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Killer Interview Questions

The Best Interview Questions from KAS

These questions were developed at KAS as part of our dedication to finding the best candidates for our clients.  Not only will these questions help you determine if the candidate is appropriate for the job, but it will also prepare them for a successful interview with their prospective employee.  These are also great training questions for anyone who is interested in learning more about sales.

1.  Hand the interviewee a balance sheet or income statement and ask the candidate how one could improve the company.

They should be able to see a decrease in sales or a rise in expenses and should be able to react with “out of the box” ideas.  For instance, if your company has a lot of revenue and little expenses, why not hire a marketing team or buy new technology equipment to accomplish ______________?

Although the answer obviously has to make sense and could be reasonably accomplished, creativity is also key.  In this age of information and rapidly developing technology, innovation is crucial.  Ideally, the candidate should be able to tell you something you may not already know about new marketing techniques or emerging technology that could be the next step in improving the company.

2.  What companies does applicant think are great and why? Why didn’t the applicant apply to them?

Here, the why is the important question, not the company.  Personally, I want my firm to be as creative and effective as Apple or Google is.  That is because they consistently come out with highly popular products and web offerings.  The management is always thinking of a way to make things better and they beat their earnings estimates time and time again.  I didn’t apply to them because I wanted to open my own business, though if I were interviewing, I would reason that the companies are too big for me and I want a firm in which I can make a bigger difference in a more timely manner.

This will also help determine if the candidate is a good fit for the company that is hiring.  This is a really good way to gather some more information on their professional background, their ambitions, and ideal work environment.

3.  If the applicant were the CEO, what would they do to gain an edge on the competition?

This is to see how entrepreneurial your candidate is and if they are a critical thinker.  You want to hear something like, “I would form the best technology team, the best hr team, hire the best people and consistently take their advice on how to beat our competition.”  You also want them to give some more specifics on what “the best” is.  To them, what makes a good company?  If they were compiling their dream team, what type of people would they hope to hire and why?

Also, what are their thoughts on keeping the company a strong competitor in the field?  What ideas and strategies do they have to offer on surpassing the competition?

4.  What kind of support from the company does the applicant need to be successful and what would they do if that support went away?

The answer to this question reveals how confident the candidate is in their skills, and also the depth of knowledge they have about the kinds of resources available to them.  How independent do they come across, and what kinds of innovative technologies or equipment are they using to raise their game?

A technology expert might answer this question by telling you what technology he / she needs and why it is important for the company.  If it was to get taken away, the thoughtful applicant would put themselves in a situation where they would have to “make due” and could analyze what the outcome would be.

This question will also help you tune into the client’s problem solving skills.

5.  If the applicant were in your seat, what would they ask the prospective employee?

You obviously don’t want the usual, “why do you want to work here,” question, which usually leads to a prepared statement from the candidate.  Instead, you want to see if the candidate could think on their feet, whether or not they are assertive and in touch with others.  This also shows the creativity of the applicant.  Whether they are in technology, sales, or marketing, creativity is what makes a decent company great.  This question also reveals something about what might be important to the candidate.  You could follow up this question with asking them what the ideal answer would be.

6.  Give the applicant two marketing brochures from competitors and ask which one they would perceive to be a bigger threat.

This is an analytical question designed to gauge whether or not the applicant understands the overall business.  Typically, the more well-rounded employees are those who are able to make valuable contributions the overall business.  There is not necessarily a right answer to this question.  Even if you have a strong opinion of which competitor is more of a threat, the logic and reasoning of the candidate’s argument for whichever one they choose is what matters most.

7.  Ask the candidate why they want to be successful.

This is a “why, why” question.  If you want to make it hard, continue asking “why” to get a more in depth answer.  For instance, an interviewee may answer, “to make money.”  Asking, “why?” leads the candidate into explaining what they might do with that money, their future goals and more long term consequences of their present actions.  In addition, ask the candidate why they would feel successful if they achieved their goal.  How would they determine when their goal was met?

8.  Tell the candidate a rough salary and ask them why they would be worth it.

This question is to see how a candidate can monetize their worth.  Candidates will often throw a number out and a good interviewer will test them on why they can contribute x amount of dollars per year.

9.  For technology candidates, ask them how working with a specific software or hardware could help the HR or Marketing or Sales or Executive division function

It’s fine to have good IT people.  However, it’s great to have IT people who understand your business, your business goals, the people they are supporting and why they are supporting them.  IT is a division that is not to drive revenue.  Instead, it serves to facilitate and expedite the revenue process.  You also want to hear that the candidate is up to date with the latest technologies in their field and making creative use of what is already available to them.

10.  Ask the candidate who their favorite historical figure is and why.

Again, this is an analytical question.  See if the applicant comes up with someone whom you’ve never heard before, but more importantly, see if the applicant can support his / her answer with solid examples. Is this historical figure someone the candidate admires or aspires to be like?  Why?  You want to hear an answer that describes not just why the person is important in history, but why they are important to the candidate, and what the candidate has learned from them.

11.  For a marketing or sales candidate, ask how they would go about managing a marketing or sales team given a certain budget.

This will show the candidate’s ability to think like a manager and their familiarity with the current cost of successful marketing and sales campaigns.

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