you waste most of your time (when you do)? Accept almost any answer if the applicant seems honest and forthright. The truth is, we all waste time. However some individuals know how to minimize the time wastes and consciously give attention to improving their time usage. In addition, look for an applicant who seems comfortable with his/her productivity regardless of occasional time wasters. 13. Describe a way you have improved the organization of a system or task at your last/present job? Applicants who are well-organized often look for ways to improve upon old procedures and systems. If so, he/she will volunteer examples quickly. 14. What did you do the day before yesterday?


This is an old-fashioned interview question which may or may not yield reliable data. Some believe that well-organized people can easily remember and that others will not. 15. How do you decide what you should work on next? Those who are not well-organized often have no idea what they will do next. They may hop from one demand to another, or do whatever catches their eye next. Well-organized applicants set priorities according to an orderly system and allow for normal interruptions. 16. How do you monitor things which need your attention? This is general question which should help you understand your applicants ability and experience at setting up reporting systems. Does he/she depend on a set, organized approach to monitor needed items? Does he/she seem to have a good grasp of which items need attention? Interpersonal Communication Skills 1. What sorts of things do you feel are important for an employee to share with a manager? And vice versa? First, you will want to understand the manager who will be communicating with the person to be hired. What does he/she want to share and want to hear? Match the applicants answers. Does the expectation involve inappropriate guidance, counseling, gossip, etc.? 2. Give me an example of the kind of co-worker (manager, customer, etc.) whom you find difficult to communicate with? Why? The personality type or individual described will point to areas in the applicants make-up where he/she may need to change. For example, if very aggressive people bother him/her, you will want to evaluate the applicants toughness and assertiveness. In addition, you will need to discuss typical personalities he/she will have to deal with in the position, and find out the applicants reaction to them. 3. When, in a past job, did you find it important to disagree with your boss? How did you approach him/her and what was the result? [Assertiveness.] Assertive people see disagreement as healthy, even vital to success. If he or she seems unafraid of open disagreement, genuinely refuses to blame, and tries to solve the problem constructively, you can assume the applicant is assertive. If the applicant expresses dislike of open disagreement, he/she may be more passive. And if he/she attempts to win (and make the boss lose), you have got an overly aggressive person. 4. What kind of performance feedback do you want and how often would you like it?


Open communication is a two-way street. The employee must be willing to hear criticism and even ask for it on occasion. Follow-up: What are some negative criticisms and what are some of the positive things you have heard from managers? Ask also how he/she feels about negative performance feedback; when and how does he/she want to hear it? 5. How much of your personal life do you typically share with others at work? Where do you draw the line? Obviously, this is a judgment every employee must make. Dont be reluctant to ask for specifics; you may be living with their personal life for a long time. 6. Name one recent success youve had in dealing with (a patient, vendor, customer, etc.) How did you accomplish it? In describing their success, applicants will usually describe how they view themselves in relation to others. (I was really just trying to help her, or I kept my cool no matter what he said.) This question will help you determine how self-aware the applicant is, and in part, what he/she feels success means in interpersonal relations. 7. How do you persuade others to get what you want? Can the applicant reflect on his/her own skills and inadequacies in persuasion? Most positions require this skill to some degree. Does the applicant know how to listen to others needs and vary their approach accordingly? 8. Can you describe the person or people you got along with best at XYZ Company? A variation of question 2 above. What does the answer tell you about the applicants requirements for friendship or close working relationships? Do these implied criteria seem to be met in your organization? For example, an applicant who says, I get along with people who just do the job and dont chatter a lot, could be unhappy in an extremely personal, chatty environment. 9. What have been your least successful relationships at work? What did you do to try to create a better relationship? Another variation of question 2, this one focuses on the applicants willingness and skill at mending relationships at work. Probe to uncover whether the applicant made an honest attempt to adjust his/her style to make the relationship work. 10. What role do you usually take in a group meeting or discussion? What are the advantages of that? Disadvantages? You should get surprisingly honest answers to this question. Assure the applicant that there is no right answer. Listen well and you should get a good picture of the typical pattern of behavior in a group situation. Follow-up: How do you change when the group is composed of people you dont know well? 21

11. What does the open door policy mean to you? Do you think it works? The open door means one thing to managers and another to employees. Does your applicant seem to want total availability? To be able to get appointments or meetings with the boss? Again, match the applicants need with the managers openness and availability. 12. When you have started new jobs, how have you established good relationships with your new co-workers? With management? Many applicants will look at this as an extremely important part of their job. They know that future productivity depends upon good relationships. Probe particularly how they have done this with management. Are you convinced? Do they seem to understand what management expects from an employee (dependability, punctuality, flexibility, etc.)?

Conflict 1. Give me an example of a recent situation when you disagreed with someone on the job. What were your options for settling it? Why did you choose the option you did? Use the situation as an opportunity to understand the applicants way of dealing with conflict. Ask follow-up questions to determine whether the example cited is representative. Does the applicant tend to smooth over conflicts? Withdraw completely? Compromise his or her position? Does he or she take the time and energy to hear the other persons point of view, and then attempt to find a long-lasting solution? Finally, notice how the applicant treats the emotions involved were they discussed and acknowledged, or disregarded as not important? 2. What kinds of disagreements are you able to handle easily? Which have you been involved in which were upsetting or difficult for you? [Which was one which was not as easy to handle?] Let the applicant explain his or her strengths. Ask why he/she was able to handle those people and situations easily. Typically, he or she will tell you what skills or traits come easily to bear upon conflict situations. Probe the difficult situation to learn more. Was it the situation (time factors, expectations, working conditions, work load, etc.) or the type of personality which made it so difficult? 3. When youve been criticized at work, how have you reacted? Who has criticized your work in a way you found comfortable? When have you felt over-criticized? Its easy to become defensive when criticized. However, it is also a vehicle to improve ones performance when we can learn from the criticism. From the answers given, try to gauge the candidates sensitivity to criticism. Are they defensive about any criticism, or criticisms over a certain part of their work? Is timing an issue? Proof? Finally, does your applicant go on the 22

counter-attack, or silently withdraw? Ask lots of questions about this issue if your candidate is inexperienced or if their manager is the critical type. 4. What should a manager do to minimize conflict at work? How much should he/she get involved in solving it? What If you were involved in the conflict? This question helps to determine the applicants degree of maturity. Those who are more mature generally dont need or want help solving conflicts. Others look for a dad or mom to bail them out. 5. Have you ever had a situation when you found it necessary to confront someone at work? How did you handle it? Look for an assertive approach which emphasized honesty, openness, listening, and a commitment to solving the problem, rather that to attacking the person. If possible, get the applicant to demonstrate what he or she said. Try to put yourself in the place of the other person. 6. What situations got you irritated or angry on the job?

Follow-up to discuss the situations how the applicant dealt with them and how often they occurred. 7. When (customers, vendors, co-workers, etc.) get angry at you, how do you usually react? This question assesses: a) the applicants self awareness of his/her own typical reactions and b) his/her skills and approaches. For example, your candidate may speak softly, keep silent, or paraphrase the other persons argument. Alternately, he or she may try to provide quick answers and easily get hooked into an argument. As always, you will find out the most by pursuing a reallife example. 8. Have you ever had to deal with a situation when you felt that a co-worker or manager made you look bad? Please describe how you dealt with it. Probe the example. Was the applicant justified in his/her feelings and actions? Follow-up Do you think competition between individuals or departments is a healthy thing? 9. What is the most unpopular stand you have taken? Please describe. Look at your own organization to determine whether you truly tolerate unpopular stands. If the applicant had a good cause, how did he or she deal with criticism and unresponsiveness. Listen for signs of inappropriate blaming and self-righteousness. Cooperation


1. What did you do to support your co-workers in your last job? Please give me a specific example of a time when you helped or supported a co-worker. Examples may range from emotional support to providing physical, psychological, or knowledge assistance. How much did the applicant offer that was not already expected? Find out why the applicant chose to offer support. Does he/she support those who are not personal friends? Was the support an aid to the organization, as well as to the individual? 2. In which of your past positions have you found it easiest to buy in to the management philosophy and objectives? The hardest? Some individuals give their loyalty and cooperation easily. Management has to perform very poorly for them to become uncooperative. Others expect management to earn their respect, loyalty and cooperation. By discussing their answer thoroughly, you can learn the applicants expectations for giving loyalty and cooperation to an organization. 3. Give me an example of a time you had to take the lead with your work group to get a task done. How did you get cooperation? Can the candidate enlist the cooperation of others? Look for a knowledge of team functioning for example, the importance of setting an example, recognizing team members contributions, listening well, setting clear plans, goals and objectives, achieving consensus decisions, and working through conflict positively. Does the applicants answer sound convincing? Can you imagine others following him/her confidently? 4. How do you get cooperation from other departments? (Vendors, suppliers, customers?) Give me an example? Some people are skilled at building and maintaining friendships, which later may be used to get work done. Others are creative bargainers. Does your applicant seem to have conscious approach? Does he/she speak positively of their experiences in this regard? If so, it is a fair bet he/she can obtain cooperation when necessary. 5. Which problems do you feel are appropriate to bring to your manager? Give me an example, please, of how you usually approach a manager with a problem. This question addresses the issue of the applicants ability to cooperate with his/her boss. Cooperative employees bring problems in with clear, documented facts. They also provide suggested solutions whenever possible. Finally, they are sensitive to issues of timing, personality and presentation of the problem (should it be in writing or presented verbally?). Some applicants look at the manager as someone whom they want to cooperate with to solve problems beyond their expertise or authority. Others see the manager more as someone to be bothered with problems only as a last resort. Match their answer, of course, to their possible managers problem-solving style.


6. Would you rather work on a team or on your own? This classic question is often used to evaluate an applicants willingness to work in team settings. Try to determine, however, the team-oriented individual prefers teams for a positive reason (better creativity, more spirit, more fun, higher expertise, etc.) or for a more negative reason (dependency, more anonymity, inability to set and maintain individual standards or plans). 7. What do you require from a boss? A simple question which may yield crucial answers. Ask lots of whys and what do you means, and match to the management style of their future manager. 8. What is a pet peeve you have had about an organization or an environment youve worked in? Does the pet peeve seem justified? How did it affect the applicants morale and cooperation? Is the same pet peeve a factor in your organization?

INTERVIEWING QUESTIONS FOR MANAGEMENT AND SUPERVISORY POSITIONS Decision Making 1. At which point do you find it necessary to bring others into your decision-making process? Why? Every successful manager knows when he or she must consult or join with others to arrive at a solution. Does the applicant understand the value of securing others commitments? Of asking for expert advice? Does the applicant typically decide first and tell others about it, or consult with others before making decisions? Watch out for managers who try to reach every decision by consensus-building they may not take charge and be able to make quick or unpopular decisions when necessary. 2. Describe your approach to making decisions and solving problems. Why do you do it this way? Is the applicant a careful, step-by-step analytical decision maker? Or does he or she go by the gut feeling? Some decisions require careful research, others creative brainstorming. Is the candidate aware of his or her own approach? Get an example of a few recent decisions and probe for why the candidate used their approach. Remember that a manager must make many quick decisions every day and live with the consequences. A candidate who hasnt evolved a successful decision-making approach will be a certain risk.


3. When you recommend something to management, what approach do you usually use? Give me a recent example. Many supervisors and managers have failed because they couldnt sell their ideas and decisions to upper management. Notice whether the candidate understands the politics of the situation. Probe for factors such as awareness of proper timing, whether the recommendations were in writing or presented orally, and whether the candidate was sensitive to selling benefits and meeting potential objections. Did the candidate know when to back off? When to push? In short, does he/she know when and how to manage upward? 4. Give me an example of a decision you had to make quickly or under pressure. How did you approach it and how did it work out? The manager who can make sound decisions under pressure is a valuable player. Probe to discover where the pressure was coming from -- was it real or imagined? If possible, find out how the candidate would have approached the situation given more time. What did he/she have to give up under pressure? Others input? Time for reflection? Written research data? Look for a decisionmaking approach which involves taking calculated risks for clear rewards. Also, look for a candidate who accepts, even thrives upon the pressurized atmosphere of management. 5. How do you assemble relevant data to make your decisions? How do you know when you have enough data? Beware of the candidate who waits for all of the data. He/she will never collect enough data, and subordinates will be frustrated waiting for a decision. Look for a candidate who delegates data collection, where possible, and sets priorities and objectives to organize the research effort. 6. Describe a recent time when you had to implement one of your decisions. What did you do?

Many terrific decisions and plans rot on the vine of poor follow-through. Look for a systematic implementation plan, with timetables and checkpoints. Notice whether subordinates are assigned the details and held accountable for them. 7. How much leeway do you give your employees to make decisions? How do you still maintain control? Good managers know how to pass decision-making to the lowest levels possible. Their egos allow them to give power to employees, but only to the extent that their subordinates can handle. Probe for specific examples of the kind of decisions allowed. Are they of major importance? Did the candidate truly support the employees while still overseeing factors such as time, budget, range of options, and others participation? 8. What have you done to get creative solutions to problems? Be specific. Notice whether the applicant seems excited by the creative process. Get an example of a creative solution. Was it arrived at through a structured process or through intuition? Through group 26

brainstorming or individual initiative? Youll want a manager who values creativity and knows how to stimulate it in others.

Administration 1. What areas are within your sphere of responsibility? How do you make sure that you know what is happening (problems, changes, etc.)? Some managers are good at setting up reporting systems logs, meetings, regular reports, production statistics, etc. Others depend on personal visits or a few chosen advisers. Most importantly, discover how well your candidate assesses his/her responsibilities and knows (as opposed to assumes) whether the operation is functioning correctly. 2. How do you make sure that your employees are accountable? Look for two steps: First, your applicant must request very specifically what he/she wants and must attempt to negotiate a commitment with an employee. Second, he or she must make an effort to reward good performance and halt poor or mediocre performance through quick, sure performance feedback or coaching. The good administrator knows that others will perform best if they clearly know what to expect and are held accountable for results. 3. What operating systems do you use to monitor and maintain control of your areas of accountability? Look for approaches that combine up-to-date technical approaches with common-sense. Beware of overly sophisticated systems that could not be grafted upon your organization. Flexibility is important; can the candidate innovate new systems if necessary? Is he/she willing to try your organizations current methods? 4. What do you typically do when you hear of a problem in your area? Give me a current example. This question is meant to unearth whether your candidate is a studier or a leaper into problems. As an administrator, the candidate must track current problems and spot trends, determining whether problems are temporary, or indicators of deep-seated troubles. At issue here is whether the candidate can monitor an area of accountability and judge when and how to get involved. 5. How useful have you found written procedures and guidelines in helping you manage your area? An analytical, thoroughly detail-oriented candidate prefers written procedures and dislikes varying from them. He or she will usually institute written guidelines if there are none present. A more spontaneous manager dislikes all but the loosest structures, finding them generally restrictive. Try 27

to judge the need for structure in the position the chosen candidate will manage. Do you need an innovator, an administrator, or someone who must be both? 6. Do you feel that the chain of command is important? Why? When do you feel it might inhibit organizational effectiveness?

The chain of command comes from a traditional, military model of management. Some managers feel it stifles creative ideas and people. Others feel it gives the organization safety and stability. Listen to the applicants answer to determine his/her frustration level with the chain of command. The administrator/manager can make it work to their advantage. The leader/innovator may chafe under it. Writing Skills 1. When you have to write letters, how do you usually get started? This question will help to understand the candidates approach to writing. Does he/she write an outline before beginning, or simply jump in? 2. Would you prefer to write letters from scratch or use form letters?

The best writers dont mind using a form letter at times. However, they like to add their own special innovations and touches. If the candidate always writes his or her own letters, find out how much time it takes, and whether a form letter could accomplish the same purpose. 3. How do you keep track of incoming and outgoing correspondence?

Correspondence can become a time-consuming part of a managers day. Does the candidate have an efficient filing system? Does he/she delegate early drafts to others? Write on a word processor? Use other systems or approaches? 4. What do you think is important to document? How do you document it?

Documentation has become an increasingly important issue in management. Look for a candidate who keeps simple notes on employee performance and keeps statistics on production which are organized around clear, logical themes. Notice whether the candidate can access the information easily. Also, search for the documenting employee performance for example, proper documentation to defend against a discrimination claim or wrongful termination suit. 5. What do you see as the difference in writing strategy for a report vs. a memo vs. a letter? Which do you think takes more skill? A competent business writer understands that a report must present information leading to a logical conclusion or recommendation. He or she also knows that a memo should be brief and readable, and should present the primary information at the beginning. Finally, the candidate should have a


working knowledge of different business letters those for persuasion, apology, information, or other purposes. 6. Do you struggle to write a letter or report, or does it come easily? How many times do you usually edit your work? By what method? Very few writers can write without a bit of a struggle. If the candidate says writing comes easily, perhaps he or she sets low standards for it. The best writers are generally careful editors they may edit a piece several times to hit the right tone. Financial 1. What responsibility do you have for budgeting? What budgeting method do you use? This question establishes whether the candidate speaks knowledgeably and confidently about the budgetary responsibility. Some managers view it as an annual headache and others are aware of it as an important management tool. Try to gauge the sophistication of the candidates methods by asking follow-up questions. 2. How could your organizations budgetary process be improved? Most organizations have a budgetary process in place. Does the candidate simply accept it, or can he or she suggest modifications? Be sure to distinguish between complaints and realistic improvements. Watch out for the candidate who is unaware of others time and financial commitments and who complains of too much pressure. Their idea of pressure may be what others call organizational reality. 3. How do you go about estimating expenses and budgets? Successful managers have worked out a sound method which reflects the realities of their unique situation. Probe to uncover how sophisticated the method is and how it has been adapted through time. 4. Give me an example of something you did which saved money for your organization. Few managers initiate cost-cutting or money-saving ideas. Uncover whether the action was in response to an external pressure for example, a management demand. Next, find out what was truly an original idea and what ideas came from others (an employee, for example). Finally, determine how the candidate monitored and measured the savings, and whether the impact was truly significant. 5. What recent decision have you made that had an impact on finances? How did you assess its impact?


The example named may be significant. This question will help you discover if the applicant is oriented to making decisions which save money or make it. A hesitation or inability to answer may be a tip-off that he or she doesnt have an orientation to the financial aspect of management. Leadership 1. How do you get your employees (or others) to follow you? This broad question allows the applicant to reflect on his or her leadership. Managers may talk about their ability to set goals and direction, or to include others in decisions, or to lead by example. Whatever they volunteer, probe by asking, give me an example of how you actually do that. Look for a strong, confident answer and notice whether you could be persuaded to follow him or her. 2. How do you use power or authority to get what you want done? The real leader is not afraid to use power he or she knows, however, that others dislike being made to follow, and that they also want to feel powerful. Look for answers which indicate an easy acceptance, even enjoyment, of the uses of power and influence, yet a healthy respect for others abilities and their mutual goals. In other words, make sure that your candidate enjoys using power but uses it for unselfish purposes. 3. Give me an example of how you delegated responsibility for a recent assignment; for instance, whom you chose, what and how you delegated the assignment, and what you did to monitor it. Delegation is a fundamental part of management. Surprisingly, few managers think about it logically. For example, how many really think about how to best prepare a job before delegating it, or what would be the most logical way to explain its details? By pursuing questions about a recent delegation, youll learn a good bit about how the candidate assesses employee skill levels, his/her awareness of communication principles, training, planning of assignments, and his/her ability to follow through and monitor. Notice whether the applicant cares about developing and teaching employees through delegation, and what kinds of assignments he or she refuses to delegate. Ask how much detail the applicant usually provides when he/she delegates; it should vary according to an employees experience and maturity. 4. How would you describe your management style? Undoubtedly, the applicant will describe his/her style in complimentary terms. However, some probing follow-up questions are in order. For example, you might ask about his/her style in dealing with conflict situations, running meetings, setting goals (how many, in what areas, how monitored), and structuring activities and assignments for subordinates. Dont accept general terms used to describe the style, such as participative or hard-driving. Ask for examples which illustrate the style.


5. What was the style of the best manager you have worked for? What did you learn and begin using from that persons approach? This question will help determine what the applicant sets as a model, his/her idea of a correct approach to management. If you can get a clear picture of their model, it will help you learn areas in which they are likely to be effective, and areas in which they will want to become more effective in. 6. What do you enjoy most about being a manager? Least? According to recent research, effective managers are comfortable exercising authority. They enjoy being a leader, enthusiastically projecting a sense of excitement to employees. Furthermore, they are ready to take decisive action, expect to be asked for direction, and make decisions which may appear to others to be unconventional. Finally, they appear to be strongly focused on delegation -that is, they recognize the importance of getting subordinates to do the work rather that themselves, and they see this as a major, enjoyable part of their role as a manager. If your applicant expresses some or all of these factors, your chances of hiring a winner will go up significantly. 7. What type of employees do you find hardest to manage? Why? The employees whom the applicant finds hardest to manage most likely indicate areas which are available for his/her growth and development as a manager. For example, some applicants state they find it hardest to manage quiet, non-assertive employees. If so, perhaps they need to learn how to slow down, listen and coach and counsel subordinates. Others indicate they have more trouble with louder, rebellious, power-seeking employees. This suggests a need to learn skills in discipline and conflict resolution. 8. What have you learned about management since your first supervisory job? The old saying, experience is the best teacher is usually true. However, it is only true if people take the time for reflection and introspection. Some managers only learn how to do the same (wrong) things more frequently! Others learn from mistakes, or problems on the job, and gradually acquire important new skills. Push your applicant a little to supply the specific experiences which illustrate the way he or she handled something in the past versus the current approach. Evaluating Performance 1. What do you do to insure objectivity when you evaluate others work? Surprisingly, few managers have given this issue much thought. The applicant should express an understanding that objectivity is a fleeting goal, but an important one. Look for an applicant who has attempted to clarify job expectations and job standards with employees and who understand the importance of regular, constructive evaluations. Good evaluators may also keep records to remember specific examples and situations; they know that memory is unreliable and biased.


2. What sort of performance standards have you held employees to? Were they written? How did you (could you) improve them? The manager who evaluates employees well takes the time to discuss performance standards. Be wary of applicants who feel that job standards are unrealistic for their kind of work. This attitude might indicate a manager who avoids the messy work of making others accountable for specific behaviors and outputs. Follow-up to determine whether their standards seem realistic, specific, fair and measurable. 3. How long does it take you to write a performance evaluation? What steps do you go through? This question will tell you whether your applicant takes this important task seriously. Does he/she carefully assemble documentation and labor over the wording on the evaluation? Or is it a latenight slap-dash approach just to get it over with. Look for a manager who takes an organized approach to the task, but doesnt agonize over it. (Those managers will probably be the ones who procrastinate in completing the job.) 4. How often do you evaluate your employees? The best answers will imply that evaluation is an ongoing process and that it must occur on a regular basis. However, probe what the applicant means by evaluation. Does he/she put it in writing? Does it occur in a regularly scheduled meeting, or as the need arises? Does it cover areas for improvement, as well as positive performance areas? 5. How do you get your employees involved in their own evaluation?

Notice whether your applicant seems surprised by the question -- many managers are unaware that the best evaluations include active employee participation. If your applicant doesnt take steps to get the employee involved, he or she may be more aligned with the role of a judge in the evaluation process, rather than a coach. The result may be less objective evaluations and, more importantly, employees who feel estranged from their own manager. 6. How do you evaluate your departments overall performance?

This question will help determine the applicants ability to plan, monitor, and assess the factors he/she must be responsible for. Look for an orientation to clear production standards and specific, measurable goals. Notice whether the applicant has developed a reporting system and whether he has a handle on his departments performance at various intervals (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.). 7. When you evaluate someones performance verbally, what approach do you take? What if they are exceptionally good? Marginal? This question gets at some important issues. Is the candidate supportive? Is he/she tough enough to pressure the marginal employee, but compassionate enough to understand an employees circumstances? For those employees who are exceptionally good, does the candidate know how to 32

give positive feedback and supply new challenges? Does the candidate sugar coat negative criticism or face it squarely? Finally, how organized is the candidate when he/she evaluates work? Does he/she seem to weigh comments thoroughly, or shoot from the hip. 8. How do you plan for performance improvements?

Evaluating performance isnt enough. A good manager must plan and monitor improvements in performance. Look for an approach which emphasizes specific, measurable goals for improvement which are set collaboratively with the employee. Look also for a candidate who is optimistic about the possibility of performance improvement; this positive attitude will inspire improvement in others. 9. What should a performance evaluation system or form look like? Does at matter? Every manager has an opinion about the right form. Ultimately, it doesnt matter which form is used. What is more important is that your candidate can use any form. A good manager knows that evaluating employees is more important than the form; he or she will use what is available and do the homework necessary to write and talk about performance objectively. 10. How do you measure performance in your area? Standards for performance are useless unless they can be measured. Notice whether the candidate speaks confidently and comfortably about measurement. If he or she seems tentative, you can bet their employees will feel that way, too, about what is expected of them. A good manager knows and feels comfortable with behavioral standards as well as quantitative ones.

Employee Relations 1. How do you go about developing the people you manage? Can you supply a current example? Typically, candidates will fall into one of three categories: First, those who dont see much of a need to develop their employees and are uncomfortable with this question. (Sample answer: I send them to training classes when they ask.) Second, those who talk about development but havent figured out how to accomplish it. Third, those who successfully help employees develop through planning, counseling, coaching, training, and delegation. The current examples cited should help you sort out in which category your candidate fits. 2. Have you had an employee who you successfully motivated? What did you do? How about one who you tried but could not motivate? Notice whether your candidate seems to understand and use a variety of motivational techniques which are matched to the personality and values of his/her employees. For example, does your applicant speak most often about tangible motivators, such as bonuses, promotions, etc.? Or does he or she talk about increased responsibility, challenging work, positive reinforcement, 33

participation in decision-making, etc.? Any motivational approach must take into account an understanding of the employees unique situation; does your candidate seem to grasp this? When discussing the employee who the applicant could not motivate, look for an example which indicates the manager who sincerely tried, but has accepted gracefully the fact that a manager is only one of many motivating influences on an employee. 3. How have you helped your employees become committed to a job or to the organization? Typically, employees become committed by acquiring job knowledge; having committed, inspiring managers; perceiving and receiving good rewards; being allowed to own the job and participate in decisions; and having clear expectations for performance from caring managers. Look for realistic examples which demonstrate specific actions which the candidate took. 4. How have you dealt with an attitude problem? Please give me a specific example. Every attitude problem is a behavior problem in disguise. That is, the manager labels poor performance as an attitude problem. Your candidate should give examples which indicate a willingness to listen to what is creating the attitude and at the same time a willingness to set tough guidelines for performance improvement. Managers who try to talk employees out of their attitude invariably get pulled down with their employees. Therefore, watch out for the candidate who seems to be a counselor, or alternately, has given up on solving attitude problems. 5. How often do you think its necessary to meet with your employees? What do you talk about? Good managers usually meet frequently with their employees, whether formally or informally. However, exceptions might include very experienced, productive employees or employees not located in the same geographical area. Some meeting topics (other than production problem-solving meetings) might include: soliciting ideas or suggestions, social talk, reviewing achievements, setting goals, assigning individual or group accountabilities, listening sessions to hear concerns or problems, and meetings to reinforce performance and share success. Look for managers who meet frequently, and talk freely and openly with their employees about a variety of topics without overemphasizing regular, scheduled status-check meetings. 6. How have you handled complainers? Notice whether the candidate expresses disgust or displeasure. Many complainers simply need more support and an open ear; they may be an untapped resource. On the other hand, make sure that your candidate after listening thoroughly, seems comfortable setting limits on how much time and effort he or she will give to chronic complainers. You may need to surmise whether the candidate will take others problems on as their own too readily; if so, the candidate will ultimately be an ineffective manager. 7. Give me an example of an employee who you had to discipline. What was your strategy? How successful were you?


The best discipline does not emphasize punishment. If your candidate seems to be comfortable setting early and clear limits for performance, find out how long they were willing to wait for a change, and what he/she did to increase the risk factor to the employee. Does the applicant seem comfortable setting tough boundaries without becoming vindictive? Does he/she understand that employees must choose to change, and be given realistic choices? Does the candidate appear to be comfortable with the necessity to document poor performance? Finally, notice whether the applicant sincerely wanted to help the employee in question, or whether the manager was drawn into a battle of egos. 8. What sort of employee training do you think it is necessary to offer? What have you done in this regard? Consider whether the candidate enjoys training and seeing employees learn. Also, consider whether the candidate assesses training needs logically. Did he/she simply ask employees, or did they undertake a formal training needs assessment? Match answers against your budget and available training resources. Creative managers know training doesnt always occur in the classroom. They continually look for opportunities to upgrade employees skills without the easy method -- send them to a training class. 9. How many employees have you had to terminate? Which was the hardest one to fire? Why?

The hardest case to fire may indicate a weaker area. For instance, if the example given concerns an employee who was rebellious, perhaps your candidate has trouble setting limits. If the example given describes hassles with documentation and organizational support, perhaps this indicates a lack of thoroughness and patience. 10. Have you had to manage a personnel situation which had a potential legal impact? Please describe what your role was and what you learned from it. Managers in the 80s have had to learn to manage more defensively. Listen to the example given and try to determine whether the candidate has become so defensive that he/she has become reluctant to take needed personnel actions. Make sure to assess whether your candidate has a working knowledge of the legal issues in management and has learned how to cooperate with others i.e., the Human Resource Department, legal counsel, etc., to take action confidently. 11. Please tell me about a recent project you had to staff. How did you go about staffing it? Why did you choose the people you chose? Listen for answers which indicate an understanding of staffing factors. For example, does the candidate speak about the project requirements, the morale issues, the time deadlines, developmental needs of the staff involved, and the amount of involvement the candidate wanted in the project? Would you feel comfortable, based on the answer given, having the candidate staff an important upcoming position or project? 12. How do you develop trust and loyalty in your employees? 35

Developing trust and loyalty is a two-way street. The best candidates will speak about demonstrating their own trust and loyalty to their employees, and provide examples of how they have done so. These candidates usually encourage open communication and give their time and expertise to others. They genuinely respect their employees and go out of their way to help their employees advance. 13. Describe a time when you had problems getting people to work together in solving a problem or completing an assignment. This question will help you determine whether, under pressure, your candidate is likely to become more task-oriented that is, more directive and goal-oriented -- or more relationship oriented -that is, more communicative and supportive. Did the candidate analyze the problem with the employees help, or solve it alone? Does he/she seem to understand the root cause of the problem, or did the candidate simply apply a band-aid to the situation. Knowing the employees who the candidate would manage, do you think this approach would work. 14. Do you think the open door policy works? How much time do you spend with your employees and what do you typically discuss? Where do you find it is best to talk to them? This question will help you determine whether, under pressure, your candidate is likely to become more task-oriented that is, more directive and goal-oriented -- or more relationship-oriented that is, more communicative and supportive. Did he/she seem to understand the root cause of the problem or did the candidate simply apply a band-aid to the situation. Knowing the employees whom the candidate would manage, do you think this approach would work. 15. Describe a time when you had to intervene to solve a conflict. Why did you handle it that way? Try to understand whether you have a problem-solver candidate or a problem-avoider. The problem-solver will attempt to hear all sides and will not avoid the conflict. He or she will try to arrive at creative solutions to conflicts, and will see them as inevitable in any organization. He or she will also treat the parties to a conflict with respect and often attempt to get them to take responsibility for their behavior. Finally, he or she should not hold a grudge against the people involved.

Planning 1. How far in advance do you typically plan activities for yourself and your employees? By what method? The time-frame for the plan given should match the complexity of the tasks the candidate and his/her employees must accomplish. Assess whether the planning method seems sufficiently sophisticated. Does it take into account historical data? The potential impact of outside parties? 36

Potential changes or deviations? Does it seem to fit the planning time available in the management position you are filling? 2. Please describe a time when your plans didnt work out. What did you do to recover? Look for determination and an ability to analyze the failure in a detached, logical manner. Look also for an action which demonstrates the candidates ability to adjust the plan using creativity, others help, and hard data. 3. How do you assess priorities? How do you then assign them? Every manager must juggle priorities. Does the candidate seem more day-to-day or does he or she seem to have consistent criteria for deciding? Does frequent communication with other managers (including those above him or her) figure into the assessment? Is there a system for assigning priorities or is it simply who pushes the hardest? 4. Give me an example of a change you saw coming, or something you thought was necessary to change. How did you go about planning for it? An excellent candidate has one eye on the future. Rather than merely coping everyday, he or she looks for changes both those from outside forces and those which must be self-initiated. Look closely to determine whether the candidate planned ahead to implement the change and whether the plan was followed. 5. What major activities do you have plans for right now? Please describe them. Notice the degree of confidence and enthusiasm. Did the plans come from others, or did the candidate initiate them? Planning is a necessary, key function which must involve forecasting research, creativity, goal-setting and implementation. Does your candidate seem comfortable with this part of the managers job?

Organizational Relationships 1. Describe a time when politics at work affected your job. How did you deal with it? Two issues should concern you. First, can the candidate read and understand the norms or politics of an organization; can he or she play the game. Second, will the candidate accept the political situation in your organization. Probe for an understanding of both issues. Notice whether the candidate seems excessively bothered by the situation. Does it seem that terrible to you? Your best candidate is one who can endure political storms and remain relatively dry. 2. Describe a time when you had to sell a decision or policy to your employees when you didnt agree with it?


Every manager must sell policies or decisions at times. Can the candidate put personal reservations aside and speak positively to his or her group? The effective manager voices disagreement behind closed doors, refuses to sabotage management decisions, and accurately reports the effectiveness of the policy or decision after it is implemented. 3. What would you describe as an effective staff meeting? Ineffective? What the candidate describes as effective will probably be what he or she aspires to. Ask how closely his or her past meetings have met that standard. Notice whether the candidate talks about keeping control (e.g., setting time limits and an agenda, having a purpose and objectives, alerting members to their expected contributions), while getting maximum involvement. Does he or she understand the need for different types of meetings for different purposes? Follow-ups: How do you handle someone who dominates the meeting? What do you do if your people wont participate in a meeting? 4. How do you typically get cooperation from someone in another department? The applicant should first acknowledge the need to get cooperation from others. Answers might include actions such as bargaining, finding a common goal, or attempting to build relationships. Whatever the answer, probe to find out what the applicant would do if that approach does not work. Can the candidate get a commitment and cooperation from others by other means? Can he or she be aggressive in obtaining commitments if necessary? 5. What are some of the unwritten rules for behavior or politics in your current company? Are there some more bothersome than others? This is a variation of question #1 above. If the candidate has trouble listing the unwritten rules it is a good indication he or she has low awareness of organizational norms and could easily violate unspoken rules in your organization. Probe the rules the candidate finds bothersome. Do they seem so onerous to you? Did he or she make a good attempt to follow them? 6. Have you had to make oral presentations to other managers? Describe what you did and how effective it was. Notice whether your candidate looks at a presentation as a challenge or as something to be dreaded. Find out how he or she organized the presentations, and whether their purpose was to sell, or merely to inform others. If the candidate says a presentation was effective, ask him or her how one measures effectiveness. In summary, this question will help you know the extent to which your candidate enjoys oral presentations and is experienced at organizing them. 7. How have you demonstrated your loyalty or help to your current management?

What the applicant offers is a good description of what he or she will offer you. Probe vague or general answers such as to give 100 percent or to be there ready to work every day. Ask for examples of times when the candidate went beyond the usual and did something special.


8. Give me an example of a time when you felt it was necessary to be assertive to get what you felt you deserved or needed from your manager. The candidate will volunteer a situation. Listen carefully to determine whether the assertive behaviors sound aggressive. Does the candidate understand his/her managers point of view? Was it treated as a personal affront, or did the applicant try to solve a problem, rather than blaming and accusing the manager? Does that level of assertiveness fit what would be acceptable in your company? Analytical Skills 1. What was the most difficult decision you had to make at your previous position? Why? What other possible solutions were there? Not only will this question show you how applicants approached problems; it will reveal the degree of the problems difficulty as well. Follow-up questions are essential. Try to uncover the reasoning behind the decision. What was it based on? What kinds of pressures were being applied? From whom? Why was this choice superior to other alternatives? See if the applicant is clear in defending his/her decision. 2. Give me an everyday problem you had at your last job. How did you solve it? The old saying goes, Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Everyday obstacles are inevitable; a good salesperson recognizes these hurdles and devises solutions to meet them. Sales is a tough job already, so the salesperson must have an organized solution for everyday hassles. Discuss various options not taken. Why were these not used? 3. Why are you leaving your current employer? How did you reach this decision? There are many variables and emotions involved with leaving a position. It can become a microcosm of how the individual analyzes other difficult situations. Personal goals and interpersonal attitudes can be investigated. Did he/she understand the product? Was the compensation just? Were there personality conflicts? Be aware of the applicants self analysis and how he/she weighed the options. 4. How do you decide a prospect is worth pursuing? Give me an example, please. Time is essential. There are few things more frustrating to a salesperson than barking up the wrong tree. A crisp, clean response to this question is important. Specific criteria regarding a prospect should be fleshed out immediately. As a follow-up, change the variables of the example and ask whether the customer would still be worth pursuing. 5. What problems have you discovered at your current or previous company? What types of solutions have you recommended?


Are you looking for a problem solver or a wave maker? Try to gauge the applicants assertiveness. Is he/she politically astute or abrasive? The problem should have been one that influenced the applicants ability to produce results. Did the solution affect satisfaction of customers needs? Sales dollars? Company success? 6. Approximately what percentage of your sales calls close? To what do you attribute this success rate? The hare had all the tools, but the turtle could finish the job. A combination of the hare and the turtle is what youre looking for here. Is he/she aware of customers needs, as well as being hard working and goal-oriented? Do not accept knee-jerk, clich reactions; you want to see signs of selfunderstanding and confidence gained from successful experiences. Also, look for an awareness of what factors figure in closing a sale. Does this rate sound acceptable to you? 7. How do you decide the best way to sell a particular customer your product?

Although many customer needs are similar, no two are identical. Acumen in distinguishing the subtleties is an important tool. The applicant should have a way to analyze the sales signals a customer sends. As a follow-up, change the variables of the example; find out if he/she has contingency plans.

Performance Standards 1. How do you know when youre doing a good job? The applicants personal standards should surface here. Look for answers that show strong personal goals and values, rather than a wish to merely please others. Follow up with: How does that differ from what your managers have expected? Look for applicants willingness to incorporate company standards into his/her own. 2. With what areas of your work at your previous employer were you most satisfied? Why? Most unsatisfied? This is another values question, and a grounded follow-up to question #1 above. Here, the applicant should give you an idea of what they value what success (and failure) means to them. Ask how they knew when their performance was satisfactory or unsatisfactory and what they are doing about it. 3. Specifically, what would your manager say were your major achievements? Values and standards for achievements should surface. This question allows the applicant to step back and take a look at him/herself with candor. Follow up with what might the manager say as a criticism? Probe to get examples of why the manager would say those things; do they sound like real achievements and reasonable criticisms to you? 40

4. Did you ever have to alter your standards to meet your companies? When? This probes the applicants ethical principles and how these relate to company values. Find out where the applicant draws the line between the two, and what type of pressures would prompt a conflict. Does the applicant set issues of integrity above company policy? Is he/she interested in gaining power at the expense of corporate standards? What was the outcome of the example cited? 5. Who were the best salespeople youve worked with? What did they do or not do?

This answer should indicate the standards by which the applicant will measure him/herself and the values he/she holds dear. Use follow-up questions to find out why they selected the examples and why these issues are important to them. Is it because these salespeople knew how to close? Did they make big money? Were they aware of the customers needs? 6. If you were a sales manager here, what would you require of your employees? Why? This question puts the shoe on the other foot. Be wary if the applicants requirements are excessive. This could indicate that he/she tends to scrutinize others more closely than him/herself. Try to match his/her standards to those you would set. Learning Ability 1. In your last job, what did you need to learn? How did you go about learning? With this question you can find out how an applicant deals with his/her need for information and education. Ask for an example and pursue it. Look for creative techniques the applicant used to gather information independently; at work, self-education is often the only kind available. If they received on-the-job training, find out how effective the education was and how enthusiastic the applicant was about it. 2. Give me an example of a situation at your previous employer when others knew more than you. How did you close the gap? This question, similar to Question #1 above, allows you to assess an applicants ability to learn in a high-pressure working environment. Listen for signs of frustration; does the applicant respond well to the challenge, or does he/she find it intimidating? Look for signs of an innovative approach to learning. Did the applicant seek help from other employees, or view co-workers as competition? 3. How do you keep up with the changes in technology (terminology, information) in your field? Some people look at education as a continuing pleasure; others view it as a bit of a chore. Does the applicant subscribe to trade periodicals and read them regularly? Does he/she attend industry trade shows/conventions to do more than just make contacts? By following up on this question, you can find out just how committed the applicant is to the process of ongoing education. 41

4. What do you do to learn about your customers problems? For salespeople, curiosity about a customers business often indicates a real commitment to customer service and bigger sales. Does the applicant listen carefully to his/her customers comments, suggestions, and complaints? And did he/she apply that information to remedy problems and improve the product or service they were selling? 5. How do you follow what the competition is doing? In many industries, knowledge provides the competitive edge. Look to see if the applicant views education as a vital part of success. Also ask how they learn about the competition. Ask the applicant how he/she has responded when customers favor a competitors product over his/her own. Was he/she prepared to counter the competitions features and benefits? 6. What sales have you made when you had to study or learn information quickly? Ask for a specific example; notice how effectively the applicant applied newly gained information to close a sale. Also, check to see how well the applicant remembers the information he/she learned; a high degree of retention indicates that the applicant has incorporated the information thoroughly. 7. Which sales have you lost because you lacked experience or information? Its a rare salesperson who hasnt lost a sale for these reasons. Try to get applicants to talk about a specific example and see if they view the situation as an embarrassment or as a positive learning experience. Probe to see why the situation occurred; if they were lacking information, should they have had it in the first place? Sales Drive and Career Goals 1. How do you keep yourself up for selling? Applicants who truly enjoy their work, who have enthusiasm for the selling challenge, will be able to stay up. Look for those who strive for victory in the deal, as opposed to those who are selling simply to meet their personal financial needs. 2. What sales situations have challenged you the most? The least? With this question, see if the applicant responds positively to the challenge. Do they speak of it aggressively? Try to gauge whether he/she seemed to enjoy the most challenging situation or the least challenging one. In other words, discover if they are driven by the joy of success or the fear of failure. 3. What makes a good salesperson? 42

Here, give applicants the opportunity to describe their role models. By doing this, they will tell you the kind of salesperson they are, or want to be. Their criteria may include: satisfying customer needs, being goal-oriented, having positive energy, or being persistent. Follow-up question: How have you demonstrated those same qualities? 4. What is attractive about sales as a career? Whats not as attractive? This gives you an idea of how the person might perform in the long run. What is the attractiveness motivated by? Is money uppermost in their minds? Do family obligations take precedence? Or is it the pursuit of the challenge? Also, what approach has the applicant taken to overcome the least attractive areas? Has he/she thought it out? Does your position seem attractive, given their answer? 5. How many customers do you think is enough to see in a day? Why? Get a specific number and use follow-up questions to discover how the applicant arrived at the number. Is it reasonable? Is it consistent with your standards? If the number is excessive, dont be put-off it could be an indicator of a high-energy positive applicant. 6. What are your overall career goals? How are you working to achieve them? The second part of this question should be your focus. It is more important that applicants have a concrete idea of how they are going to meet the goals, as opposed to what the goals are. Again, compare their goals to the opportunities your sales position offers. 7. What is the most important sales skill?

This question may seem abstract, but in fact it addresses an applicants self image. Very often, applicants refer to their best sales skill as most important; this natural inclination can provide valuable information. Watch out for vagueness in the response; if necessary, rephrase the question: In past jobs, what skill made the sale for you? As a second follow-up, ask: Besides dollar amount and sales volume, what is the most important sales standard in this Industry? Check to see if these standards are consistent with your own. Organizational Skills 1. How do you prepare for a sales call? Sales calls come in all shapes and sizes, from the cold call to the drop-in visit to the scheduled presentation. Applicants should have a plan for dealing with each. Look for preparatory steps they take to make the most of their customer contact. 2. How do you qualify customers? How do you determine which prospects to call on?


Salespeople have to get the biggest bang for the buck. They should be able to distinguish hot prospects from tire-kickers. Examine their method of categorizing customers; look for clear criteria and procedures. Do they know how to do the spade work that will let them hit pay dirt later? 3. Have you had situations when your schedule was interrupted unexpectedly? What did you do to overcome them? For a busy salesperson, one slip in a daily schedule can wreak havoc with the entire day. Probe to see how applicants deal with this pressure. Are they flexible in the face of changing priorities? Look for a consistent strategy; watch for evidence of frustration or impatience. 4. How do you ensure a consistent base of customers? Prospects? Dollars? Some people organize for the sake of organization, others do so as part of a long-term plan. Use this question to gauge the applicants strategic perspective. Do they use a structured system? Probe to see how effective the method has been and what the applicant has done to improve it. 5. What do you need from an organization to support your success? Please be specific. Use this question to compare the applicants needs with your companys procedures. Look for an emphasis on independence and a willingness to set personal goals. 6. Have you ever had the opportunity to improve your companys sales system or approach? What did you do? This is an issue of adaptability: can the applicant improve company procedures and systems without disrupting them? Compare his/her willingness to innovate with your companys structure and policies. Be careful if you hear a lot of frustration; make sure it was warranted. 7. How do you get started on a typical day? What do you do from there? This question gets at daily motivation and routine. Look for established habits that are geared to produce predictable results. Look for refinement of these habits throughout the applicants career; listen for the applicants willingness to examine his/her own efficiency. 8. Compare sales managers for whom youve worked. Which one organized your job (territory, customers, etc.) best? Why? This question lets the applicant describe his/her concept of good organization; probe to see how they live up to their own standards. Once again, compare these standards to your own. 9. How do you stay on top of your paperwork responsibilities? Some salespeople avoid paperwork like the plague; others confront it head on. Probe the applicant to see how they deal with administrative duties. Try sympathizing with them if they admit a dislike; they may more clearly reveal their attitude toward this part of the job.


Handling Rejection 1. Give me an example of a difficult sale you lost. What did you do to bounce back from it? The first step in overcoming failure is accepting it. Dont let the applicant evade; probe for a specific example. How did they deal with the incident? By taking time off from work? Discussing the lost sale with fellow employees? Leaping back into the fray with even greater energy? Have these efforts led to improved performance? 2. How long have you gone without making a sale? What did you do to change your luck? Even long-ball hitters go through slumps; the question is how they broke the bad streak. Look for creative new approaches and the applicants willingness to examine him/herself. Do they take responsibility for their slumps or blame them on external factors? 3. Have you ever sold something to a customer (or promised something) that your company couldnt deliver? What did you do about it? The heat of the sales battle forges many promises; the icy wind of reality shows how brittle these may be. Does the applicant accept responsibility for instances of miscommunication, late delivery, etc.? Look for the applicants willingness to go the extra distance and make it right with the customer, without alienating his/her own company. 4. Give me an example of a time when you overcame a no from a customer. What did you do? When is a no really a no? The best salespeople say never. Look for evidence of tenacity, along with the ability to change a sales pitch in response to customer concerns. Did the applicant have pre-prepared responses to deal with the most common objections? Were these effective? If not, what did the applicant do to improve them? 5. What has been one of the biggest disappointments in your sales career? What happened?

Setbacks are the salt of life -- excellent for seasoning, but deadly in overabundance. Look for applicants ability to put disappointments firmly behind them. Watch out for evidence of regret, dissatisfaction, or obsession; the salesperson who carries a torch too long may well end up burning you. Sales Strategies 1. When you were selling at your previous employer, what objections did your customers have? How did you respond? Most customers have some objections; did the applicant have responses? Try to gauge his/her attitude. Do they accept that customers had these objections? Are the answers well thought out and presented? Probe with questions from the customers point of view.


2. Have you ever had to modify your usual presentation? What did you do? Why? Improvisation is the birthplace of creativity. The applicant should be flexible even in scripted presentations. He/she should be able to improvise -- to seize opportunities, or conversely, to steer away from problems. 3. What was your most difficult product to sell? How did you sell it? A tough sale for an inexperienced applicant may be a piece of cake for an old pro. Determine how the applicant approached the problem. Did they use a creative, positive approach? This question should show you the applicants degree of sales expertise. 4. Which kind of customer is difficult for you to sell? How do you overcome these difficulties? When applicants have problems with a certain type of customer, they may be dealing with difficult parts of their own personalities. Does the applicant dislike dealing with aggression? Perhaps he/she has trouble being assertive. Are the uncomfortable around cold people? Perhaps they have problems making friends. Examine the applicants disposition and compare it to your experience with your customers. 5. What is the most creative sales promotion presentation youve had to make? Be sure to ask for more concrete detail when applicants discuss projects that we created or we produced. Probe to determine his/her specific involvement. See if the applicant is enthusiastic and competent regarding the creative side of sales. 6. What types of benefits did you stress while selling your product or service? This question will indicate what types of benefits the applicant views as most important and how persuasively he/she presents them. Compare them with your own products and services. Does the applicant speak of the benefits with enthusiasm? 7. How much revenue were you expected to generate at your previous employer? How did you bring it in? How did you do? Few occupations stress goals as much as sales. Self motivation is a key element to achieving these goals. See if the applicant sets his/her own goals. If the company sets the goals, did the applicant strive to exceed them? The best applicants will thrill in surpassing these objectives. 8. What special skills could you bring our company? Again, the first sale any applicant must make is to the interviewer. Here, he/she is telling you what they know about the product and your company, as well as what they believe to be their best skills. Is the candidate persuasive? Are these skills the ones you believe to be important? In short, can he/she sell you?



How do you persuade your customers? Please give me an example.

Successful sales people should be persuasive without becoming manipulative. Probe to discover the basis of this persuasion. Does the applicant use information and expertise to gain a customers confidence? Do they use added service and attention to win favor? Assess these tools in light of your customers and sales strategy. 10. How do you close the deal? The salesperson who sells ice to the Eskimos knows to close the sale before the customer gets too cold. Closing is critical for sales success; be sure to probe for specific examples and proven techniques. Look for confidence without arrogance, determination without a bulldozer attitude. Customer Relations 1. How much contact do you have with customers after a sale? Please give me an example of what you usually do after the sale. Look for the three Rs: relentless energy, responsive attitude, and repeat sales. Does the applicant have a system for keeping in touch with customers (i.e., tickler file, callback sheet)? Look for dedication to customer satisfaction. Watch out for a complacent attitude or responses that show a lack of consideration for customer service. 2. Did you ever have a customer complain after a sale? What did you do in that situation? Customers trust salespeople who accept responsibility for occasional mishaps or missed deadlines. Does the applicant acknowledge the importance of this? Do they strive to offer some sort of recompense for any inconvenience? And can the distinguish between situations they could have prevented and those caused by circumstances outside their control? 3. How do you get to know your customers needs? A salespersons most valuable professional skills may also be the most personal. Does the applicant appear willing to listen? Can he/she ask a customer pertinent, incisive questions? Probe for examples. Watch out for applicants who assume customers want their product; search for those who can match a pitch to a customers specific needs. 4. Do you save information on prospects who have said no? What do you do with it? Some salespeople give up on a prospect when faced with a determined no. Others maintain files on potential customers for years on end. As you probe, look at the details. How long does the applicant wait before making a callback? When do they call an account truly dead? Look for sensitivity to customer signals. Perseverance and patience are also valuable here.


5. Give me an example of a customer who has stuck with you over the years. What did you do to make this happen? Where applicable, look at the applicants transitions from company to company; did customers travel with them? What tools did they use to establish that loyalty? Do they make suggestions to save a customer time or money? Remember that this type of relationship is a double-edged sword: the applicant can bring you accounts; he/she can also take them away. Good follow-up: Do you feel that a customer is yours, or your companys? 6. Give me an example of a time when you had to deliver your product late. How did you handle it? The last thing your company needs is finger pointing between the people in sales and those in production. Look closely at examples. Did the applicant establish realistic deadlines? How much pressure did he/she place on production staff? Look for focus on customer satisfaction, tempered by tolerance. Good follow-up question: How late can a delivery be and still remain acceptable? Cooperation 1. What have you done to support your sales manager in the past? Sales support works both ways from the manager to the salesperson and back again. Look for a willingness to go beyond the minimum requirements of the job, to provide managers with information as well as suggestions for improving operations. Did he/she provide insights on the competition or research new markets? Look for an emphasis on teamwork and a willingness to share tips, facts, etc. 2. How often did you meet with your sales manager at your previous employer? What did you discuss? How workable were these meetings? Some sales meetings are valuable strategic sessions; others are time-consuming bores. How did the applicant feel about meetings in past jobs, and what type of contribution did he/she make to those sessions? Ask for clarification about his/her opinion toward meetings: were they simply for reporting (one-way communication) or for strategic planning (two-way)? Examine attitudes toward fax and phone communication; is there a trade-off between efficiency and depth of detail? 3. What did you do at your previous employer to help the other salespeople? Look for a response that shows warmth and empathy toward fellow employees. Does the applicant view sales tips and information as a commodity to be protected or a resource to be shared? If they werent required to work with other salespeople, how did they interact with other employees? How much assistance did they volunteer and how much was required by the job? Follow up with: How much contact with other employees do you feel is appropriate? 4. What kind of criticism have you been given by your managers? How much is appropriate?


Self-confidence is crucial for a salespersons performance, but so too is the ability to accept constructive criticism. Watch out for a defensive attitude, as criticism in sales is apt to address personal issues (appearance, personality) as well as professional concerns. 5. Describe the type of relationship you had with the production people at your previous employer. The salesperson who treats production staff as secondary is sure to meet with resistance. Watch out for a prima donna attitude; probe to see if the applicant sees the sales position as the hub of the companys operation. Follow-up question: How do you feel production staff in your past job viewed you? 6. Whats the hardest directive youve had to follow from your company? Why? What did you do? The sales manager faces tough decisions every day, so he/she needs a staff that can execute responsibilities without creating more difficulty. Probe the reasons behind the applicants example; why was the order difficult to follow? Personal integrity? Independence? Convenience? Watch for a resentful attitude, or a harsh, unbending tone. Look for a willingness to place company concerns over personal issues. Risk Taking 1. Have you had a situation when, to sell a customer, you had to try something youd never tried before? Heres a chance to measure the applicants creativity; is their example truly innovative, or hackneyed instead? Look also at the degree of risk that was involved; this may indicate the applicants depth of experience. Follow up by asking how he/she assessed the cost/benefit of their creative approach. 2. When have you found it proper or necessary to circumvent company policy to make a sale? You may have to prompt the applicant with an example, such as shifting delivery dates or including extras in a sale. Remain impartial to the response so the applicant feels free to talk; their willingness to alter company policy may show you how they will adhere to your guidelines. 3. What risks do you feel are necessary in making a sale? How do you minimize these risks? Every sale involves some measure of risk; how does the applicant define this? Does he/she anticipate customers questions and objections, or do you see more of a wing-it mentality? Watch out for applicants who complain about the up and down nature of sales; this could indicate uneven performance. 4. Whats the riskiest career change youve made? Why did you make it?


Employees who take risks in their careers may tend to do the same for your company. Does the applicant have a clear perspective on the downside as well as the upside of a change in employment? Do you feel comfortable with the balance they strike between risk and reward? Look also for the motivation behind a career change; this may reveal potential trouble spots or suggest incentives you can use to motivate the applicant.


Self Starting 1. How are you conducting your job search? In the search for a job, applicants are selling the best products they have: themselves. How are they handling this task? Have they conducted research? Capitalized on professional contacts? Look for actions that indicate tenacity, creativity, and an organized approach. 2. What ideas have you sold to your own management? Why? What happened? Some employees execute ideas; others create solutions to problems for their company. How creative is the applicant and how do his/her personal ideas and objectives match with your companies? Be sure to follow up on examples. Were they confident in selling the concept to management? What were the consequences of their idea and the rewards as they saw them? 3. How do you go about researching a customer before the sales call? Sound preparation is the foundation of success. Look for attention to detail and complete followthrough. Probe to see if the applicant is oriented toward an in-depth sales strategy (a few wellqualified customers) or a shotgun approach (selling to large numbers of customers). Compare the applicants methods with your companys strategy and niche. 4. How have you changed the way your territory was covered compared to your predecessor? Compared to other salespeople in your company? Self-starting salespeople are often selfimproving as well. How willing is the applicant to eliminate inefficiencies or devise new strategies for success? Look for an orientation toward quantifiable goals and an emphasis on efficient use of time. 5. What do you expect from a sales manager to help you make sales? Compatibility is the key in making a successful hire. How much supervision does the applicant expect? Does he/she depend on constant encouragement and handholding, or do you see more of a free-lance mentality? How do these parameters fit with your own management style? 6. What do you do to build a list of possible customers? Some salespeople are content with the client list they already have; others are never satisfied, no matter how many new customers they gain. Ask for specific examples of how the applicant has found new customers. Look for evidence of perseverance and drive. 7. What did you do to prepare for this interview? The old adage says that contacts can get you an interview, but you have to get the job for yourself. How is the applicant capitalizing on the opportunity to sell him? Herself to you? Have they done


research on your firm? Are they psychologically prepared? Do they feel comfortal3le with this question? If so, theyve probably done their homework. 8. Please give me an example of a time when you needed to increase sales. What did you do? In sales, as in sports, champions thrive on challenge. Watch for method as well as attitude; did they meet higher quotas by squeezing extra sales out of old customers or by penetrating new accounts? Look for attention to efficiency; how much time did the applicant spend to get the increase? Watch for resentfulness toward higher objectives or quotas.

INTERVIEWING QUESTIONS FOR CLERICAL POSITIONS Assertiveness 1. Have you had to speak up recently to your boss or others who gave you work when it wasnt comfortable to do so? Share with me the situations, please. Pursue the example with follow-up questions. Was the applicant respectful, yet forceful? Did he or she try to solve a problem, rather than merely blame the other person? Listen to hear whether the applicant seems to express empathy, or at least an understanding, of the other persons point of view. 2. Have you had people who gave you assignments without complete instructions? How did you handle it? Please give a recent example. Every clerical person must wrestle with this dilemma. If the applicant asked for clarification, ask for the words he or she actually used in the situation. Does the applicant sound tactful? Could he or she have accomplished the assignment anyway? 3. Who have you had to set limits with at work? (For example, a person who was rude or overly demanding.) What did you do? Find out how long your candidate waited before finally setting limits. Does this illustrate a short fuse, or appropriate patience? Those applicants who can gracefully set limits for others usually have a good degree of self-esteem. They care enough about themselves to not be abused. Does the example given sound appropriately assertive for the people in your organization? For customers, clients, or those in other departments? 4. Have you ever had a situation when you found mistakes on an assignment someone else gave to you (to type, process, etc.). What did you do about it? The assertive person is confident enough to report the mistakes, yet secure enough not to blame or judge others too harshly. Listen for whether the applicant is sensitive to timing, and the lines of 52

authority in the organization. Depending on the position of the person in question, he or she should adjust their approach accordingly. 5. How do you minimize the time you must spend receiving work instructions from people? Some clerical people are good at anticipating the instructions about to be given; they ask incisive questions and summarize the major points, perhaps even taking notes. They are conscious of saving time, yet are able to speed others on their way gracefully. 6. How do you minimize interruptions on the job? This question covers interruptions such as phone conversations that continue too long, social chitchat, and dealing with visitors. The applicant should volunteer which interruptions he or she has had to curtail. (If he or she claims this has never been a problem, this raises doubts.) Ask about specific, typical interruptions such as those listed above. Again, notice whether the applicant seems secure enough to speak up without being curt or brusque. Independence and Initiative 1. How do you organize your typical workday? Excellent clerical people often organize their day well, knowing that many, if not all, of their plans will be changed as priorities shift. Your applicant should be capable of organizing according to a prearranged or self-designed system, yet not seem to resent the inevitable changes in their plans. He or she should also demonstrate the ability to anticipate peaks and valleys in the workload. 2. Give me an example of a complex assignment you have accomplished on your own. How did you get started on it? Why did you set it up that way? Look for pride in the accomplishment. Probe to find out what parameters were set by others, and exactly how complex the assignment was. Finally, notice whether the applicant seems to have genuinely enjoyed doing the assignment independently. Does his or her expectation for independence fit what your position allows? 3. What amount of supervision do you feel most comfortable working under? Why? The independent person may resent even normal amounts of supervision. Does the position allow the amount of supervision desired? If the applicant wants a great amount of independence, what is he or she willing to give in return? In other words, you may want to ask how the applicant has earned that level of independence in past jobs. Find out also whether the past positions were structured similarly to yours. 4. What do you do when you have down time at work those times when the work slows down? Please be specific.


For trainees, down times should be used for self-study. For others, this question will tell you a lot about the applicants ambition and integrity as well as their initiative. Some applicants are uncomfortable with too much down time because they want to use their talents better and grow more competent. Others may feel that using the slow times for personal business or pleasure is tantamount to stealing from the company. However, try to clarify whether the applicant has received instructions from past supervisors regarding slow times; some organizations allow, even encourage using it for personal pleasure. 5. What is a creative idea or change youve successfully put to work in a recent assignment? Try to gauge whether the applicants idea really made a difference. Was it completely selfgenerated, or in response to a problem, request or complaint from others? The clerical person who enjoys using initiative should have no trouble giving you at least a few of his/her best changes or ideas which were implemented. 6. How much training and guidance did you receive in past jobs? A variation of question number 3 above, this question also deals with training issues. With follow up questions, you can determine whether the applicant is a quick study, whether he or she needs written procedures, training manuals, or extensive training and hand-holding. You may not have the time, patience or ability to provide much training thus it is importance to understand how fast and by what methods the applicant has become trained in the past. 7. What sort of directions do you want from a supervisor or someone who delegates work to you? Do you like detailed instructions, or would you rather just know the highlights? Do you want them in writing? Some people want detailed instructions, even in writing. Others figure they will wing it, filling in the blanks as necessary. Many clerical people must receive delegation orders from more than one supervisor. If this is your situation, assess the applicants need for delegation in light of the personalities on hand. (In some busy offices, the clerical person must be a combination mind-reader and handwriting expert!) Business Writing/Editing 1. How much rewriting do you usually do when working on someones proposal/report? If the answer indicates the ability to rewrite or correct grammar, spelling, punctuation or syntax, ask the applicant where he or she learned this skill -- whether through formal education or work experience. Then, it might be wise to supply a typical document and ask him or her to correct it or make suggestions for improvement. Assess their rewriting skill in light of the time available, the talents in your office, and the complexity of the written material likely to be edited. 2. When typing, what sorts of mistakes can you catch quickly and correct for the original writer?


Again, this question may be best followed by a quick test to edit a typical report or memo. 3. When typing a document, which things do you feel comfortable changing without needing to check with the one who has assigned you the work? Which do you feel its necessary to ask about before changing or rewriting? The competent clerical person generally spots needed changes. He or she then corrects minor mistakes and suggests possible changes. However, many excellent applicants have agreements with their managers which allow them the latitude to rewrite or change documents independently. 4. What type of letters, memos, etc. can you set-up or write from scratch. Ask for examples and, if possible, get the applicant to demonstrate how he or she would set up or format common documents in your office. 5. How much writing have you done from incomplete instructions or notes? Give me some examples, please. Match the answer to the type of instructions he or she is likely to encounter in your office. 6. What formats or form letters have you had experience working with? This question has two aspects. First, you must decide whether their experience can be utilized in producing the correspondence in your office. Second, you may want to determine how fast he or she learned the formats as a yardstick in figuring how fast he or she could learn your particular approaches and systems. Handling Pressure 1. Give me a recent example of a situation you have faced when the pressure was on. What happened? How did you handle it? This is a general question which looks at the unique stresses clerical people must face. Try to elicit a situation which might happen in the new position: a tight deadline, hostile people, overwhelming workload, etc. Does the applicant seem to have a sense of humor about it? Does be or she share which internal resources (patience, positive self talk, assertiveness, relaxation, etc.) he/she used to deflect or cushion the pressure? Would those resources help in the new position? 2. How often have you had to deal with others (clients, callers, bosses) anger or frustration? Give me an example of how you have handled upset people (on the phone or face-to-face). Unfortunately, others sometimes explode in frustration or anger at a clerical employee, regardless of whether it is fair. Ask the applicant to repeat both ends of a recent angry conversation. Does the applicant appear to keep his/her cool? Listen well, yet not back down too easily? Speak softly and refuse to argue? A little time spent on this question can pay you large dividends when you must choose a calm, yet assertive person.


3. Whats the busiest recent work situation youve worked under? How did you like it compared to other work situations? When did it become too busy? First, you will want to match his/her idea of busy to yours. (For some people, three phone lines is busy; to others 40 is busy.) When the situation became too busy, how closely does that match common situations in your office? Follow up: When it became too busy, what did you do to cope? 4. How tight are the deadlines you have faced? Give me an example of a tight deadline youve faced recently. Producing within time constraints is the foundation of clerical success. Again, match the tight deadlines to those he/she is likely to face. Find out how frequent the tight deadlines were, whether he/she tried to prevent or avoid them, and how he/she felt about that kind of pressure. Follow up: What would you (have you) done when others demanded that you stay late to finish a project? 5. In past work situations, when have you felt most overwhelmed by work pressures? How did you react? Mature people know what stresses them, how they react, and how to handle the stress. The answer to this question should reveal whether deadlines, personalities, disorganization, excessive work demands or other factors are most likely to make the candidate feel overwhelmed. Probe to determine their reactions and what they did to overcome the pressures. Focus especially on the most common pressures in your own work environment. 6. Have you ever had a situation when someone was pressuring you for their work to be completed? How did you handle it? This probes the applicants approach to a common situation. Does he or she utilize procedures and policies as a shield against others? Humor? Assertiveness? Sarcasm? Follow up: What if the person keeps pressuring you anyway? If you pursue this question, you will eventually discover how tough the applicant is under harassment or pressure, and whether he/she can bend without breaking. Prioritizing Work 1. What system for prioritizing your work do you think works best? Clerical priorities can change with alarming speed. Be wary of elaborate systems for prioritizing work. Look for a simple system that is easy to communicate to others. Look also for assertiveness; can the applicant effectively ask others (i.e., managers and users) which priorities they wish him/her to follow? 2. Give me an example of a time when you had to juggle several things at once. How often did this type of thing happen? How do you handle it? 56

Some clerical people are master jugglers. In fact, they enjoy keeping several projects in the air at once. Look for an applicant who welcomes variety, and does not express the perfectionists need to work on an assignment until it is over and done right. 3. Would you rather be able to predict the work coming in, or would you rather just take it as it comes? If you are hiring for a position which requires someone to look at the big picture, you will want to avoid the applicant with tunnel vision. Those clerical people who want to predict and therefore control each days work are likely to be frustrated and under stress. Look for a flexible attitude, and an ability to stay in the present moment, not worrying over what might come in. 4. Have you ever had a situation when several people gave you assignments all due very soon? How did you decide in what order to do them? Was that a successful approach to take? The most obvious answer is to go to ones supervisor and ask for clarification of priorities. However, those who are in a position to decide alone should have no problem. He or she should speak confidently about assessing due dates, organizational position (managers first, supervisors next, etc.), and prioritizing according to ease of the assignment (easiest task first). Look for a calm, purposeful, ready answer to this question. Orientation To Detail 1. In your specialty (word processing, data entry, etc.), do you prefer to see a project through from beginning to end, or just do a part of it? Why? The clerical person in many offices has to be able to do detailed work such as sorting names and statistics. At the same time, he or she cannot be attached to owning the more prestigious assignments; the clerical part of the job may be very small and most clerical assignments are by nature piecemeal. Those applicants who prefer to work every job through from beginning to end may be asking for frustration. 2. Walk me through how you set up and complete a job specific assignment. What are the most important trouble spots you anticipate? Can the applicant learn and anticipate typical trouble spots? Does he or she answer this question in general terms? Or does the candidate include very specific details when describing an assignment? Those who give you lots of details are most likely to be detail-oriented on the job. 3. Have you had assignments that had too many tiny details? (e.g., processing statistics, categorizing material, setting up forms). Give me an example.


This question deals with the perception of what kind of work is detailed. Following this through will help reveal areas where the applicant will be frustrated and ineffective with details on the job. Follow up: What is a comfortable amount for you of, for example, statistical typing? 4. In past work situations, what sorts of procedures for (data entry, filing, etc.) did you find already in place? Were they helpful? Specific enough for you? Detail-oriented people like to follow detailed procedures. If the procedures are not sufficient, he or she often will be pleased to write better ones! Applicants who dont seem to care about the procedures and rules of a job are less likely to be analytical, detailed types. 5. Do you enjoy proofreading or correcting others work? Why (or why not)?

Proofreading is enjoyable work for detail-oriented persons; they enjoy the hunt for the proverbial needle in the haystack. If necessary, ask about other detailed work in your office rather than proofreading. Feel free to ask for a demonstration of the applicants talents; people who say they enjoy an activity usually are able to do it well. Career Goals 1. What are some of the positive things about working in the clerical field? What do you see as the drawbacks? Look for a realistic, clear-headed assessment from the applicant. You dont necessarily need a lifelong commitment; instead, look for an applicant who looks at the clerical field with his or her eyes open, and who feels the positives outweigh the negatives. Be wary of overqualified applicants who can do the job, but cannot conceive of being challenged by it. He or she is unlikely to be more than a temporary replacement. Negatives may include low pay, low prestige, and frequent pressure. Positives should include: the chance to serve others, to organize others and their work assignments and a liking for a busy job which usually has few major decisions or responsibilities in it. 2. How are you keeping up with the changes in software, technology, etc.? Since the introduction of computers in clerical positions, knowledge and training have become more important. A person who wants to expand and advance in his or her career has an interest in learning new technologies, software programs or new techniques. He or she will ask for training and education because of a genuine interest, not because it is required. Look for an applicant who is willing, if not eager, to learn and has a track record of doing so. 3. What are your ultimate career goals? How are you going about reaching them? Generally, be suspicious of those applicants who profess to have a five year plan or similar long range goals. The real question is: Is the applicant comfortably on a career track, or is he/she simply 58

taking jobs while waiting to discover what he/she would really like to do? Obviously, the person who expresses career goals well out of line with your position is a greater risk. However, probe to discover how they plan to reach the goal. Could it be accomplished at night or on weekends, and therefore not interfere with the job? Try to understand how impatient the applicant is to reach his/her goals. This will give you a sense of how long their stay with you might be. 4. Some people now see administrative support or clerical work as demeaning, low status work. How do you see it? Do you agree? The world is as you see it. Those who see clerical work this way will never be really comfortable with it. Observe whether this question makes the applicant uncomfortable. The least risky applicants are those who are comfortable with their role and have enough self esteem to enjoy what they are good at doing. 5. What does service mean to you in this field? Some clerical positions demand little contact with others; ones work seems remote from others. Other clerical positions are direct opportunities for individual, group and organizational service. Those who understand the joy of unselfish service to further others can genuinely thrive in those kinds of positions. If the applicant appreciates this question, and the job affords the opportunity to provide service, he or she is more likely to be a winning choice. 6. What keeps you challenged, as a clerical or administrative support person? Is it enough? Challenges exist in clerical jobs, as in every job, for those whose skills are well matched to the job. Those applicants who speak regretfully of the lack of challenge either need upgraded responsibilities or a new career. Organization 1. How did you change the system or procedures you worked under in you last job? Well organized people usually enjoy arranging their own work as well as others. If the applicant changed or tried to improve the system of organization, he or she will be a good bet to help get your office organized. 2. What were your responsibilities in terms of ordering or maintaining supplies? How did you keep track of that responsibility? Like any responsibility, this one requires organization. Listen for signs of a systematic approach, including the ability to anticipate needs and keep track of inventory. 3. How much information did you have to locate? How did you keep track of it?


This question can include responsibilities such as filing, using the computer, and updating lists. Find out how many of the systems were inherited and which ones the applicant set up. As you hear the answer, get a feel for the applicants interest and confidence in the topic. Does it seem to be something he or she enjoys - or merely tolerates? 4. What have you done that has organized others? (For example, your boss.) For secretaries and many other clerical employees, a primary responsibility is organizing others. The best clerical people accomplish this responsibility with good-humor. They have the ability to evaluate anothers habits, and can institute a variety of changes which uniquely fit the situation. 5. One of our biggest problems has always been keeping track of. What suggestions or ideas do you have for improving this? To ask this question, first find an area you would like to organize better. Give the applicant enough information to understand the problem fully. It is not important that he/she is able to produce an immediate solution. However, note whether the candidate analyzes the factors involved in an organized manner, asks penetrating questions, and seems able to use experience and creativity to propose solutions. 6. Give me an example of a recent time when you had to reorganize things to meet a tight deadline. How did you arrange your schedule and work to accomplish it? When the pressure is on, can your applicant juggle schedules and priorities to meet a deadline? This question will help you assess his/her flexibility and creativity, as well as organization skills. Did the applicant have to coordinate with others to accomplish the deadline? Probe to determine the ability to cooperate with others to organize time and materials. 7. What is the most technical assignment you have had to organize? What part of it was easiest for you? Which part was most difficult? Some people find it easy to organize graphs, charts and statistics. Others find it difficult and tedious. Match their skill with the need in your office. Follow up: What is an example of something you have organized well away from work? 8. If you were managing the clerical operation, what changes would you have made in your job/department? Well-organized people usually have no trouble with this question. They will have all ready suggested and made changes, or if unable to do so, will have mapped them out mentally. If you need to prompt their answer, ask about workflow, correspondence, phone messages, filing or other responsibilities. If the applicant says the operation was already well-organized, find out what worked so well and why, and how the same ideas could be transferred to the unique circumstances in your office. Internal Relations 60

1. What things are personal and should not be brought to work? Which are O.K. to discuss? Everyone has an opinion whether personal life or personal problems should be brought to work.. This question will help you find out where the applicant draws the line. Is there a line? Most importantly, does their standard fit your offices standard? 2. Give me an example of the kind of thing you have had to keep confidential. When was it most difficult to keep that confidence? Alternate questions: Has your ability to keep confidences or secrets at work been tested? Give me an example. Also: Has management ever trusted you with confidence that others wanted to know? And: How do you handle the office grapevine? When do you think it gets out of control? All these questions will help assess what others have trusted the applicant to keep in confidence, and whether he/she discriminates between gossip and harmless social talk. 3. Which sort of manager (tenant, co-worker) did you find hardest to work with? What did they do that bothered you? Some clerical positions require a talent for interacting successfully with a large variety of personalities. Try to nail down the specific irritants or personality types in question and what the candidate did to cope successfully. Then, match to the personalities he/she will have to deal with in your situation. 4. How well did you get to know the people you have worked with in the past? Do you usually socialize with them away from the job, too? This question gets at the extent of on and off-the-job socializing your applicant is likely to do. Is he/she the kind of person who builds relationships with others? Follow up: When do you feel socializing at work goes too far? Is your applicant the kind who always knows whose birthday it is and organizes the party? 5. Give me an example of a recent conflict situation with a co-worker that you were. involved in. What was your part in it? Hear the story and get all the facts before you make a judgment. Does the conflict sound petty? Avoidable? What actions did the applicant take to overcome the conflict? Is he/she more likely during conflict to become aggressive, assertive, or to withdraw? Note the candidates tone when describing the conflict. Is it vengeful? Regretful? Hostile? If in doubt, try to get another example from the applicant.