The 4 questions that matter most when conducting interviews

Writing for Inc. magazine, David Walker, founder and CEO of Triplemint, shares his experience interviewing nearly 1,000 people and the questions that have been the most helpful in picking the right candidates.

Triplemint is a software-controlled real estate brokerage start-up. Since launching in 2011, Walker and his co-founder have hired more than 100 people to work there, giving them the opportunity to see employees who work out really well—and a few who don't. New hire success is largely based on whether the culture is a good fit for them, so it is key to get a feel for that in interview questions, Walker argues.

Here are four interviews questions that have resulted in what Walker calls "stellar" hires:

1. "How did the culture at your last company empower or disempower you?"

Walker says this question accomplishes a couple of goals. First, it gets candidates to open up about their previous organization. When candidates respond, Walker recommends looking out for whether they talk negatively about their former employer and whether they learned any lessons from feeling disempowered (if that was the case).

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According to Walker, the question will also help reveal what motivates your candidates. It gets them talking about aspects of a culture they like, which will help you decide whether they will do well in your own organization's culture.  

2. "What were the characteristics of the best boss you've ever had?"

If there's anything you wish the candidate had said in response to the previous question, Walker writes that this question will get it out of them.  He suggests looking out for clues about what kind of management style they will thrive under. For example, do they work best under a boss who only cares about performance or under a boss that also focuses on interpersonal skills?

3. "Describe how you handled a conflict with one of your co-workers?"

Walker argues that you should pay as much attention to what the candidate perceives as a conflict as you do to their response to the conflict. This will tell you about their level of self-awareness, he writes. Of course, you should be evaluating how they managed the conflict, as well. While conflicts are inevitable, "how your team deals with conflicts is the true test of your culture," writes Walker.

4. "What kind of feedback do you expect to receive in this role and how often do you expect to receive it?"

An organization's culture—and whether or not a new employee can do well within it—has a lot to do with the kind of feedback that's given, Walker writes. He recommends reading in between the lines when listening to candidates' responses to this question, trying to determine the kind of feedback they want, the frequency of it, and what their responses can tell you about their personality more broadly, Walker writes.

For example, do they want their feedback to be focused on performance in the role? Do they imagine feedback to be a once-per-year thing or something that happens regularly to help them keep growing in the role? (Walker, Inc., 6/23).

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