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The Best Interview Question You Can Ask As An Employer

In my last post I talked about the biggest mistake employers make when interviewing – using the resume as the basis of the interview.

Interviewing from the resume is something you want to avoid because it allows the candidate to control the content of the interview – and their purpose is to get a job, not fill your open position with a top performer. If you missed it last week, you can read it here before you go on.

My best interview question you can ask takes you completely “off resume”. Here it is:

“Tell me about the very first paying job you ever had.”

This doesn’t mean the first job listed on their resume (although this is likely what they will respond with). It means their first job ever.

They will probably be surprised and possibly confused, but don’t let them get away without answering. If they give you the first job that’s on the resume or the first job after college make sure that it’s the first job ever.

Here’s why this is a great question:

  • They are almost certainly not prepared for it.
  • It reveals personality and behavioral traits that are similar today as they were back then. People generally don’t change much once they are teenagers.

Once you have the answer, take plenty of time to explore why they did (or didn’t do) things and why.

  • Why did they pick that job?
  • What did they like about it?
  • What didn’t they like about it?
  • Why did they leave?

You can ask many of the same questions you would ask about a job on the resume, but you are going to get unprepared answers that are more likely to help you to really understand the candidate and their motivations.

Once you have explored this job, here’s a great follow up question:

What were the three most important things you learned from that job?

I’m pretty sure they have never thought about this so just sit back and wait for them to answer. Silence is on your side even if it is uncomfortable so once you ask the question wait for them to answer no matter how long it takes. What they tell you could be very valuable information.

Of course you still want to ask other questions related to their skills, thinking style, behaviors, and motivations but this question is a great way to start the interview. To make sure you get the most out of it, be sure to give a positive response to whatever they say (no matter what you really think) and encourage them to tell you more by nodding your head.

You can read this entire post and watch a two minute video here at my blog.

Wishing you the best of hiring success!