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Oct

5

2017

How to Make the Most of a 30-Minute Phone Interview

Published by in category Interviews, Popular | Leave a Comment

Hiring good people can be difficult, time-consuming, and costly. If you’re in a constant cycle of hiring, I don’t have to tell you about the time warp it can cause — but what about the cost?

The more interviews you do, the more you spend. And the more time you spend absorbed in lengthy interviews the more likely you are to take shortcuts and make mistakes. And according to Dr. John Sullivan, the hiring process is getting even harder:

“Aggressiveness, the need for counteroffers, higher rejection rates, and a renewed focus on recruiting the currently employed will all return to prominence.”

What if I told you I could help you be more efficient with your time, and get the information you need to make decisions for next steps — in about half the time you’re currently committing?Click here to download our free guide to hiring and training a team of  all-stars.

The advantage of reducing your hiring time will add to your bottom line, perhaps more than you realize. A report from UrbanBound illustrated the time demands, and how costs can add up:

“Onboarding can be an extremely time-demanding project. It can cost up to 1/3 of an employee’s salary to onboard and train new hires, especially when that employee’s job description does not have to do with onboarding. Therefore, if a small company has a flawed onboarding plan, they risk having a bad retention percentage which can be extremely costly.”

Considering this, it’s logical to believe organizations would be better off spending less time overall on interviews, but more quality time during that initial conversation. So, how would one shorten the time commitment and reduce overall costs, and give a better interview in the process? Consider my process for a 30-minute phone interview, below.

How to Run a 30-Minute Phone Interview

I know what you’re thinking … 30 minutes seems really short when you are trying to find a fabulous candidate, how do you make it worthwhile? You’re probably asking yourself:

  • What questions do I ask?
  • How do I prioritize the questions?
  • If I run such a tight agenda, how will we connect?

Okay, maybe not that last one. But if you structure a simple agenda, prepare quality questions, and are disciplined throughout your time in front of candidates, I believe you can answer all of your questions after just a few interviews. Let’s start with time management.

Managing The First 5 Minutes

If you’re going to pull off an effective interview in 30 minutes or less, you have to be organized and efficient. You’ll want to start strong and there’s no better time than the first five minutes.

4 Things to Cover in the First 5 Minutes

  • Introduce yourself: “Hi, I’m the Managing Partner of Revenue River Marketing. We’re growing quickly and I’m looking for the very best marketers in the country.”
  • State your intent: “We’re hiring for position XYZ and I’m looking for a specific type of candidate. I’d like to move quickly so we can both decide if there’s a good fit for us.”
  • Set the agenda: “I’d like to spend 10 minutes asking you a few questions, then I’ll give you an equal amount of time to ask me anything you’d like.”
  • Confirm buy-in: “How does that sound?” (If they say anything other than ‘absolutely’ or ‘I’m ready’, I’d be concerned. Anyone who just starts rambling clearly isn’t picking up on your goals.)

The Next 10 Minutes: Getting Answers to Key Questions

If you’re going to get through enough quality questions in 10 minutes, you’ll want to ensure you’re on point with your preparation. You’ll want to prepare a set of direct questions and count on the candidate being perceptive enough to answer with brevity.

I’ve noticed that observing how candidates handle the pace of this section can be very telling. If the candidate decides to grandstand during replies to your questioning, it’s a clear disqualifier.

Instead of interrupting to get through your questions efficiently, I advise you let them talk. They’ll cost themselves the chance to answer the remainder of your questions, and likely a chance at employment with your organization.

Conversely, a good candidate understands that you’ll ask follow-up questions if you want more detail. Some of our very best hires have quickly and artfully answered our most direct and pointed questions with quick-witted responses.

While I can’t provide the exact types of key questions you should ask for your own specific position, I can give you a sense of qualities you want to look for that are predominantly universal for any job.

Giving Them 10 Minutes to Pass the “Test”

Now it’s time for your candidate to impress you with their prepared questions. Your goal for this ten-minute segment is to see how prepared the candidate is and how much they want this job in particular. You want to know if they’re just looking for any job they can find, or if they’re truly interested in a career with your organization.

Good candidates prepare well. They study your website, your bio, your team, and your offering. They have a list of specific questions that demonstrate their understanding of your business, and hopefully even some observations on how they believe they can add value.

Many candidates won’t realize how important this segment of the interview is, and they’ll reveal something about themselves you missed previously. The candidates that used active listening during the first five minutes will operate at the same pace you did and respect the agenda.

Insight to Gain during Candidate Questioning

  • Did they study your website? Test them on it.
  • Do they understand what you do? Ask them questions about it.
  • Are they more interested in compensation or job duties?
  • Are they more interested in benefits and vacation or company growth trajectory?

Remaining 5 Minutes: Wrapping Up with Next Steps

Something to remember during this initial interview is that the goal is not to hire, but to qualify for next steps. Each candidate is either ready for another interview or they’re being ruled out. You’re not hiring them today, so don’t overdo it. Just get through the critical questions you think need to be answered and wrap things up.

You likely won’t have exactly five minutes here, but that’s okay. Let them know your plans for next steps and let them know your expectations for follow-up.

Follow-up should always be the responsibility of the candidate and never on the executive. I’ve been surprised by some great interviews that were followed by poor follow-up and their responsibility here allows them to demonstrate their skills further, one way or another.

5 Important Qualities To Focus On in a 30-Minute Phone Interview

1) Coachability

Employees that aren’t coachable struggle to get through tough times, and those who are receptive to instruction improve quickly. As Derek Lauber from Lightbox Leadership puts it, “Hiring for coachability can help you find those individuals with the traits necessary to becoming long-term valuable members of your organization.”

Example Question: What would you do if you found yourself struggling to meet your objectives after 90 days?

2) Transparency

You can substitute in the word “honesty” here. I love asking questions that allow the candidates the chance to prove they’re not completely honest. A transparent workplace is important in maintaining a positive culture, and you don’t want to let any bad seeds take root. Jessica Miller-Merrell of Glassdoor advises, “When one person is not aligned with the organization, it is significantly more likely that everyone below them will be out of line as well.”

Example Question: Why shouldn’t I hire you? (Please don’t tell me because sometimes you care too much)

3) Desire

People that really want something for themselves work harder than people who just want to live a life of leisure so I look for people who are hungry. These are the people you want in your organization, pure and simple.

Example Question: Why is this position the direction you want to go with your career?

4) Organizational Skills

The modern workplace is a massive game of dealing with distractions– organization creates efficiency and that means better productivity. In “Organizational Skills in the Workplace,” Rick Suttle advises, “Planning is a needed workplace skill, and it is particularly important as person advances into more supervisory or managerial roles.”

Example Question: How do you plan your day/week, and what tools have you used to do so?

5) Humility

The best players on any team have humility — ego and selfishness can cause cancerous behavior that can destroy what you’ve built. As John Baldoni put it in HBR, “Humility is more than an important characteristic for leaders, but for employees as well. It is this trait which allows leaders and employees to work well individually and as a team. A humble employee is aware of his own limitations and is willing to accept –- and give –- help as needed.”

Example Question: Those are some impressive results. To what do you owe that success?

Additional Questions & Comments

You’ll also want to spend a couple minutes on some resume specific questions. You should prepare a few direct questions about their resume you can mix in with the others. Here are a few questions I like to ask to see if I can get someone to complain, make excuses, or show inconsistencies for the character traits I’m targeting at this time.

  • How was your relationship with your boss at this job?
  • Which of these positions do you feel held your career back?

These can be clear indicators of disqualifiers for your role, so don’t shy away from them.

With Practice Comes Perfection

After you’ve used this 30-minute phone interview script with a few candidates you’ll perfect the process and refine your style. Once perfected, cutting your initial interview time in half with these concepts will save time and money while improving results during this step in the hiring process.

Start by spending a little more time setting up your own script, and you’ll be sure to benefit once you’ve applied these tactics.

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Sep

18

2017

13 Things You Should Never Say in a Job Interview

I never used to understand what people mean when they say that they “interview well.” 

How was that possible? If you’re too prepared, your answers sound robotic, and if you’re too unprepared, you start most answers with a long sip of water to gather your thoughts.

Now, I understand (or at least, I think I do) what it means to interview well: Interviewing well is possible when you speak with confidence and competence about your experiences and your capabilities.

This is easier to accomplish when you apply for jobs you’re qualified for — I definitely wouldn’t come across as confident or confident if I applied to be a neurosurgeon. But once you’ve come across the perfect job opening and have an interview on the books, start thinking about yourself and how you’ll fit into the company, and the role — and the answers will flow naturally, without seeming rehearsed.

That being said, there are a few things you should prepare — what not to say. Below are 15 responses, questions, and words you shouldn’t drop in an interview — if you want to come across as confident and competent, that is. We’ll review what not to say, why not to say it, and what to say instead.

What Not to Say in an Interview: 13 Phrases to Avoid

1) “What do you do here?”

Why Not:

You should know the answer to this question already — because you thoroughly researched the company and your interviewer. Make sure you prepare for your interview by learning about who will be asking you questions so you can start an interesting conversation.

Instead, Say: 

“I read that you helped launch a new product last year. How was that experience?”

Ask a question that shows you’ve done your research — and starts an interesting discussion.

2) “I’m really nervous.”

Why Not:

Confidence is a big part of preparedness, and the role you’re interviewing for will most likely require you to be decisive and confident so you can get things done. So don’t say you’re nervous — it will probably make you more nervous, and it won’t do you any favors with your interviewer, either.

Instead, Say:

“I’m excited to be here!”

It’s okay to feel nervous — just don’t say it. This phrase expresses what might be behind that nervousness — enthusiasm — and will (hopefully) help you relax a little bit.

3) “Um … “

Why Not:

Filler words like “um,” “like,” and “well” are a no-no. You have limited time in your interview to make a great impression, so use the time you have to speak eloquently and thoughtfully.

Instead, Say:

“That’s a great question … ”

If you need to buy yourself some time to answer a question, start your answer with a phrase like this instead. It’s understandable if you need a moment to collect your thoughts, just use the right words to do it.

4) “[A lie.]”

Why Not:

As tempting as it might be to differentiate yourself from other applicants, don’t tell a lie in your interview that might come back to haunt you if you get the job. Whether it’s knowing how to use a certain software or familiarity with a social network’s ad platform, a lie could hurt you if the truth comes out later.

Instead, Say:

“I’m not familiar with that, but I am experienced in …”

It’s okay if you don’t know how to do or use something your interviewer asks about — after all, learning on the job is a real thing. If you run into this question in an interview, pivot to something you do know how to use that’s related — and note that you’re excited to learn more.

5) “I grew our blog traffic a lot.”

Why Not:

If you’re going to toot your own horn, make sure you have some data or evidence to back it up. Anyone can say they excelled in a previous role, but numbers or examples will make you stand out to your interviewer.

Instead, Say:

“Over the course of two years, I grew blog traffic by 150%.”

If you don’t have numbers to use, you might consider leaving out this tidbit — or using qualitative data to toot your own horn instead. “Customers said it was one of the best events with the company they had ever attended.”

6) “I hate my job.”

Why Not:

You’re interviewing for a new job, so obviously your current role isn’t perfect for you. There’s no need to editorialize your reasons for seeking a new role with complaints or bad-mouthing — it makes you seem immature, and it won’t curry you any favor with your interviewer, who, among other things, will be evaluating your emotional intelligence and maturity. Maybe you do hate your job, but don’t say it — instead, explain why you’re seeking a new opportunity.

Instead, Say:

“I like what I’m working on, but I’m ready to learn more about inbound marketing by taking on a new challenge in a content creation role.”

Say what you like about your current role, but frame your desire to seek a new role as an interest in learning more, taking on a new challenge, or expanding a skillset.

7) “My boss is the worst.”

Why Not:

Just like the previous question, it’s critical that you don’t speak ill of your current role or your current team when discussing why you want to pursue a new role. It’s immature and petty — not to mention, your interviewer could be your boss if you get the job. They might not be interested in hiring someone who might turn around and speak ill of them in a future interview.

Instead, Say:

Nothing.

Seriously, don’t say anything personal about your current boss. You could offer an answer like, “It’s challenging to hit goals when leadership priorities are constantly changing,” but honestly, we don’t recommend saying anything that could be perceived as a personal slight.

8) “I don’t know.”

Why Not:

It’s okay to not know the answer to a question, but don’t leave it at that! Make sure your answer acknowledges a gap in your understanding in a way that still gives you authority.

Instead, Say:

“I’m not certain of the answer, I’d need to dig into more data from the email marketing team to know for sure.”

Sometimes, interviewers will spring questions on you to test your on-the-spot critical thinking skills. If you can’t answer the question, at least demonstrate how you’d figure it out if it happened to you in the role.

9) “My greatest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist.”

Why Not:

Self-compliments disguised as critique make my eyes roll so hard. Your interviewer has heard every one of these in the book, so don’t try to trick them into thinking your “greatest weakness” is anything but a special skill on your resume.

Instead, Say:

“My greatest weakness is public speaking, something I haven’t had many opportunities to do in my current role, so I’m hoping to expand on those skills working with a bigger team at this company.”

Be honest and use a real weakness — but make sure you caveat that with what you plan to do to make it a strength, whether that’s by taking a class or by simply practicing.

10) “Sh*t.”

Why Not:

Even if your interview drops a profanity, and even if you know the company culture allows for F-bombs, it’s best to keep your first impression appropriate for all ages. Interviews are a formal setting, and if the role you’re interviewing for involves representing the company externally, your interviewer will want to know that you can rein in your vocabulary if it’s particularly profane.

Instead, Say:

Nothing. Don’t swear.

11) “What’s the salary?”

Why Not:

Don’t ask questions about salary, company policies, or benefits until you’ve been extended an offer. It’s a fair question to ask your recruiter, but don’t waste time during your interview — when you should be talking about skills you’d bring to the role — by asking about salary, work-from-home policies, or how many vacation days you’ll have.

Instead, Say:

Nothing. Wait until you receive an offer to ask specific company policy questions.

12) “I don’t have any questions.”

Why Not:

Come on! You need to come prepared with a final question when you’re inevitably asked this at the end of your interview. It shows that you’re engaged, interested, and that you’ve been paying attention to what your interviewer has said over the course of your time together.

Instead, Say:

“What do you wish you’d known before starting here?”

“What’s the biggest challenge about working in this industry?”

Ask an open-ended question based on what you know about your interviewer to learn more about the company culture or team priorities. This will be useful information for you, and it’ll help you end your interview on the right foot.

13) “When will I hear back about the role?”

Why Not:

When we say you should have a question at the end ready, we don’t mean this one. This is another question for your recruiter, not your interviewer — so don’t be too pushy.

Instead, Say:

“Thanks so much for your time, I really enjoyed learning more about you and the company.”

Or something along those lines. Be gracious, humble, and kind when signing off of your interview to leave your future new employer with the best possible impression.

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Aug

8

2017

16 of the Best Job Interview Questions to Ask Candidates (And What to Look for in Their Answers)

Published by in category Daily, Interviews | Comments are closed

How lucky are you and why? How many times heavier than a mouse is an elephant? How many square feet of pizza are consumed in the United States each year?

Hiring managers have heard about using these “creative” questions to identify the best candidates. Fortunately for intelligent and qualified candidates everywhere, studies have found that the brainteaser interview questions made famous by Silicon Valley and Wall Street are just as silly as they sound. (In fact, Google started to phase out brainteasers from its interviews several years ago.)

But when you’re interviewing people to join your team, you have to get creative. After all, there’s only so much questions like “What’s your biggest weakness?” and “Are you a team player?” reveal about who your candidates truly are.

Notice something different? Click here to learn more about the HubSpot blog  redesign process.

To help give you some ideas for the next time you’re screening candidates, here are some of the best job interview questions to ask with the answers you should expect.

16 of the Best Interview Questions & Answers to Use in Your Next Job Interview

1) “Tell me about a time you set difficult goals. What did you do to achieve them? Walk me through the process and purpose.”

If you’re looking for a candidate who is goal-oriented and results-driven — as most hiring managers are — then this question will help you gauge whether they’ll be able to handle the audacious goals you have in store for them. A great answer shows they understand what difficult goals are, and they put a lot of effort into attaining their goals while maintaining a high standard of work quality.

2) “Pitch [name of your company] to me as if I were buying your product/service.”

This is a unique and more challenging approach to the generic “What does our company do?” question. It forces candidates to drum up the research they’ve done to prepare for the interview, and also to craft a compelling message on the fly.

This will come more naturally to some candidates than others — for example, someone interviewing for a sales or marketing position might find it easier than someone interviewing for a more internal-facing role — and that’s okay. You aren’t necessarily assessing their delivery. But it’ll be interesting to see how each candidate thinks through and gives their answer.

3) “Tell me about the relationships you’ve had with the people you’ve worked with. How would you describe the best ones? The worst?”

Each team is different, so this question helps you tease out whether the candidate would be happy, productive, and well liked on your team. Their answer will tell you how they interact with others — and which kinds of interactions they want to happen.

Many candidates are hesitant to bad-mouth their coworkers and bosses, so it will also be interesting for you to hear how they navigate a question about their worst working relationships.

4) “What single project or task would you consider your most significant career accomplishment to date?

Lou Adler, author of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired and Hire With Your Head, spent ten years searching for the single, best interview question that will reveal whether to hire or not hire a candidate — and this was the one. Candidates’ answers will tell you about their prior success and sense of ownership. A great answer will show they are confident in their work and professional choices while being humble and giving credit to others.

5) “What have you done professionally that you succeeded at, but isn’t an experience you’d want to repeat?”

A candidate’s answer to this question will give you an idea of how they viewed work they weren’t very happy with, which is bound to happen to everyone in every job at one point or another. HubSpot’s VP of Global Customer Support Michael Redbord says candidates’ answers generally fall into a few categories:

  1. Something menial (e.g. envelope-stuffing). Pay attention to whether they understand the value of this getting done for the business, or whether they just think they’re too good for a job like that.
  2. Something really hard. Why was it hard? Was it because it was poorly planned, poorly executed, or something else? Where do they put the blame on it being such an unpleasant experience?
  3. Something team-related. Follow up with questions about the team, what their role on the team was, and so on.

Even the category of what they consider an experience they wouldn’t want to repeat is interesting, says Redbord. When you talk about extreme experiences that get people emotional, it can be very revealing.

6) “Is it better to be perfect and late, or good and on time?”

For most companies, the correct answer is “good and on time.” It’s important to let something be finished when it’s good enough. Let’s face it, every blog post, email, book, video, etc. can always be tweaked and improved. At some point, you’ve just got to ship it. Most managers don’t want someone who can’t hit deadlines because they’re paralyzed by perfection.

If your candidate responds with “It depends,” then hear them out — the interview question itself is phrased in such a way that candidates can sense there is a right and wrong answer, and they’ll be looking for signs from you that they’re heading in the right direction. Try to remain neutral as they feel out their response. If their conclusion errs on the side of “good and on time,” then their priorities are probably in the right place.

7) “In five minutes, could you explain something to me that is complicated but you know well?”

This is a much better test of intelligence than a college GPA, and it’s also a great gauge of a candidate’s passion and charisma.

The “something” in this question doesn’t have to be work-related — it can be a hobby, a sports team, something technical … anything, really. Their response will tell you how well your candidate comprehends complex subjects and how well they can articulate a complex subject to someone who doesn’t know much about it. Candidates who are passionate and knowledgeable about something — and can convey that well — are more likely to be charismatic, enthusiastic, and influential at work.

8) “What’s your definition of hard work?”

Some organizations move at very different paces, and this question is an effective way to tell whether your candidate will be able to keep pace with the rest of the team. It also helps you identify someone who is a “hard worker in disguise,” meaning someone who might currently be at a slow-moving organization or in a role that is not well-suited to them, but wants to work somewhere where they can really get their hands dirty.

 

9) “If I were to poll everyone you’ve worked with, what percent would not be a fan of yours? Then, if I were to interview these people, what words would they most frequently use to describe you?”

At work, you can’t please everyone all the time. The answer to this question will help you find out if your candidate has enough drive and conviction to have alienated a small percentage of their colleagues, but not so many that they are a polarizing figure.

The word-cloud follow-up is more important than the percentage they give in the initial question. In their answers, you should be encouraged by words like “passionate” and concerned by words like “stubborn.”

10) “Tell me about a time you screwed up.”

An oldie but goodie. This is a tried-and-true test for self-awareness. (Honestly, well-prepared candidates should see it coming and have an answer ready.) Someone who takes ownership of their mess-up and learns something from it is usually humble and mindful. Candidates who blame others or give a “fake” screw-up (something like “I worked too hard and burned out.”) are red flags.

11) “Who is the smartest person you know personally? Why?”

These questions test what the candidate values and aspires to by forcing them to think of a real person they know, and then articulate what makes that person smart. Ideal answers vary, but could include specific examples of the person they’ve chosen’s ability to think ahead several steps and execute. They could also touch on the person’s decision-making skills, ability to connect, desire for learning, or application of the things they learned.

12) “What is something you’d be happy doing every single day for the rest of your career?”

While it’s important to hire for skill, it’s also important to hire someone who’s likely to be happy in the job you’re hiring for. A question like this will help uncover what makes each candidate happy at work — which is a great way to gauge whether they’d enjoy their role and stay at the company for a long time.

13) “If you had $40,000 to build your own business, what would you do?”

This question is a favorite of HubSpot Marketing Team Development Manager Emily MacIntyre‘s. First, the type of business they choose to talk about can reveal a lot about their interests, values, and how creative they are.

Second, it’ll give you insight into how business-savvy they are. By giving them a specific amount to work with (in this case, $40,000), they have the opportunity to parse out how they’d spend that money.

The best answers will get specific: They’ll offer an overview of the business, and get into the logistics of where that money would go, whom they’d hire first, and so on.

14) “What’s the biggest decision you’ve had to make in the past year? Why was it so big?”

Here’s a great way to figure out how a candidate approaches decision-making. Were they quick to make that big decision, or did it take them a long time? Did they spend most of their time reflecting on it by themselves or fleshing it out with others? How did they make a plan? Their answer could be work-related or personal — and if they ask you to specify, tell them either.

15) “What’s surprised you about the interview process so far?”

This is a question no candidate can really prepare for, and it’ll give you some indication of how candidates are feeling about the whole thing. Plus, you can see how they think on their feet. You’re looking for specifics here — something about the office space; the personality of the team; an assignment they were given to complete.

16) “Do you have any questions for me?”

This is another classic interview question, and like the one above, you’re seeing how candidates think on their feet. The answer to this question also reveals what’s important to the candidate.

Are they wondering about company culture, or compensation? Are they curious about growth potential, or learning opportunities? There are no right or wrong answers, but personality and communication style are important factors when considering hiring someone to join your team, and you can get a sense of these factors with their answer.

If you happen to be on the other side of the interview table, you can make your resume even more appealing to potential employers by becoming a certified inbound marketing professional with HubSpot’s free marketing certification. Get started here.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Aug

7

2017

16 of the Best Job Interview Questions to Ask Candidates (And What to Look for in Their Answers)

How lucky are you and why? How many times heavier than a mouse is an elephant? How many square feet of pizza are consumed in the United States each year?

Hiring managers have heard about using these “creative” questions to identify the best candidates. Fortunately for intelligent and qualified candidates everywhere, studies have found that the brainteaser interview questions made famous by Silicon Valley and Wall Street are just as silly as they sound. (In fact, Google started to phase out brainteasers from its interviews several years ago.)

But when you’re interviewing people to join your team, you have to get creative. After all, there’s only so much questions like “What’s your biggest weakness?” and “Are you a team player?” reveal about who your candidates truly are.

Click here to download our free guide to hiring and training a team of  all-stars.

To help give you some ideas for the next time you’re screening candidates, here are some of the best job interview questions to ask with the answers you should expect.

16 of the Best Interview Questions & Answers to Use in Your Next Job Interview

1) “Tell me about a time you set difficult goals. What did you do to achieve them? Walk me through the process and purpose.”

If you’re looking for a candidate who is goal-oriented and results-driven — as most hiring managers are — then this question will help you gauge whether they’ll be able to handle the audacious goals you have in store for them. A great answer shows they understand what difficult goals are, and they put a lot of effort into attaining their goals while maintaining a high standard of work quality.

2) “Pitch [name of your company] to me as if I were buying your product/service.”

This is a unique and more challenging approach to the generic “What does our company do?” question. It forces candidates to drum up the research they’ve done to prepare for the interview, and also to craft a compelling message on the fly.

This will come more naturally to some candidates than others — for example, someone interviewing for a sales or marketing position might find it easier than someone interviewing for a more internal-facing role — and that’s okay. You aren’t necessarily assessing their delivery. But it’ll be interesting to see how each candidate thinks through and gives their answer.

3) “Tell me about the relationships you’ve had with the people you’ve worked with. How would you describe the best ones? The worst?”

Each team is different, so this question helps you tease out whether the candidate would be happy, productive, and well liked on your team. Their answer will tell you how they interact with others — and which kinds of interactions they want to happen.

Many candidates are hesitant to bad-mouth their coworkers and bosses, so it will also be interesting for you to hear how they navigate a question about their worst working relationships.

4) “What single project or task would you consider your most significant career accomplishment to date?

Lou Adler, author of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired and Hire With Your Head, spent ten years searching for the single, best interview question that will reveal whether to hire or not hire a candidate — and this was the one. Candidates’ answers will tell you about their prior success and sense of ownership. A great answer will show they are confident in their work and professional choices while being humble and giving credit to others.

5) “What have you done professionally that you succeeded at, but isn’t an experience you’d want to repeat?”

A candidate’s answer to this question will give you an idea of how they viewed work they weren’t very happy with, which is bound to happen to everyone in every job at one point or another. HubSpot’s VP of Global Customer Support Michael Redbord says candidates’ answers generally fall into a few categories:

  1. Something menial (e.g. envelope-stuffing). Pay attention to whether they understand the value of this getting done for the business, or whether they just think they’re too good for a job like that.
  2. Something really hard. Why was it hard? Was it because it was poorly planned, poorly executed, or something else? Where do they put the blame on it being such an unpleasant experience?
  3. Something team-related. Follow up with questions about the team, what their role on the team was, and so on.

Even the category of what they consider an experience they wouldn’t want to repeat is interesting, says Redbord. When you talk about extreme experiences that get people emotional, it can be very revealing.

6) “Is it better to be perfect and late, or good and on time?”

For most companies, the correct answer is “good and on time.” It’s important to let something be finished when it’s good enough. Let’s face it, every blog post, email, book, video, etc. can always be tweaked and improved. At some point, you’ve just got to ship it. Most managers don’t want someone who can’t hit deadlines because they’re paralyzed by perfection.

If your candidate responds with “It depends,” then hear them out — the interview question itself is phrased in such a way that candidates can sense there is a right and wrong answer, and they’ll be looking for signs from you that they’re heading in the right direction. Try to remain neutral as they feel out their response. If their conclusion errs on the side of “good and on time,” then their priorities are probably in the right place.

7) “In five minutes, could you explain something to me that is complicated but you know well?”

This is a much better test of intelligence than a college GPA, and it’s also a great gauge of a candidate’s passion and charisma.

The “something” in this question doesn’t have to be work-related — it can be a hobby, a sports team, something technical … anything, really. Their response will tell you how well your candidate comprehends complex subjects and how well they can articulate a complex subject to someone who doesn’t know much about it. Candidates who are passionate and knowledgeable about something — and can convey that well — are more likely to be charismatic, enthusiastic, and influential at work.

8) “What’s your definition of hard work?”

Some organizations move at very different paces, and this question is an effective way to tell whether your candidate will be able to keep pace with the rest of the team. It also helps you identify someone who is a “hard worker in disguise,” meaning someone who might currently be at a slow-moving organization or in a role that is not well-suited to them, but wants to work somewhere where they can really get their hands dirty.

 

9) “If I were to poll everyone you’ve worked with, what percent would not be a fan of yours? Then, if I were to interview these people, what words would they most frequently use to describe you?”

At work, you can’t please everyone all the time. The answer to this question will help you find out if your candidate has enough drive and conviction to have alienated a small percentage of their colleagues, but not so many that they are a polarizing figure.

The word-cloud follow-up is more important than the percentage they give in the initial question. In their answers, you should be encouraged by words like “passionate” and concerned by words like “stubborn.”

10) “Tell me about a time you screwed up.”

An oldie but goodie. This is a tried-and-true test for self-awareness. (Honestly, well-prepared candidates should see it coming and have an answer ready.) Someone who takes ownership of their mess-up and learns something from it is usually humble and mindful. Candidates who blame others or give a “fake” screw-up (something like “I worked too hard and burned out.”) are red flags.

11) “Who is the smartest person you know personally? Why?”

These questions test what the candidate values and aspires to by forcing them to think of a real person they know, and then articulate what makes that person smart. Ideal answers vary, but could include specific examples of the person they’ve chosen’s ability to think ahead several steps and execute. They could also touch on the person’s decision-making skills, ability to connect, desire for learning, or application of the things they learned.

12) “What is something you’d be happy doing every single day for the rest of your career?”

While it’s important to hire for skill, it’s also important to hire someone who’s likely to be happy in the job you’re hiring for. A question like this will help uncover what makes each candidate happy at work — which is a great way to gauge whether they’d enjoy their role and stay at the company for a long time.

13) “If you had $40,000 to build your own business, what would you do?”

This question is a favorite of HubSpot Marketing Team Development Manager Emily MacIntyre‘s. First, the type of business they choose to talk about can reveal a lot about their interests, values, and how creative they are.

Second, it’ll give you insight into how business-savvy they are. By giving them a specific amount to work with (in this case, $40,000), they have the opportunity to parse out how they’d spend that money.

The best answers will get specific: They’ll offer an overview of the business, and get into the logistics of where that money would go, whom they’d hire first, and so on.

14) “What’s the biggest decision you’ve had to make in the past year? Why was it so big?”

Here’s a great way to figure out how a candidate approaches decision-making. Were they quick to make that big decision, or did it take them a long time? Did they spend most of their time reflecting on it by themselves or fleshing it out with others? How did they make a plan? Their answer could be work-related or personal — and if they ask you to specify, tell them either.

15) “What’s surprised you about the interview process so far?”

This is a question no candidate can really prepare for, and it’ll give you some indication of how candidates are feeling about the whole thing. Plus, you can see how they think on their feet. You’re looking for specifics here — something about the office space; the personality of the team; an assignment they were given to complete.

16) “Do you have any questions for me?”

This is another classic interview question, and like the one above, you’re seeing how candidates think on their feet. The answer to this question also reveals what’s important to the candidate.

Are they wondering about company culture, or compensation? Are they curious about growth potential, or learning opportunities? There are no right or wrong answers, but personality and communication style are important factors when considering hiring someone to join your team, and you can get a sense of these factors with their answer.

If you happen to be on the other side of the interview table, you can make your resume even more appealing to potential employers by becoming a certified inbound marketing professional with HubSpot’s free marketing certification. Get started here.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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6 Psychological Tricks to Help You Nail Your Next Interview

Published by in category HubSpot InBound Marketing Blog Feed, Interviews | Comments are closed

magic-trickThink an interviewer is going to hire you based on your past success and well-rehearsed answers? While competency is certainly important, it turns out that nonverbal communication can be a powerful influencer on whether you get a job. (more…)