Job interview questions

We’re interviewing a bunch of great folks right now. People are coming our way via our network of friends, colleagues, and employees, as well as via job boards and recruiters. We haven’t quite systematized the process, but we’re getting close.

Most of the time, we ask the solid looking candidates to answer some qualifying questions via email. They’re the type of questions that have no correct response (i.e. “Why are you interested in working with us?”). The answers help us gain a better understanding of how the candidate looks at life and work, how well they write (very important), and whether or not we should invest time in a phone interview.

Sometimes, we skip that process — this is always because a résumé, lead source, or cover letter looks just so temptingly great. Maybe she perfectly matched our wish list in terms of experience. Maybe he was referred by someone we really admire. Maybe she listed among her interests a wildly eccentric and fascinating activity. No matter the reason, it is almost always a mistake to depart from the process.

Last week, I came across a candidate with an especially promising résumé. In my enthusiasm, I skipped the qualifying questions and just sent off an email requesting a time to talk. Here’s how our phone interview began:

Me: “Hello. Thanks for your interest in joining our team!”

Candidate: “You are welcome.”

Me: “What questions do you have for me?”

[Awkward Silence]

Candidate: Excuse me?

Me: “What questions do you have for me?”

Candidate: “I don’t understand what you mean.”

Me: “I once read that you can tell more about someone from the questions they ask than the answers they give. That sounded like good advice to me, so I like to start interviews with that question.”

Candidate: “I see.”

[Awkward silence]

Me: “What questions do you have for me?”

Candidate: “I don’t have any questions.”

The interview didn’t last long. I wasted my time and theirs. Worse, I put a candidate who wasn’t a fit for us in an uncomfortable situation. That’s no good for anyone!

Henceforth, I vow not to depart from our process. Also, I may start including my “What questions do you have for me?” question in the initial email to prospective phone interview candidates.

Finding the right people (and avoiding the wrong ones) is among the most important skills an entrepreneur can develop. How do you find great candidates, and what do you do to run an effective hiring process?

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