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6 Interview Questions to Get the Right Person

Grainger Editorial Staff • Leanne Coffman

It's hard enough to find people with the right qualifications for the job—but making sure they'll fit in is almost as important, especially at smaller companies where productivity and professionalism depend on a tight-knit team.

You want to hire a team player, someone who's ready to contribute in ways that go beyond the job description. Someone who pitches in to handle production surges, equipment failures and other stressful situations. Someone ready to solve problems and go the extra mile.

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as seeking out a single type of person or personality. After all, you don't want everyone to have the same background and experience. Innovation happens when employees have the ability to see things differently, and diverse perspectives can lead to unexpected solutions.

Instead of looking for one type of personality, you should evaluate things like values and passion—those qualities that a sportswriter would call "intangibles." These intangibles aren't announced on forms or resumes; you have to dig for them in interviews. It takes some detective work. Try out these open-ended questions to get on the right track: 

1. Give an example of a team project you worked on, and tell me about your role in it. This is a good way to get a feel for a candidate's preferred style of collaboration and communication. Teams need leaders, but they also need role-players and facilitators. Does your candidate understand what makes teams successful?  

2. Describe a time when you had to work outside your comfort zone. In a small business, everyone should be ready to multitask and pitch in as needed. This often means going beyond the job description. You want flexible workers who aren’t afraid to try new things when work needs to get done.

3. Tell me about a time you faced a professional or personal obstacle. What matters here is not the obstacle, but the attitude. By describing a challenging situation, the candidate can show positive attitude and adaptability. When the going gets tough at your company, you don't want someone who will lower the morale of your team.

4. Why do you want to work here? This question helps gauge a candidate's passion. Have they done their homework? The paycheck may be the most important thing, but you want someone who understands that engagement matters. 

5. Give examples of times you’ve worked without supervision. Do you like working that way? Teamwork is important, but so is the ability to get things done without constant supervision or handholding. You want someone who will be comfortable with the level of supervision that the role involves, whether that's a little or a lot.

6. Tell me about a time you were given a new task and you didn’t have training or experience to complete it. Is your candidate comfortable asking for help? Is your candidate ready to face tough problems and look for solutions? These qualities will give you an idea of how quickly this person will get up to speed, and how eagerly this person will learn new skills as the need arises.

Finally, consider spending time with your candidate outside the formal interview. Invite him or her to lunch or coffee. If you can see this person as a good contributor to your company, you’ll be on track to hiring someone who's truly a good fit. 

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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