Five Essential Interview Questions

Over the years, I’ve been involved in a lot of interview situations, both as the one conducting the interview and as the one being interviewed. I’ve made a lot of mistakes on both sides. Based on that experience, I believe the following five questions are essential in an interview.


#1. What do you know about this organization?

Typically, my first question. In this information-driven world we live in, it amazes me how very little job applicants know about the companies with which they’re interviewing. For me, this is an early test as to how interested the candidate truly is in the available job. Can you imagine interviewing for a position and not doing your due diligence ahead of time to understand what the company does? This happens far too frequently.


#2. Behavioral Interviewing questions.

Perhaps the most valuable questions you can ask in a job interview. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior under similar circumstances. These questions focus on past behavior. Almost all Fortune 1000 companies use behavioral interviewing questions and likewise, very few small businesses do.

As an example, imagine you’re looking for a customer service representative who is good at dealing with difficult questions. An example of a behavioral interviewing question would be the following:

Share the most recent example of a time you had to deal with a difficult customer. What did you do? What was the result of your actions?”

Experts suggest that at least 50% of a job interview should be spent asking these questions. The key is to direct these questions at each of the key job characteristics you are most interested in. These are difficult questions to ask and even more difficult questions to answer. They will also provide you with much of the data you’ll need to make a good hiring decision.


#3. Are you lucky?

I love this question. My favorite answer is “very lucky.” I’m not interested in lottery luck here. I’m looking for candidates that take advantage of a favorable position when they find themselves in one. It’s not enough to just recognize when you have an opportunity. It’s all about what you do with that opportunity.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book Outliers, he describes three attributes of an Outlier. One of them is being lucky. An Outlier is someone who is among the elite in whatever they do, for example, Bill Gates, Hank Aaron, or even Albert Einstein.


#4. What will your last boss tell me about you?

Most of the time we ask for references from the job candidate. More than likely one of those references will be from a past boss. Why wait to contact this person? Why not ask the candidate what he/she expects you will hear from this person. I like this question because it forces the individual to evaluate themselves through the eyes of an objective third party. It also saves me from having to hunt down their last boss by phone.


#5. What do you enjoy doing most outside of work?

Seems like an easy, or soft question. In reality, it may be the most important question you ask. Whenever I interview someone, I am trying very hard to determine fit. Will this person fit within this organization? Is there an alignment between our core values and those of the candidate?

One of the best ways to determine one’s core values is to discover what they do outside of work with the valuable time they have. Maybe it’s time with family. Playing tennis. Traveling. Reading. Working out. Each of those activities hints toward a particular core value.

Time with family = Strong family value

Playing tennis = Competitive value

Traveling = Could represent several values. For me, it suggests a need for adventure

Reading = Learning & growth mindset

Working out = Staying healthy


If my organizational core values match those of the candidate, I know I have a good fit and potentially, a good hire.

Try incorporating these essential questions into your list of favorite interview questions and let me know if it changes your hiring decision.