What Questions Can I Ask When Hiring Someone?

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by Liane Thibodeau, People Reach Consulting.

To hire top talent, we must first begin by defining superior performance. What are the desired results and deliverables - what is the person expected to accomplish within their first six months to a year on the job? These results and accomplishments are known as performance objectives. Define these as opposed to simply listing skills and experience requirements and you will have an effective starting point for conducting your interviews. For example, instead of “Must have 5 years customer service experience in a call centre environment” try “Resolve client calls within one half hour of receiving them; if unable to resolve the problem within three hours, refer to tier two agent (providing complete documentation of where the problem has occurred) and inform client on a daily basis as to the progress of the call.”

By defining the deliverables and objectives expected during the first six months to a year on the job, you will create a performance profile. This profile is used as the foundation of the recruitment process. When you are determining objectives for the performance profile, be sure to obtain input from those people most familiar with the requirements of the position – the hiring manager, senior management and top talent currently performing the same or similar jobs. Prepare interview questions based upon the performance objectives you have identified in the performance profile. Review the candidate’s resume in detail prior to the interview, making notes of strengths and weaknesses. Focus the interview questions on the candidate’s past accomplishments as they relate to the performance objectives.

When preparing for the interviews, develop at least one interview question to address each of the performance objectives identified in the performance profile. This will provide you with a formal interview guide that you can use to assess candidates in a consistent fashion.

During the interview, concentrate on the candidate’s top three or four accomplishments as they relate to the position objectives. It’s easy to ask candidates what their accomplishments were, but you want to know how the results were achieved. Ask why, when, with whom, how long and how? Ask for details and examples and probe for more information.

Below you will find a list of questions commonly used when interviewing customer service personnel. Please note that these questions are only a starting point. The questions you develop to address the performance objectives specific to the position you are recruiting for will be far more effective.


Tell me what you know about our company?

Briefly describe the job and ask “Why are you interested in this job?

Tell me how you feel your experience and education have prepared you for this job?

For recent graduates, ask them to describe their educational experiences and what they have gained from them. Ask what they would consider to be their most significant accomplishment during their education.

For candidates with work experience, go through each of the candidate’s jobs and ask “What were your job responsibilities and what would you consider to be your most significant accomplishment in the job?” Ask about their reasons for leaving as well.

One of our key performance objectives is providing premium quality training on the use of our product. Can you tell me about similar past accomplishments that would have helped to prepare you to achieve this objective?

How would you define quality customer service? Can you provide me with an example of where you have delivered premium quality customer service in the past?

What do you think are the key qualities of a superior customer service representative? Can you give me examples of where you personally have demonstrated these qualities?

If you were the successful candidate in obtaining this position, what do you see as the most important objectives for yourself in the first month on the job?

How would you go about setting up rapport with your clients?

What systems might you put in place to ensure you are identifying issues of concern with your clients and then ensuring that these issues are addressed.

Now ask the candidate how they would deal with the following situation. You have a client calling you who is very upset. They are calling the company for the fourth time to address a problem they are having. They feel like they are getting the run around and no-one ever gets back to them. They are threatening that if this problem isn’t resolved today, they will not be renewing their contract to use your product. Ask the candidate how they would approach dealing with this client and what would they say to resolve the situation. Ask if they would approach the problem any differently if the client had not threatened to cancel their contract.

Tell the candidate that many of the clients who call, seem to call with the same problem over and over again. Ask how they would deal with a client who is constantly calling with the same problem.

Ask the candidate how they have shown initiative in their work in the past.

Ask the candidate about the most challenging client they have ever had to deal with and how they resolved the situation.

Ask for an example of a situation where they demonstrated creative problem solving to resolve a problem.

Ask what motivates them.

Ask the candidate what s/he feels to be the top two or three accomplishments in his/her career thus far and why. Ask for details and probe for information.

Ask how their current employer would describe them. Their colleagues? Their staff? How would they describe themselves?

Ask what is important to them in a job.

Ask what their career goals are. Where do they see themselves two years from now?

Ask what are they feel are the keys to a successful team. Ask for examples of where they have shown themselves to be team players.