Interviewing candidates for an open position in your company can be a chore. No doubt you have a long “to do” list, and time slotted for interviews takes away from paring down that list. But effective interviewing is essential to your company’s success, as studies show that vacant positions have substantial costs to your organization.

To interview effectively, here are six essential questions you should ask.

Why do you want to work here?

Ask this early in the interview to see what drives the interviewee and how prepared they are. If they have cogent business reasons for wanting to work at your firm, they’ve done their homework or are looking at this as a professional opportunity. But if their answers are more about their personal preferences, that should be a warning sign.

Sure, you want your employees to have passion, but too many “because I love(s)” in their responses mean their perspective is personal. Once the romance of a new job wanes, will they leave because they didn’t see working for your company as a professional step up? Maybe.

If an interviewee can’t answer this question, they’re not right for the job.

What was your greatest achievement at your current job, and what did you learn from it?

Their answer will get them to reveal professional strengths that are relevant for the job opening. And if they can tell you what they learned and how they applied it, you’ll be able to see their ability to grow professionally without being managed. If they hem and haw, ask yourself, “Is this because they didn't accomplish anything at that job?”

What was your greatest disappointment at your current job, and what did you learn from it?

We learn more from our mistakes than our successes. And if you are interviewing sales people, by nature they will have more disappointments than achievements, so you need to see how they handle adversity.

This is a question very few interviewers ask, so don’t be surprised if they have to think about this one for a while. But you will likely get their most honest answer in the entire process when they respond to this question. You will see thoughtfulness and accountability if their answers are authentic.

This question also lets them know that, while you may be a demanding boss, you are reasonable. You accept that people make mistakes, and you don’t expect them to be perfect. You do, however, expect them to learn from their mistakes so they may achieve excellence.

Tell me about a disagreement you had with your boss, and what was the outcome?

This question is a red-flag alert.

You want an honest answer, but if the interviewee talks about a personal issue that could have been on Jerry Springer, you can expect HR nightmares in the future if you hire them. If the person explains the disagreement, takes accountability on their end and shows how they were able to professionally point out mistakes their boss made, you may have the right person for the job.

Why should we hire you?

It’s shocking how many interviewers don’t ask this question, and it’s the most important question you could ask. You need to know how the interviewee’s strengths apply to your job opening, and the interviewee needs to be able to succinctly explain why their skills fit your need.

If neither of you can see this after this question and response, then you need to get a better handle on the job description, and the interviewee needs to get better at conveying their relevant job strengths.

Do you have any questions for me?

No questions means the interviewee didn’t do their homework or is more interested in leaving their current job than working for your company. Too many non-relevant questions means the person probably doesn’t understand the position as well as they should. Thoughtful questions show they care and that they are taking time to evaluate the opening. You need to hire people that see the position as a professional opportunity, not a lifeline from a deplorable job.


Asking these questions can help ensure that you see interviewees for their professional attributes and not personal ones. You should review their resumes carefully before the interview and ask questions specific to their professional experiences. Every hiring manager has made the mistake of hiring the person they liked the best in the interview process instead of the best professional fit for the job. By asking these six questions, you may lessen your chances of repeating that mistake in the future.