From the hirer’s standpoint, the purpose of the job interview is to learn things that will hopefully predict the potential employee’s future success (or failure). Some things I learned while hiring hundreds of salespeople over the years:
• The applicant should do most of the talking. If you spend more time speaking than listening, you’re not learning as much about them as they are about you.
• What they say may not be as important as how they say it. Do they speak clearly and convey a positive outlook? Do they get defensive?
• Communication goes both ways, so do they listen well? How much attention they pay to your questions may reveal how much attention they’ll pay to those of your customers.
• Appearance isn’t everything, but who wants to work with a slob? To find out how neat an applicant really is, go outside and look in their car. If the back seat is full of junk, they may not be as well-kept as they appear.
• Follow-up counts, especially in personal sales. Give the applicant your phone or fax number or your email address, then a day or two to see if they send you a thank-you after the interview. If they do, it will not only show that they’re polite, but that they care enough about the job to go the extra step.
The goal of an interview is to listen to the candidate talk so you can learn about them. Here are few open-ended questions to start the process:
• Tell me about your work history. Which job did you like best? Why?
• Did you enjoy school? What was your favorite subject? Why?
• Is there anything I should know about your career that doesn’t show up on your resume?
• What part of your current (or last) job do you like best? Least?
• Do you like your boss? Why? Why not?
• Describe for me the most difficult problem you’ve ever faced and tell me how you solved it.
• What do you do best?
• What do you want your employer to do for you?
• Who is the person you most admire? Why?
• Tell me what you do to improve yourself.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.