5 Probing Interview Questions

November 17, 2016

It’s the quality of a company’s products and services, marketing, sales, customer service, etc. combined with the talent of employees that drives the success of a business. Without qualified, motivated, and loyal employees, a business does not move forward. Although it is recognized and understood that employees are a company’s greatest assets, too often little time and effort is put into the interviewing and hiring process. 

Since an important part of a business’ future depends on having the right employees, a high importance should be placed on hiring applicants who have the potential to become long-term, committed employees. The first step in this process is to ask open-ended, probing questions that will elicit responses that will help the interviewer accurately assess the candidate’s ability to not only perform the required job functions but also be a right fit with the company.

Reviewing a resume, asking about previous jobs, and calling references certainly gives insight into an applicant’s experience and ability. Asking the right questions, however, gives the interviewer an intuition if the applicant will be successful once hired.

Assuming you are the interviewer, ask the following five probing questions of an applicant. 

1. How will I be able to determine if you’re doing a good job or not?

This question allows you to determine from the applicant’s standpoint rather than the company’s standpoint what the applicant determines to be important factors regarding job performance and success. Are goals realistic, too low, or too high? Additionally, if the applicant is hired, the answer can form a baseline to judge future job performance based on the applicant’s own expectations of what he or she should be able to accomplish.

2. How would you describe the perfect company culture?

Rather than describing the company culture to an applicant and asking if that is an environment in which the applicant would enjoy working (most applicants will agree since they want the job), turn the statement into a question. By making the applicant describe his or her idea of a perfect company culture, you can decide if the applicant will, indeed, fit in or not.

3. What type of management style do you like to work under?

The answer to this question will give you additional insights into how the applicant will fit in with the company’s current management style and, in particular, your management style. Depending on the answer given, you can ask follow-up questions seeking clarification of what the applicant sees as important characteristics of a manager, amount of direct supervision wanted or needed, and determine how the applicant’s definition relates to your management style.

4. In your current job (or last job) what would you have changed in the company or department if you had the opportunity?

This question allows the applicant to show creative ability, aptitude for change, and a macro or micro view of a business’ operation, processes, and procedures. The answer can help you determine if the applicant’s attitude and approach to change fits with the company’s model of change. The applicant might be more or less progressive than the company’s current philosophy.

5. What type of social interaction with business colleagues best fits with your personality?

While some businesses have various events and activities for employees to participate in, others have little or no activities. While there is no right or wrong level of social involvement, each business has a level of involvement that is right for its own business and employees. If an applicant is hired who seeks total involvement, but the company has few employee related activities, the new employee will soon feel a sense of detachment and lose enthusiasm for the job. Likewise, if an applicant is hired who does not want to mingle and socialize with other employees but is hired into a company that expects employee interaction, the fit will not be good.

Easy to Hire…Hard to Fire

At the end of the interview, you’ve asked questions and received answers. Now ask yourself if you would really enjoy working with the applicant. Since we spend more time during the week working with colleagues than we do with family members, it is important that the applicant is a good fit with you and future colleagues. Take all factors into consideration when making a hiring decision. Remember…easy to hire, but hard to fire.