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Three Questions to Ask Candidates This Hiring Season

It’s almost March, and hiring is about to ramp up for the Spring!

The Groundhog saw his shadow, or didn’t…and I am pretty sure one of those means that warmer climate, patio hangouts and sunlight are coming our way.


A few weeks ago I asked people to submit their favorite interview question.

We got some great submissions…here the top 3:

1. Ashley at The Fairmont asks Housekeeping candidates:

Does clean have a smell to you, and if so what does it smell like?

I love that question because it is somewhat subjective, but it also helps you learn about how they see the world. Ashley said that she prefers when people say “the absence of any smell,” but some folks say that clean to them smells like a particular cleaning product (Pine-Sol, anyone?).

You can apply this to any kind of job. It is basically an opinion questions with a number of “right answers” that helps you figure out how someone views the world (and whether that aligns with your organization).

2. Betsy at Ingold Veterinary asks candidates:

If you could be anyone else, past or present, who would you be, and why?

Again, this is a very subjective question that can reveal a lot about someone’s values. Most answers to this question can’t really be wrong (with good taste and common sense exceptions), but they do reveal how someone sees the world.

Use it as a way to open up the right-brain emotional side of the conversation. Ask follow-up questions….if they say “Teddy Roosevelt,” ask whether it would be before or after he got shot the chest (the bullet was partially stopped by a folded up speech). If they say “Britney Spears,” ask them if they would bring up the head shaving incident. Have fun with it…and pay attention to the reasons they give to support their choice.

3. The ladies at Three Babes Bakeshop ask candidates:

Describe a mistake you’ve made that had unfortunate consequences. What happened?

This is a great question, because you are asking people to describe a specific instance, not some B.S. like “tell me your biggest weakness.” Everyone makes mistakes…you can learn a lot about someone by the way they handle those mistakes, and by the lessons that they take away.

Do you have a favorite question? Let us know!

Happy Hiring!

Pablo Fuentes

Pablo Fuentes was the Founder and CEO of Proven. He was also the host and producer of the Small Business War Stories podcast. Pablo is currently the Founder of makepath, a spatial analysis firm. He is a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and UCLA. He loves dogs, film photography, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He is also a blues guitar player and builder.

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