THE BLOG
12/01/2014 06:54 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2015

New Hire Interview Questions That Can Make or Break Your Business

The questions you ask in the interview with a prospective new employee are anything but routine. They're crucial for uncovering a candidate's qualifications, skills, personality and, of course, whether they're the right person for the job. When you sit down for your next interview, don't waste time asking questions that cannot help you pinpoint the perfect hire. Instead, stick to the questions that reveal something valuable.

Don't Interview For the Sake of Interviewing
Some small business owners feel like they're required to interview a certain number of candidates because they don't want to risk being accused of discrimination. You can mitigate that fear by writing more conscientious job descriptions with clear job-related minimum requirements and pre-interview questionnaires.

How to Review Resumes
Before you call anyone in for an interview, there are a few things you must do:
• Look for resumes that offer enough insight into the candidate's background
• Look for steady progressions--a candidate that has moved up in job positions since the start of his or her career
• Identify targeted information--a resume should be relevant to the position you're hiring and the industry in which you're working
• Avoid resumes that have fluff, unprofessional email addresses, or limited information
• Look for unexplained gaps in employment history

Questions That Make Your Interview Worth It
Your interview is your sole opportunity to size up a candidate. To get the most out of it, there are a few questions you must ask in the interview to reveal as much as you can. Your interview questions should be behavior-based and open-ended, requiring the candidate to respond with more than "yes" or "no" answers.

Why are you interested in this job? And what skills or strengths can you bring to my small business?
If a candidate is just job hungry and needs the money, he/she is not going to be as valuable as a candidate that truly wants to work for your company and has a passion for the industry.

How was your last job?
You need to determine why the person lost his/her last job (without outright asking them) and how that job went. If the individual was let go or terminated, he or she may exhibit negativity toward the former employer. You want to gain a sense of the person's honesty and accountability.

Where do you see yourself 3 years from now? 5 years from now?
You need to learn about where the candidate plans to go in the future. Are they looking to settle in with a company? Are they still going to school (which may indicate they will change jobs after graduation)? While a candidate will not say outright that they plan to change jobs, the answers they do provide will give you a hint into their real intentions.

What improvements can we make with our products/services to be more competitive?
This tells you whether or not the candidate knows much about your company, whether or not they are truly interested in what you do, etc. While you cannot expect an in-depth answer, you want a little proof that they have researched your company and have taken an interest.

Hiring the right candidate can reduce employee turnover rates significantly. By taking your time to schedule interviews with the right candidates and asking the right questions, you can find the right person for the job.

Learn more about how you can prevent costly turnover and improve your HR department by ordering your copy of Practical Tools to Manage Costly Employee Turnover today.

Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions,a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive. This article first appeared on the MJ Management Solutions blog.

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