7 Interview Questions to Help You Spot Top Performers
Recruitment is a difficult, expensive, and time-consuming process, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, which are all well aware of the consequences of making the wrong hire. With so much on the line, how can organizations ensure their hiring practices are streamlined, efficient, and reliable?
It all comes down to the interview questions you ask candidates. Certain questions can help you determine how motivated an individual is, what their work style is, how independent they are, and how they will fit in with your company.
Remember: Performance management begins with recruitment. If you get the hiring phase right, you will be rewarded with improved productivity, heightened levels of employee engagement (which leads to better employee performance), and increased staff retention.
If you want to be sure you identify the high performers among your applicants, be sure to ask the following questions during interviews:
1. Can you describe an instance where you were able to maintain interest in and passion for a project over a long period of time? How were you able to do this?
You want to hire employees with true grit and ambition. This question will help you pinpoint individuals who are able to really harness their enthusiasm for the long haul. Some projects will take longer than others, and you want someone who will tackle them with creativity and perseverance — someone who will maintain their high standards until all objectives are met.
Top performers will be able to readily provide examples to answer this question; disengaged, unenthusiastic employees will have difficulty improvising. When candidates answer this question, pay attention to their tone as much as to the content of their words. Do they sound enthusiastic and proud? You want employees with the energy to drive your company forward in the coming years.
2. Would you describe yourself as 'independent'?
Companies shouldn't hire employees who require constant micromanagement. If you need to always be looking over your employee's shoulder to ensure they are completing work to standard and on time, you are wasting valuable time and energy that would be better spent elsewhere.
Increasingly, employers are putting more faith in their employees and giving them more control over their careers. Many organizations choose to let employees determine their own SMART goals so they have more ownership over them. Other companies, such as Netflix, grant tremendous autonomy in terms of work schedules. Flexibility and independence are the way of the future, and autonomy is important for workplace satisfaction. Ask this interview question to be sure you're hiring real adults who won't need supervision to achieve their goals.
3. If you were struggling with a project, would you soldier on or approach a manager for feedback and assistance?
Although you certainly want independent employees, you don't want to recruit individuals who are too proud to ask for help when they need it. A reluctance to seek assistance leads to a serious waste of time, and there is no shame in soliciting feedback from peers and supervisors.
Recently, many companies have been shifting away from annual performance reviews toward continuous performance management and regular check-ins. These meetings are great opportunities for employees to get feedback and help from their managers. Such meetings also allow employees and managers to develop trusting relationships and open dialogues. Make it clear during the interview that you encourage the exchange of feedback and would rather employees ask questions than struggle.
4. What skills and strengths are you hoping to improve over the next five years?
This is a different way of asking the dreaded "What is your greatest weakness?" question. It allows your candidates to honestly discuss what skills are important to them, which ones they are most passionate about improving, and why. Top performers are aware that personal development is a lifelong process. Nobody is perfect, and the greatest employees are always looking for ways to improve. If the candidate in question has a detailed plan in place regarding their skill development over the next five years, this is a good indicator that they are self-aware and proactive.
5. How do you prioritize your tasks?
No two people work in exactly the same way. Asking this question will help you get an understanding of how each candidate's mind works and how they deal with multitasking. Employees who have experience with juggling urgent and time-sensitive tasks will have a process for dealing with their workload. The details don't matter nearly as much as the fact that they are diligent, hard-working, and they have put some thought into organizing their work.
6. How do you focus in an active, busy office environment?
Whoever you hire, it is likely that they have had experience with busy offices — the ringing of phones, the near-constant conversation, etc. Top performers will have ways of dealing with this busyness. They might shut the world out for a time and put in a pair of headphones. They might compose detailed to-do lists to keep themselves on task. They might take regular breaks. Whatever a candidate's routine is, you want to make sure they have some system in place to stay productive no matter what is going on around them.
7. How do you manage a good work/life balance?
Most managers know that workaholics are bad for business. Perfectionists are prone to burning out, which is a huge problem for every organization as it usually results in high levels of absenteeism and turnover.
You want an employee who can work hard but is also able to step away and refresh when needed. If a candidate answers this question by discussing their passions outside of work, such as hobbies, spending time with family members, and charity commitments, it is likely they are capable of managing their time and achieving a healthy work/life balance.
Stuart Hearn is the CEO and founder of Clear Review.