Some Out of the Box Interview Questions for Small Business Hires

by / Monday, 21 April 2014 / Published in Small Business Hiring

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Many small business owners take hiring into their own hands, and will personally interview prospective candidates to ensure that they are getting someone who will not only be able to excel at their jobs, but also contribute to a positive company culture. This is more difficult than it might seem on the surface, as getting to know anyone within the short amount of time allotted for an interview is difficult, and it is even more difficult to gauge whether an employee will be an asset to your business in the same amount of time. The fact of the matter is, most people in the job market today will have gone to more than one interview before coming to speak with you. This repetition, made even worse by the added pressure created by the competitive nature of getting hired, means that it can be difficult to really gauge a person based off of stock interview questions. Here are a few suggestions on crafting some questions that can add a little bit of distinctive flavor to your interviewing process, as well as get to know a prospective hire a little bit better.

First, what are some qualities that you would like a hire to possess that may not be obviously apparent? An interview question that is less expected can have the benefit of forcing an interviewee to think on their feet and provide a more genuine answer. That being said, a question that is too broad may not tell you that much about the person (unless you are specifically trying to get a sense of their creative thinking ability). Try and think of the values and traits that you are looking for in a new hire that you might not be able to pick up on from asking specifically about their qualifications. For example, when hiring a new assistant, you might have a preference for hiring someone with a sense of humor because one of your biggest clients is a notorious comedian and would appreciate interacting with another funny person. At the tail end of the interview after ensuring they are otherwise qualified, you can ask them a couple of questions to sound out what that aspect of their personality is like.

Good questions should not be irrelevant, but they don’t always need to be presented in an obvious manner. There is always more than one way to ask a question. If you are interested in learning about how a prospective employee might handle a common issue related to their position, you might want to think of a way to take the predicament and project it onto a parallel scenario. This won’t necessarily be an effective technique for technical questions (you wouldn’t want to ask how someone would deal with a coding problem, for example, through metaphor) but it can be a great way to get to the heart of how an employee might interact with a customer by learning more about how they view people, their philosophy on responsibility, and their preferred manner of working while on the job. The key with these questions in not necessarily trying to pin an answer and a set of qualities together, but to gain a feel for the person being interviewed by the dialogue and the thought that your question provokes. Asking a common question in an uncommon way can also help you remember how they answered more clearly, as opposed to listening to the interviewee respond to more linear questions.

Photo Credit to Martin Pettitt on Flickr

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