Three Kinds of Interview Questions to Ask Potential Team Members
“Never hire someone who knows less than you do about what he or she is hired to do.”
—Malcolm Forbes, American publisher, 1919–1990
Finding the right people for your team can be a daunting task. What are your team’s needs? Where will the recruits come from? What are their needs and skills? Will the new people get along with the veterans? How long will you need to hold their hands until they can function independently? Will they blend in easily with the way your team works, or will personality clashes derail your best-laid plans?
Learning answers to these questions before a worker joins your team may not be possible, but you can learn a lot about a job candidate’s working style by asking the following types of questions.
QUESTION TYPE 1: Problem-solving questions
You can ask problem-solving questions based on real-life or hypothetical situations to discover how a potential team member
- Approaches problems
- Thinks under pressure
- Listens for details
- Asks for clarification
- Gathers data
- Processes information
- Develops problem-solving strategies
Here are a few examples of problem-solving or scenario-based questions that you can prepare before an interview.
“This is the problem, and here are the facts. What strategies for solving it do you suggest?”
“Here’s the situation: Your supervisor is unavailable, and the client tells you he wants a decision right now. What would you do?”
“How would you handle an emergency such as …?”
“How would you deal with a coworker who …?”
QUESTION TYPE 2: Behavior-based questions
Behavior-based questions allow a person to describe how he or she has dealt with challenges and goals in specific situations. Knowledge of past behavior will help you determine how the person will act when similar situations arise in the future. By asking behavior-based questions, you can learn about his or her:
- On-the-job training and experiences
- Mastered skills
- Personality traits
- Successes and failures
- Understanding of industry issues
- Level of professionalism
Here are a few examples of behavior-based questions:
“Tell me about a time when you had to handle an angry client or coworker.”
“Describe a situation where you had to solve a problem at work.”
“Describe how you handled a decision by your supervisor that you did not agree with.”
“Tell me how you handled a major setback in a project.”
“Give me a specific example of how you coped with a difficult problem under pressure.”
QUESTION TYPE 3: Work-style questions
You know that personality clashes and conflicting working styles can quickly undermine the morale and effectiveness of your team. Questions about a potential team member’s individual working style provide you with an insight into his or her weaknesses and strengths when working with others.
These questions help you determine if an individual is compatible with your management style and your team’s way of working. Larger teams often break into smaller groups or pairs, so team members need to get along. By asking work-style questions, you can learn about a potential team member’s:
- Preference for working in large and/or small groups
- Style of interacting with managers
- Preference for formal or informal communication
- Choices for partners
- Ability to prioritize jobs
- Willingness to ask for help
Here are some examples of work-style questions:
“Do you prefer to work alone, one-on-one or in groups?”
“What type of people do you enjoy working with most?”
“Do you like formal or informal working relationships?”
Now that you have your team together, your next challenge is to prioritize and delegate tasks.
Three Questions to Ask When You Delegate Tasks
To effectively delegate, ask your team members the following questions:
1) “Will this new task prevent you from finishing your other assignments on time?”
If the answer is yes, then it is up to you to either give the person more time or help to complete the assignments. Piling one job on top of another without making the needed adjustments will only create tension and animosity among your staff.
2) “Do you have any questions about what I want you to do and when the job needs to be finished?”
Clearly defining your objectives and timetable will get concrete results. When delegating tasks, provide some examples or specifications for what you want. Be sure to follow up with, “Does what I’ve asked you to do make sense?” and “Is this timetable reasonable given your other responsibilities?”
3) “What do you need to complete this assignment? Is there anything else you need from me to get this done on time?”
Make sure your colleagues have the necessary tools, resources and time to accomplish their tasks. Otherwise, the chances are slim that they will finish the work correctly and on schedule. Remember to also include a few words of appreciation. For example, you can say, “Thanks. I really appreciate you taking on this assignment.”
Now that your team is working up to speed, you’ll need to keep them motivated and fine-tune their efforts. Do you know how to use praise to accomplish both these tasks?