Guest Post: The Best Interview Questions To Help You Hire a Human (er…employee) by Jamie Sussel Turner

Jamie Sussel Turner is a former school principal living in New Jersey who is now a professionally certified coach and author. I met Jamie at a conference we were both invited to attend this past Spring and we quickly connected with our mutual passion for writing and coaching in a way that helps others create practical, forward-moving career strategies. I’m thrilled to have Jamie provide a guest blog on hiring and interview tips.


Jamie Turner 2015.SueAs a school principal, I once hired a teacher who cried at her interview. The tears welled up when she identified kindness as one of her best attributes.

I followed up by asking, “What made you value kindness?” She quietly dabbed at her eyes as she talked about lessons from her mother, who had recently passed away.

Years later, she told me that she left our meeting thinking, “I’m sure I blew that interview! There’s no way they’re hiring a teacher who cries.”

But that was not the case. As the door closed behind her, my colleague and I beamed at one another, “She’s just what we’re looking for!”

You may not want to hire an employee who cries so easily or values kindness so deeply.

But, when you identify what qualities you do want and ask interview questions that uncover them, you’ll be on your way to hiring a great human being.

Notice I didn’t say a great employee.ID-10087394-1 free digital hire me

Always remember you’re hiring a human being first. Because if you don’t care about the human side of the hiring equation you will end up paying a steep price down the road when you discover your newly hired employee has a bad attitude, unenthusiastic personality, or poor character.

It won’t matter if they’re great at their job. You and your team will quickly become frustrated and annoyed.

This is because the skills people bring to a job vary and people’s job skills grow over time. But attitude, personality, and character—what I call the APCs—are not likely to change. So, just as you learned your ABCs are critical to reading and writing, you can learn how focusing on APCs will be the essential element to hiring the right person for your business.

Great Interview Questions Can Uncover APCs (attitude, personality and character)

Most job candidates come to an interview prepared to answer the typical questions about their strengths and weaknesses, etc… When you go beyond the usual questions by asking open-ended, thought-provoking questions you have the best chance of pulling back the mask on your candidate and revealing their true nature.

Here are a few questions to get you started (along with what they may reveal):

  • In your last job, what made it a good day? Do they demonstrate a positive attitude? Are they focused on others (versus self) and the impact of what they do on others or the organization? A good follow-up is, “So, what made it a bad day?”
  • What are you passionate about? Do they have an energetic attitude? Is their passion something that fits with what you’re hiring them to do? Are they just giving you the answer they think you want?
  • What’s an example of something you really believe in and were able to impact in some powerful way? Do they know who they are? Do they recognize their value and ability to make a positive difference?
  • What have you read lately? Do they try to impress you with the current “hot” book? Or are they truly a reader. Do they mention books that show they value learning and growth?
  • Describe a situation that was a failure in your life and what you did about it. Are they willing to show you their warts and be vulnerable enough to share a significant failure? What is their attitude about failure? Do they see failure as a learning opportunity?
  • What do you do when you don’t know what to do? What is their personality around collaboration? Do they see others as part of their team? Do they have initiative? Are they resourceful? Do they know when to ask for help? Do they dive into research and never come up for air?
  • What are you most proud of? Do they mention character traits like perseverance, honesty, kindness, or self-control? Do they zoom in on material possessions? Do they highlight relationships or growth?

Interviewing is not an exact science—there’s a “gut call” factor involved. But when you design open-ended questions, that uncover a candidate’s attitude, personality and character, you can have a better shot at finding a human being who is the best fit for your organization.

Short term hiring leads to short term results. If you want greater success invest in hiring the best human beings you can find.

Oh, and by following this approach, you won’t be surprised to learn that the crying teaching candidate described above turned out to be one of my best hires!

So, I’d say that if you hire someone with the right skill set and the wrong attitude personality and character you’ll be kicking yourself before the year is up. What would you say?


Book CoverJamie Sussel Turner, M.Ed PCC is an author, speaker, and professional coach based in Sea Bright, New Jersey. Jamie works with business owners and executives who are stressed because work has taken over their lives.

As a former school principal, Jamie has extensive leadership expertise and has earned dual masters degrees. Her book, Less Stress Business: A Guide for Hiring, Coaching and Leading Great Employees was awarded as a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Book Awards. She is a certified Social and Emotional Intelligence Coach and a Fierce Conversations Certified Facilitator. Jamie’s leadership has been featured in journals and newspapers including The New York Times.

Click here to sign up for Jamie’s Blog.


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