Applicant Interview Questions (with answers!)

Image with Applicant Interview Questions with answers by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle AuroraMeyer.com

When I shared these interview questions, I wasn’t quite expecting the response! I’ve enjoyed hearing practice answers and working with those who have reached out to make their answers stronger from both sides of the table.
I have another list of questions I like to ask when I’m interviewing candidates. I particularly like these questions for entry-level positions.  The ones in bold have a right and wrong answer (more on that below).

  • Why are you here?
  • If you had only one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why?
  • Is it better to be perfect and late, or good and on time? Why?
  • What’s the biggest decision you’ve had to make in the past year? Why was it so big?
  • When have you failed? Describe what happened and what you learned from it.
  • Tell me about a time you set difficult goals. What did you do to achieve them? Walk me through the process and purpose.
  • When I contact your last supervisor and ask which area of your work needs the most improvement, what will I learn?
  • How do you take advantage of your strengths? How do you compensate for your weaknesses?
  • What’s one thing you would like to do better? What’s your plan for improving?
  • What do you think are the most important attributes of successful people? How do you rate yourself in those areas?
  • What would you do if you made an important business decision and a co-worker challenged it?
  • What would you do if management made a decision you didn’t agree with?
  • Describe a time when you were asked to do something you weren’t trained to do. How did you handle it?
  • What will make you love coming to work here every day?
  • What frustrates you in an office environment?
  • How do you like to be managed?
  • If you get the job, how could you lose money for me?
  • Are you fully prepared to start if you are hired?
  • Is there anything you need to know in order to do the job?
  • Is there any special training or any classes you’re going to be required to take if you’re hired?
  • What can you offer us that someone else cannot?
  • Is there any question I haven’t asked you that I should?
What I’m looking for in the right or wrong answers:
  • It is better to be on time than late and perfect. There is no perfect. Being late is disrespectful to your team and in some cases can cost you a client. Deadlines are implemented for a reason, don’t be the person who blows it for everyone.
  • The biggest decision question is about your process. Tell me the steps you went through and how you weighed the pros and cons and how you ultimately made the decision and what the outcome was. Many entry-level applicants don’t have the industry work experience to detail a project so asking this question gives them the opportunity to tell me how they work. Some examples the applicant can use include applying for this position (make sure to talk about your research!), changing your major, adding a minor, moving across the country or leaving a previous job.
  • The question about the applicant’s previous supervisor gets at the things you want to improve. The key for the applicant is to tell me how they are already improving it. So if your previous supervisor would say their work is great but they could work on asking for more stretch projects or needing less supervision, I want the applicant to tell me how they are advocating for themselves and proving they can take on more responsibilities and trusting their knowledge and work. All supervisors know entry-level positions need more guidance and that isn’t a bad thing! But applicants should know that as they get more comfortable in the organization and in their role, they can trust themselves and their work more than they previously did.
  • We all have things we want to do better. When I ask this question I’m looking for work-related answers. Not how tidy you keep your living space! Tell me how you are working smarter. Tell me a tip you learned that changed how you manage your time or your day. Tell me how you are overcoming not speaking up in meetings. Tell me how you are tracking and keeping up with multiple projects. If I were answering this question, I would talk about how I’m working to avoid burnout. This year has added extra levels of stress to an already stressful job. I would talk about how I’m making it a point to take time away from email and my phone. To tune out of work in order to keep a good work-life balance. In answering this way, I am telling a potential employer that I will work hard and give my best effort at the office but that I value my off time too.
  • For the management decision-making question, I am looking for two things. First, how do you handle disappointment. Second, how will you fit in our team. Supervisors are not often going to be willing to sit down and go over all the reasons why they made every decision. Often, there may be additional information they can’t share with you. If an applicant answers with they would ask me for the reasoning behind the decision I would ask why they would go that route. What I am ultimately looking for in this answer is the word trust. I want to know my employees trust me to do what is best and what is right at all times. They may not fully understand why that decision is best or right at that moment, but I hope they trust that it is. Of note, for those reading this encountering a situation where they disagree with their manager currently, think about your current relationship. If that door is opened and feedback is requested, absolutely take advantage of it, but don’t assume your supervisor needs to explain themselves to you.
  • The question about describing a situation where you are asked to do something you aren’t trained to do is a way to highlight a skill that doesn’t read well on paper and that you have a willingness to learn something new.  Make sure to emphasize the results and what you learned in the process.
A few more general interview tips I wish I had known earlier in my career:
  • Your skills get you the interview the interpersonal relationships and fit get you the job. The goal is to make sure you are a good fit for the organization and will integrate well into a team.
  • Don’t speak too fast.
  • It is ok to take a few moments and pause to think about your answers. Remember to take a moment and take a few deep breaths and slow down.
  • Make sure you think about the question and don’t rush ahead to answer without making sure you are answering the question that was asked.
  • Be careful not to get suck on filler words and phrases. Rather than use a filler phrase, stop and think before answering.
  • You will also want to make sure you find ways to get a good sense (asking questions, getting a facility tour, etc) to see if this organization is a good fit for you. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.
  • ALWAYS write a thank you note. Always.

Interview Questions for Everyone

image of Interview Questions to ask by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle

Whether we are hiring an intern, an employee, a contractor or a vendor we ask similar questions of everyone we work with.  Whether you are the interviewer and doing the hiring or the interviewee and wanting to join the organizations, these questions make a difference and can give you insight into the person.

If you are doing the hiring use these questions:

  1. Who is someone who influenced your career and how did they influence you?
  2. can you tell me about the most successful person you ever hired and what exactly they did to be successful? (you may want to follow up with where is this person now?)
  3. What is your managerial style?
  4. Can you tell me about a time that you and your directs did not agree and how you dealt with that situation?
  5. How do you like your employee to check in with you about projects?
  6. what is the one soft skill or competency you would say is critical for success in this role?
  7. What do you most appreciate from your direct reports or team?
  8. Can you tell me something about this role or your expectations from the person who gets this role that is not on the Job Description?
  9. What does success look like in this position?
  10. What does failure look like?
  11. What are the initial goals for this position? 6 months? one year? five years?
  12. How do you support professional development?

For the interviewee, be prepared to answer these questions:

  1. Who is someone who influenced your career and how did they influence you?
  2. Can you tell me about the most successful person you ever worked with and what exactly they did to be successful? (you may want to follow up with where is this person now?)
  3. What is your working style? How do you like to manage projects (one at a time or multiple at once?)
  4. What do you most appreciate in a manager?
  5. What do you want from professional development? How are you doing this on your own (reading, taking classes, getting graduate certificates, etc.)

Things to note about yourself:
I thrive in an [TYPE such as independent, structured, consistent feedback, etc.] environment where I’m entrusted to complete jobs and deadlines [independently, with supervision, as a team, etc.].  I don’t thrive at all in a position in which I am at all [left alone, micromanaged., etc.]

There are other questions that will give you insight into an organization or a prospective employee, but these are a good place to start.

The Benefits Of Working Part Time

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

Most people who are looking for a job will automatically assume that they have to be searching for something full time or that most employers will only offer a full time working option, and although like everything, working full time certainly comes with a lot of benefits, such as more money, sometimes a part-time working option could actually be the better choice for you, and should perhaps be something you think about from a long-term strategy point of view.

There are some very real benefits of working part-time, and this option might be better suited to you and your lifestyle.

More Time
Whilst it may be pretty obvious, it’s most definitely a good benefit of working part-time that you should consider. Whether you need more time during the week to take care of other things, or simply don’t want to spend eight hours per day every day in the office, then working part-time will definitely free up a good amount of hours for you during the week.

Better Work/Life Balance
Part-time can be the ideal compromise for those seeking a better work/life balance. This is especially true for parents who want to be there when their kids return from school, but who also don’t want to stay home all day. It can also be good for those caring for relatives or who just simply have other commitments that they need to work around, but that typical working hours don’t really offer the freedom to do.

Can Focus On Other Things
When working a typical 8 to 5 schedule, plus the hour or two needed on each side for a commute to and from the office, then it really doesn’t offer much time for things like appointments that are typically held during business hours. Whether it’s a doctors appointment, or even just extra time to focus on studying for your online MBA in business intelligence, working part-time will definitely offer you the freedom and flexibility in your schedule to focus on doing these things without having to take time off or squeeze in studying in the evenings after a long day at the office.

Can Still Make The Same Or More Money
Many people hold a misconception about working part-time where they think that it means less money, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Depending on what your job is, and what your qualifications are, you may be getting paid for your level of skill and not necessarily for the hours you work, so working part-time could bank you just the same or even more than someone working full time. Another important thing to consider is that, if you’re a working parent, depending on where you live, you may be eligible for extra support in the form of working tax credits and other government incentives. You may also find you pay fewer taxes, so overall you could actually find yourself better off financially each month by working less.

Your Recruitment Process Is Failing Your Business: Here’s Why!

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

Your business cannot thrive without the very best people positioned in the right roles. Of course, that means you need to create a recruitment process that is as effective as every other part of your business, something that many companies could do better. 

The Devil In The Detail
Job descriptions are vital to the recruitment process, and a poorly written one will certainly not help you achieve your aims in this area. That is why it’s essential to invest some time and effort into getting these right.


What that means is checking through for spelling and grammar mistakes, which at worst will put people off entirely, and at best make your company look less than professional. 

Also, you need to walk the fine line between having enough detail for the potential candidate to understand what is required from them in the role, and so much detail that the description becomes inaccessible. With that in mind clarity and bullet point formatting can help a great deal.

Last of all, when it comes to the detail of the post, do not forget to include a salary range for the role you are advertising. After all, applicants will want to know that they will be rewarded with a wage commensurable to the position they are applying for, and not proving this info makes it much more likely that good candidates will just skip your add and move onto another company’s instead.

 Data Counts
I bet that if someone asked you about your sales data you would be easily able to give them a breakdown of conversions, drops offs, and even the time it takes to make most sales. After all, this day is what will be driving your approach, as well as allowing to check your levels of success.

Sadly, most businesses forget that a similar approach can be applied to the recruitment process as well, to make it not only more responsive but more effective as well. To that end, using software that allows recruitment metrics optimization is a smart move. The reason being that you will be able to see instantly which areas are letting the process down and need to be tweaked to improve it.

Take Control
Tempting as it may be to hand off your recruitment process by outsourcing it to an agency, this may not be the best approach for your business’s long-term success. This is because that while recruitment professionals often work on a commission basis, which means they are much more interested with filling the vacancy with someone from their recruitment pool than actually finding the perfect person for the role.

With that in mind, it’s hugely important to take the time to get involved in the recruitment process yourself. Especially if you are looking to fill a single vacancy rather than fulfilling a massive rolling influx of people like warehouse or call center situation.

In fact, by taking control of your business’s own recruitment process you can include trials, and interviews in the style that will best allow your business to see who is the better match. Something that is crucial if you want your company to succeed over the long term.

Talent Pooling
Also, when it comes to recruitment, many businesses fail because they aren’t making the most of the resources that they already have. What this means is that investing in training and development of current employees who can create a talent pool of which you can draw from when a vacancy becomes available, is a smart idea. Why go through the whole costly and time-consuming process again if you already know where to find good people?

Similarly, when interviewing candidates, keep the contact data of those that are the best, even if you choose someone else above them for the particular post you are currently looking to fill. Then you will have a good pool of talent on which to draw from and invite into the interview for other roles in your business, without having to go through the entire process again. Something that can save time and resources, and still allow you to get an employee that fits your business.

Improve Inductions
Last, of all, don’t forget that inducting new employees into the business is also a crucial aspect of the recruitment process. In fact, if you don’t do this well, you could end up losing those that you have put so much time and effort into because they don’t feel integrated into your business’s culture.

Therefore, if you want a holistically successful recruitment process, spending time inducting and training new employees, as well as the improvement points mentioned above need to be high on your priority list.

Job Seeker Seekers: Finding Employees For Your Business

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

Taking on someone to work for you is always an exciting milestone in life the of your business. This can often be a sign of big growth around the corner, especially when you’re first getting started. Of course, though, it can also be a very stressful time. Most people don’t know how to handle this sort of process, making it a big challenge when it comes to doing it for your company. To help you out with this, this post will be exploring the basic steps you have to follow, along with providing some helpful tips along the way. This should make it much easier to get people into your business going into the future.

Push Out Some Help Wanted Ads
Nowadays, there are loads of websites which can be used to find employees. In the past, this had to be done through newspapers and notice boards, but times have changed over the last few years. A lot of these sites will allow you to post for free, as they get their money through advertising, making it very cheap to get started. The help wanted ads you write are very important, as lower quality examples will always attract lower quality candidates. To make sure that you’re writing to a high standard, it will be worth reading some guides which will take you through what needs to be included.

Go Through Your Best Candidates
Once you have your help wanted ad running, it won’t take long for some responses to come through, and this means that it’s time to start going through them. You should have a good idea of what you’re looking for from the people who will work for you. Each resume will have a lot of the same details, making it a challenge to get through it all, but it will be worth reading as many as possible to ensure that you don’t miss out on someone great. When you find someone you like, you need to interview them. It should be easy to tell who you want to hire after a handful of interviews with different candidates.

Make The Hire
Finally, as the last stage in this process, making the hire will be the most complicated part of all of this. There is a lot of things to consider when you’re taking on an employee, including legal considerations. Companies like Ogletree Deakins law firm can take you through all of the paperwork, making it much easier to take on your new team member properly, while also helping you to avoid legal issues in the future. With all of the documents signed, the last thing you will have to do is getting them trained on all of the tools you have to use.

Taking on an employee often marks a new age in the life of a business. As you grow, you will need to take on more and more people, though, and this will make it especially important to be handling the process correctly. It can be far too easy to end up with a bad team if you’re not careful.