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We Asked, You Answered: Reader Interview Questions, Part I…The Best of the Best

Last week, we challenged you to give us the most effective, insightful interview questions you’ve either asked or been asked — and you didn’t disappoint. (I’m sure it helped only a little that we sweetened the deal.)

In the end, however, everyone came away a winner: Out of over 600 entries, we compiled for you a comprehensive list of the best of the best interview questions that readers swear by - from the old standbys, to some new classics, to the downright bizarre - in a two-part series. 

This first part of this series features the top 10 interview questions that stood out for us here on THS as both original and purposeful, followed by submitters’ comments.

  1. What does a company owe its employees? “The interviewer learns more about what true expectations a candidate has for a company.”
  2. What Web sites do you visit on a regular basis? “The answer to this question tells me if the applicant is aware of industry-related websites and keeps up with industry trends and news and is therefore more qualified for the position.”
  3. If you were to be hired, what do you think would be a reason you may not stay in this position or with the company?The answers to this question may really surprise you. I.e. ‘I’d leave for more money,’ or ‘If I didn’t like my co-worker,’ or ‘we’re trying to move back to my hometown.’ Red flags for sure.”
  4. What risks did you take in your last position?I like this question because it lets me know what I can expect from a candidate. Are they willing to step outside the box?”
  5.  If an employee went about a task in a way which clearly contradicted your instruction, yet was highly successful. How would you handle it? “When hiring for a management position I like to ask a candidate [this question]. You can gauge a lot about their management style by how they handle the situation and what they focus on in this scenario.”
  6. Tell me what your ‘ideal’ work day/week would consist of.I want the candidate to convey what’s important in terms of applied work time; processing time; down time, if any.”
  7. Things don’t always go the way we’d like; sometimes we cannot deliver on a promised deadline. What is the best way to deliver a negative message to your customer?This can give you insight to how the candidate thinks, and their honesty and integrity.”
  8. Tell me when you used your sense of humor to diffuse a situation. “Most large corporations and many small ones feel that a sense of humor is not needed and it is not encouraged. We firmly believe that a happy employee is a productive one.”
  9. What was the most useful criticism you ever received, and who was it from? “You learn what kind of feedback the person is receiving so you can determine their performance. It gives you insight into their weaknesses that others view as well.”
  10. What sorts of trends do you think affect our business?  “Good to see if they understand business influences and if they’ve spent time trying to learn about our industry.”

Stay tuned for Part II: The Best of the Rest…

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
23 comments
Virginia Cook
Virginia Cook

Re, "Experienced HR Manager..." Please provide a couple of questions you would ask. Thank you.

Virginia Cook
Virginia Cook

Re, "Experienced HR Manager..." Please provide a couple of questions you would ask. Thank you.

Virginia Cook
Virginia Cook

Re, "Experienced HR Manager..." Please provide a couple of questions you would ask. Thank you.

an experienced HR Director
an experienced HR Director

When I saw the email, I was excited. I am always looking for more questions, new question, better questions. When I read the questions, I agree with the experienced HR Mgr- these are the best questions? Yikes!

an experienced HR Director
an experienced HR Director

When I saw the email, I was excited. I am always looking for more questions, new question, better questions. When I read the questions, I agree with the experienced HR Mgr- these are the best questions? Yikes!

Bob Mullen
Bob Mullen

It looks to me as though many of these interview questions were thought up solely for the purpose of entertainment and humiliation. I am guessing that the ones who make the biggest fool of themselves will be the most remembered. We need more job specific questions that are more aligned with the position and the Company's mission...

Bob Mullen
Bob Mullen

It looks to me as though many of these interview questions were thought up solely for the purpose of entertainment and humiliation. I am guessing that the ones who make the biggest fool of themselves will be the most remembered. We need more job specific questions that are more aligned with the position and the Company's mission...

Anna Weill
Anna Weill

I would be wary of #2 or at least preface it by explaining I was looking for industry specific information.

This could definitely be a case of TMI (too much information)!

Anna Weill
Anna Weill

I would be wary of #2 or at least preface it by explaining I was looking for industry specific information. This could definitely be a case of TMI (too much information)!

Pam Withrow
Pam Withrow

If any of us were confronted with many of these questions in an interview, I believe we would be hard pressed to come up with intelligent answers on the spot. As interviewers, it's much easier to think of all the intelligent answers we would have because we've had the luxury of time to really consider our reponses. Perhaps a better strategy would be to give prospective employees these questions in advance of the interview so they could come up with thoughtful and meaningful responses rather than off-the-cuff answers. This would also allow the employer to better discern the prospective employee's depth of character and intelligence.

Pam Withrow
Pam Withrow

If any of us were confronted with many of these questions in an interview, I believe we would be hard pressed to come up with intelligent answers on the spot. As interviewers, it's much easier to think of all the intelligent answers we would have because we've had the luxury of time to really consider our reponses. Perhaps a better strategy would be to give prospective employees these questions in advance of the interview so they could come up with thoughtful and meaningful responses rather than off-the-cuff answers. This would also allow the employer to better discern the prospective employee's depth of character and intelligence.

Eric Johnston
Eric Johnston

Considering #3 since so many people don't seem to have an answer, I think my answer would start with something like.... "Ideally I wouldn't have to worry about leaving the company, at least not any time soon. But if I found there was no longer room for personal or professional growth, then I might consider an opportunity that would allow me to do so."

Eric Johnston
Eric Johnston

Considering #3 since so many people don't seem to have an answer, I think my answer would start with something like.... "Ideally I wouldn't have to worry about leaving the company, at least not any time soon. But if I found there was no longer room for personal or professional growth, then I might consider an opportunity that would allow me to do so."

Experienced HR Manager
Experienced HR Manager

I would not ask #3. It's a pointless question and I can't see anyone giving an intelligent answer. If I were asked this question in an interview, I would think it strange. Hard to believe these questions are the best. Who made that determination?

Experienced HR Manager
Experienced HR Manager

I would not ask #3. It's a pointless question and I can't see anyone giving an intelligent answer. If I were asked this question in an interview, I would think it strange. Hard to believe these questions are the best. Who made that determination?

Experienced HR Manager
Experienced HR Manager

I would not ask #3. It's a pointless question and I can't see anyone giving an intelligent answer. If I were asked this question in an interview, I would think it strange. Hard to believe these questions are the best. Who made that determination?

Looking for the Best
Looking for the Best

There is an an additional quality one can find from asking #9. You can tell how willing they are to be coached or corrected and how open they are to hear things about their productivity they may not have considered on their own.

Looking for the Best
Looking for the Best

There is an an additional quality one can find from asking #9. You can tell how willing they are to be coached or corrected and how open they are to hear things about their productivity they may not have considered on their own.

Kristine Sexter
Kristine Sexter

Several of these questions are presumably ideal for discerning a candidates overall work ethic, motivations and behavioral tendencies. However, I am surprised to have not seen a question that would readily reveal whether the candidate can actually produce the measureable, tangible end-results required of the position.
How about Lou Adler's outstanding, and now-famous, 'The One Question Interview' question, designed to explore ability to actually produce the work:"What is your most significant professional achievement and why?"

Kristine Sexter
Kristine Sexter

Several of these questions are presumably ideal for discerning a candidates overall work ethic, motivations and behavioral tendencies. However, I am surprised to have not seen a question that would readily reveal whether the candidate can actually produce the measureable, tangible end-results required of the position.
How about Lou Adler's outstanding, and now-famous, 'The One Question Interview' question, designed to explore ability to actually produce the work:"What is your most significant professional achievement and why?"

Kristine Sexter
Kristine Sexter

Several of these questions are presumably ideal for discerning a candidates overall work ethic, motivations and behavioral tendencies. However, I am surprised to have not seen a question that would readily reveal whether the candidate can actually produce the measureable, tangible end-results required of the position. How about Lou Adler's outstanding, and now-famous, 'The One Question Interview' question, designed to explore ability to actually produce the work:"What is your most significant professional achievement and why?"

Matches Malone
Matches Malone

How do you answer #3? I'd go with: I can't think of any specifics right now, however, after you hire me, I'll let you know. Or, better: When the sandbox becomes a litter box. I've written about this phenomenon in the past, therefore I won't go into details here.

Matches Malone
Matches Malone

How do you answer #3? I'd go with: I can't think of any specifics right now, however, after you hire me, I'll let you know. Or, better: When the sandbox becomes a litter box. I've written about this phenomenon in the past, therefore I won't go into details here.

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