How Do I Do a Simple but Effective Job Interview?

You don’t belong to a huge corporation.  You don’t have a team of people to help with hiring, let alone an HR department to delegate this to.  So here are the questions to ask in a simple and really effective job interview when time is at a premium and resources are few:

  1. What are you really good at doing and want to do more of? Examples?
  2. What are you not great at doing and should do less of? Examples?
  3. How will your last 3-5 bosses rate you out of 10 when we talk with them?
  4. What are you career goals?
  5. Why are you leaving? Or, if they’ve already left, “Why us?”

Simple job interview question #1: What are you really good at doing and want to do more of?  Examples?

This is a question that is easy and that people generally enjoy answering. We all like talking about what we’re good at.  The trick here is to get them to be specific and use examples.

For instance, if the candidate says, “I’m good with people,” ask them to be more specific.  Are they good selling to people or building relationships, or motivating people or helping create harmony with people?

Then ask them for specific examples.  How have they done this in other workplaces?  Get specific.

Simple job interview question #2: What are you not great at doing and should do less of?  Examples?

This question is usually a bit tougher to get honest answers for.  People like talking about what they’re good at, but they may have never even considered what they’re not good at.  Or, they may have read an article somewhere that told them to never discuss areas of weakness.  We want to find out what they’re bad at.

Usually they’ll start off with sandbag responses like:

  • I care too much
  • I work too hard
  • I take work home with me
  • I’m terrible at giving up

These are not weaknesses.  So, if they can’t think of anything, ask them, “I’m not trying to find out if you have areas of weakness, because – like all of us – you do; I’m asking to see if you have self-awareness and if you know what your weaknesses are.”  This usually gets them talking.

Don’t leave this question until you’ve heard two or three genuine weaknesses such as:

  • I’m not very organized
  • I have a temper when I’m under stress
  • I hate and avoid conflict

Simple job interview question #3: How will your last 3-5 bosses rate you out of 10 when we talk with them?

Let them know that you plan to speak with their past bosses, so to please keep their responses accurate.  This acts as truth serum, and you’ll find that they’re much more likely to answer honestly.

Look for bosses within the past 10 years.  If the candidate is young, look for other people who they reported to; a sports coach, a band teacher, or a volunteer leader.

Follow this question up with “Why?”  Why do you think they would give you that rating?  What will they say were are your strengths and weaknesses?  This is a very revealing and useful question.

Simple job interview question #4: What are you career goals?

The reason that I like this question is that, first, it tells me whether or not the person has any goals.  I’m much more interested in a candidate that has goals than one who doesn’t.

Second, this question tells me what I can expect from this person, and if we’re a short or long term match.  For instance, the candidate may say, “I’m looking for a part time job so that I can finish my education and eventually practise law.”  That tells me that I’ve probably got a go-getter who knows how to meet deadlines and is relatively smart.

It also tells me that I’m not going to hold on to this person forever.

Another candidate may have no goals, and yet might be perfect for a long term job that requires someone without a lot of career ambition.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  There’s a fit for everyone somewhere.

I just want more information so I can find out where the person is going in life.

Simple job interview question #5: Why are you leaving?  Or, if they’ve already left, “Why us?”

I want to know why the person is leaving their current job.  Here’s what I’m looking for when I ask this question:

  1. Will they talk badly about their past boss? If so, remember that eventually you are going to be their next past boss, and you’ll likely get the same treatment.  So trashing past bosses is a bad sign.
  2. Are they leaving for something more comfortable? I’m not looking for, “my past job was too demanding.  I’m looking for a job that offers a lot more work/life balance.  I’m not building a nest for underperformers, and I want to screen them out at the get-go.

If they’ve already left, I ask “Why us?”  I ask this question to find out:

  1. If they know anything about our company. Have they done any research?  This tells me a lot about the candidate.
  2. If they actually want to work in our industry, or are just looking for any job. My preference is that someone has sought us out because they really want to get a start in our industry.

In summary:

If you don’t have a lot of time, here are the five quick questions to ask in a really effective, short, job interview:

  • Simple job interview question #1: What are you really good at doing and want to do more of?  Examples?
  • Simple job interview question #2: What are you not great at doing and should do less of?  Examples?
  • Simple job interview question #3: How will your last 3-5 bosses rate you out of 10 when we talk with them?
  • Simple job interview question #4: What are you career goals?
  • Simple job interview question #5: Why are you leaving?  Or, if they’ve already left, “Why us?”

Additional  resources

Thanks for reading this article on How to do a simple job interview.  Below are additional resources from Professional Leadership Institute, the global provider of online human resources and leadership tools:

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