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Questions 101: What to Ask a Potential Employee


The questions you ask a prospective employee during an interview can be extremely telling, especially if you ask the right questions. Before you start pulling random questions out of a hat, consider Meredith DePersia’s favorite questions, and why each is key in Active Sports Clubs’ hiring process.

Q1: What excites you about working for our company?

During an interview, one of DePersia’s main concerns is figuring out whether a prospect is simply interested in a job or wants a career. This question helps flesh that out.

“Someone who is excited about the opportunity will have researched the company history in advance and can name specific reasons they are interested in the position, with these reasons relating to the organization and their own personal goals,” explained DePersia. “Candidates should demonstrate that they understand the position they are applying for — if they don’t, how are they sure they would be a good fit?”

Q2: What things don’t you like to do?

If a person hates dealing with customer complaints and has applied for a job at the front desk, this question can help uncover that fatal flaw.

“By asking a candidate what they don’t like to do, you hope to receive an honest answer about the job duties that they won’t enjoy performing,” said DePersia. “This doesn’t mean that a candidate should favor every aspect of their job, but certain dislikes can be a tell-tale sign whether someone is a good fit for a position.”

In addition, this can also be applied to the other side of the coin. “A candidate who says she does not like to work in a slow-paced administrative environment would, in fact, be a good candidate for the fast-paced, high-touch service desk environment,” said DePersia. “By understanding what a candidate will not enjoy doing you will avoid putting them in a role that they will not excel in, and you just may identify them for another role in which they will.”

Q3: Can you tell me about the last person you had to fire (in a management position)?

“This is a situational question that is a must when hiring a manager,” said DePersia. “You don’t want to hire a manager who likes to fire people, and you don’t want to hire one that takes it lightly, or is averse to it altogether.”

According to DePersia, a prospect’s answer to this particular question should convey whether or not they have empathy, which is essential to a management position.

“Terminating employees requires a high level of professional maturity and empathy,” said DePersia. “Good managers do not like to fire people. It’s one of the most difficult parts of their job. While you want a manager to feel the weight of the responsibility, you don’t want them to shy away from the task either. Good managers recognize that terminating an employee should be a last resort, meaning there are no other options for this employee.”

Q4: What is your greatest area in need of improvement?

DePersia believes that self-awareness is an important quality in any employee. “Employees who are not in touch with their own level of competence are difficult to coach,” she said. “How do you develop someone who disagrees that they need to be developed? It’s nearly impossible.”

This question should reveal if someone’s weakness will hinder their job performance in a specific role. “It doesn’t mean it disqualifies the candidate from being hired, but at least the manager knows what areas to focus on in training to help the employee improve,” said DePersia. “Everyone has areas in need of improvement. But only those who actually improve are those that have a strong sense of self-awareness and the desire to do so.”

Q5: Can you tell me about a time you faced an ethical dilemma?

“Ethical employees support a positive company culture through behavior driven by values,” said DePersia. “Making ethical decisions are not easy, and while many decisions will be clear cut, often times they take time for someone to work through.”

In the answer to this question, look for someone who can recognize when they are faced with an ethical dilemma and has an ethical decision-making process to rely on in times of uncertainty, DePersia explained.

“Candidates should be able to define the dilemma, what solutions they explored to resolve the dilemma, which solution they ultimately chose, how they implemented the solution and what they learned as a result,” said DePersia. “What you are looking to learn is that when faced with an ethical dilemma an employee will take care in their decision making, and that their decision will be made with integrity.”


Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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