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Making the right hire: good questions to ask when interviewing someone

Man being interviewed by a small business owner

For decades, small business has been a major economic driver in the United Sates, employing a little over half of the nation’s working population, according to the Small Business Administration. At the same time, statistics show that only about half of small businesses make it to their fifth anniversary, which is why it is crucial for small businesses to make smart hiring choices.

Successful small business owners know surrounding yourself with competent staff has a dramatic impact but for most small business owners, hiring the right person to fill a position isn’t easy and there is often little time to become an interviewing expert. So learning how to conduct a good interview and knowing the right interview questions to ask is essential.

The job interview is how an employer can measure a candidate’s skill level and see if he or she will be a good fit. A good interview enables you to gauge how that person might perform on a daily basis at your workplace. Here is a general guide to help you come up with right interview questions to ask a candidate.

Ask behavioral interview questions

Mastering behavioral interview questions will dramatically improve your hiring results. These are questions that encourage candidates to discuss how they've handled specific work-related challenges in the past, providing a sense of how a candidate will react and function in the day to day of your small business.

Some especially revealing behavioral interview questions include: “Tell me about the last time a customer or co-worker got mad at you," and “Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months." The idea is that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, which for small business owners is critical. By asking for specifics, behavioral interview questions can cut through misleading answers that a candidate thinks you might want to hear.

Build off previous questions

Armed with important insights about your candidate, it is helpful to then ask some probing “what” and “why” questions. These types of questions allow you to get at the root of a candidate’s job attitudes and commitment to the workplace.

“Why” questions

For example, you might want to know why this candidate has switched jobs every year - a “why” question that helps you understand the motivation or the reasons behind a candidate’s decisions.

“What” questions

A “what “question can give an interviewee the big picture in terms of where this candidate will fit in the scheme of things. For example, you could ask the job applicant, “What do you feel I should know about you that we haven’t discussed?” This question gives a candidate an opportunity to tell you about skills or experiences that could make him or her a valuable asset to your Company.

Have colleagues ask their own questions

The important thing is to come up with questions that delve deeper and cut past the potential for predictable responses. Once you’re satisfied with that part of the interview, turn it over to other associates. Letting staff members spend time with a potential hire, while you are out of the room, can be revealing.

You can then ask for feedback from your staff to see how the candidate handled himself or herself around peers. Most likely your staff will be interacting more with this new hire than you will, so it is crucial the candidate perform at a high level for them as well.

Questions not to ask

Along with the “right” questions, be aware of the questions you legally cannot ask under state and federal laws and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations. If you are not sure which questions to avoid, steer clear of nationality, religion, gender, age, race, marital or family status, health and/ or physical abilities, National Guard or reserve status and location of the employee’s home or his or her commute.

According to Forbes, picking good people to build your business determines 80% of your success. Interview prep might be time consuming but it’s a worthy investment for a small business owner looking for long-term success.

Interviewing is just one step in finding the right candidate. Your business also needs to have perks to attract the top talent, such as employee benefits. Learn about how Nationwide’s simple and affordable benefits plans can meet your small business needs.

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