Sixth Sense: Top Interview Questions

by Bill Paddack ([email protected]) 526 views 

When interviewing a prospective employee, managers have a relatively short time frame to inquire about experience, qualifications, accomplishments and expectations. What are the right questions to ask to help identify the right person to fit your needs?

TB&P magazine editor Bill Paddack asked six business leaders to tell us their “signature question” that they always ask in a job interview to differentiate a candidate from all others and to tell us how well that has worked for them.

Matthew Glass
President & CEO
Fidelity Insurance Group
West Memphis

My favorite interview question is easy and I ask it every time. “Would you rather be rich or famous?” I always ask this question for a couple of reasons and there is always a right answer.

If I’m interviewing someone on the sales side, I want the candidate to respond with “famous.” If I’m interviewing someone on the administrative side, I want them to respond with “rich.”

Most successful sales people crave attention. They like attention so much so that they would rather be recognized than compensated. When you encounter a person like this, you hire them.

On the administrative side, I look for the complete opposite. Someone who would choose money over recognition tends to be more thorough and deliberate. Those are qualities we value in our administrative people.

Last but not least, never ever hire the person who says “both.” Before you have even hired them they have not answered the question you asked.


Rod Cross
Recruiter/Sourcing Specialist
Waste Management
Little Rock

At Waste Management, fairness and consistency in our candidate selection process begins with the online application and culminates with behavioral interviews by our hiring managers. Candidates are asked a series of questions designed to help us determine how they will perform in a specific job.

The one question that we most commonly ask our prospective candidates is “tell me about a dangerous work-related task that you had to complete and how did you make sure that no one was injured?” The nature of our business dictates that we provide a safe environment not only for each of our employees, but the public at large. This question gives us insight into a candidate’s approach as it relates to safety and how they have put it into practice. We believe that past behavior is a pretty good predictor of future behavior.

This process has worked well as we are able to attract and hire those candidates that promote Waste Management’s safety culture.


Franklin McLarty
RML Automotive
Little Rock

During job interviews, I like to pose the question to candidates, “Please provide examples of times when you’ve found creative ways to be useful to an organization outside the basic scope of your job duties.”

The answer helps me immediately determine whether a candidate will be an asset to our team.

I’ve found that individuals who independently identify and seize opportunities to be useful tend to add the most value to our company. Typically, they have an innate sense of service.

Based on previous experience, I know that these individuals will be the employees who come into work every day looking for ways to help our company improve and grow. Six months after hiring them I often think, “How did we ever live without this person?”


Tanner Chapman
Senior Human Resources Manager
Cintas Corp. – Locations 570 & 650

One question that stands out is “Describe your current career objectives and how you have prepared yourself to accomplish your career objectives?”

Though it seems very simple and straightforward, candidates often stumble on it and may not even be aware when doing so. It doesn’t bode well for a candidate when I am interviewing him/her for a particular position and their answer doesn’t relate to the job for which they applied.

I remember asking a candidate this question during an interview as they had applied to a management position. The candidate answered that they were looking to break into public relations/advertising because that was their long-term career objective. The candidate worked hard to sell themselves on a PR/advertising position, unfortunately, that was not the position I was filling.

Even though the candidate thought they gave a savvy answer, in reality, they just potentially eliminated themselves as I was looking to fill a management role, not PR/advertising.

A good tip for any candidate is to always relate their experiences to the qualifications of the job for which they are applying.


Allison Cox
HR Director – Talent Acquisition and Management
Little Rock

Signature question – that’s a good one. If I had only five minutes with a candidate, I’d ask the following flip sides of the same question:

· When have you been most satisfied in your career?
· When have you been least satisfied in your career?

Those two questions measure motivational fit and are right-on when you want to match a candidate with your culture. Assuming you like the background and experiences of the candidate and are confident they can do the job, you really only need to evaluate if your company, the specific opportunity and the candidate are a fit for each other.

So, ask these questions one at a time. Once you get the response from the candidate, ask “Why?” and say, “Tell me more …” multiple times. Then, stop talking. I’ve learned you can’t bail the candidate out – you have to force them to tell you what really excites them about jobs and companies, and subsequently, what drives them crazy.

Once you get that, you’ll have what you need to know at the most basic level if they are a fit – or not.


Michael Keck
Regional Sales Director
Little Rock

When meeting a prospective candidate for employment, I want to know how well they think.

No job is easy. Therefore, I want to know how they handle adversity. I want to know how well they utilize resources, how they approach demanding situations and when they know they have accomplished something.

I have found the following series of questions to be most insightful and telling in seeing if they are a good match for our organization.

Define the greatest challenge in your professional career.

How did you approach this challenge?

And when did you know you had achieved success and had overcome the challenge you faced?