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Interview Questions: Hiring Experts Reveal Their Favorites

Who do you most admire and why?
Michael Yormark
President, the Florida Panthers and Sunrise Sports & Entertainment

“The answer reveals a lot about who the candidate is, who she aspires to be, and whether she has the DNA to be part of a company’s culture. It will also force the interviewee to make a decision between brutal honesty and telling the interviewer what she believes he wants to hear.”

In your last employee review, what areas for improvement were identified?
Andrew Shapin
Chief executive officer, Long Tall Sally

“When candidates are honest, it illuminates self-awareness and potential weaknesses. It also helps ensure I get the best out of them. The response can easily be verified with the previous employer. I also ask what progress has been made.”

Why are you here?
Andrew Alexander
President, Red Roof Inn

“I always ask this the minute a prospect sits down. After the initial shock wears off, I hope to hear a passion for the hospitality industry and a deep respect for customer service. I find this to be a tremendously effective way to gauge whether the person is interested in working for us or simply seeking a job.”

So you’re a Yankees fan. If you were their owner, how would you make the team better?
Bonnie Zaben
Chief operating officer, AC Lion Recruiting

“I ask the applicant about their hobbies, and then we do role-play. I want to see how they think quickly and compose coherent presentations. Are they recommending specific player changes? Can they quote stats to back up a position? Can they present a cogent argument in five minutes without dead air? You’d be surprised.”

What is your passion?
Hilarie Bass
Co-president, Greenberg Traurig

“Passion leads to success. I have turned folks away who could not frankly answer this. The people attracted to us must show absolute commitment to the practice of law and solving clients’ problems.”

You’re a project manager? Tell me about a time you had a delayed project.
Susy Dunn
Vice president of people, Jama Software

“I always have a candidate provide a past situation similar to what they will encounter in a new position. The answer provides huge insights into their level of critical thinking, adaptability, awareness of their impact, and creativity.”

Describe an environment in which you would not thrive.
Larry Drebes
CEO, Janrain

“The candidate is less likely to have a scripted answer, and you see some on-the-spot introspection. You can learn a remarkable amount about personality, as well as cultural and organizational impact, which is hugely important. If this question is asked early in an interview, it often yields color for a richer conversation.”

If you could do anything, what would be your ideal job?
Liz Bingham
Partner, Ernst & Young

“A résumé can tell you about their previous experience, but this question helps indicate the individual’s passions and strengths and whether they’re well-matched to the job. From aspirations in politics, to cafe ownership, to entrepreneurship, the answers are revealing.”

Cohen is the author of The Sex Diaries Project: What We're Saying About What We're Doing (John Wiley & Sons).

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