5 Important Questions Entrepreneurs Must Ask Potential Employees

By Randall Orser | Small Business


Business man with magnifying glassWhether you’re a new entrepreneur or you’re at the cusp of financial independence, you should be focused on hiring the best. A great idea can’t survive an incompetent team, but a good idea backed by superstars can take over the world. Fortunately, asking the right questions can increase the odds of getting them in your team. Even when the company grows to a point when being personally present at every interview becomes impractical, your interviewers must keep asking these same questions.

  1. “Have You Played Team Sports Before?”

You can’t do it alone as an entrepreneur. In fact, no one on your team can do it alone and it is often detrimental to the start-up as a whole to even try. Teamwork makes your start-up more than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, it’s only as effective as the weakest link. One bad apple spoils the bunch.

Anyone you hire must work well in a team. The best solo act can bring down your company if you’re not careful. Asking them about their team sports experience can give you a glimpse into how they work in a group.

  1. “What Would You Change About the Company?”

You want brave people in your start-up. Anyone working at your start-up will be under constant pressure, either from the idea that their job could evaporate at any moment no matter how well they work, or due to the hours you’ll need them to take. There is no faster shortcut to finding out how brave a potential employee is than asking them what they would change about your start-up.

If they give an answer, prod them. Ask them why that’s the change they would make. The answer may not make sense to you because you have more information than them, but they don’t necessarily need the right answer. The fact they’re willing to not just point out a flaw but to offer a solution to that flaw makes them a good potential hire.

If they have no answer, prod them. Find out how much they actually know about your start-up and whether or not that ignorance is due to information being unavailable or a general attitude problem.

  1. “What Was the Last Educational Book You’ve Read?”

Plenty of people read, but not everyone reads to learn. Instructional documents and tutorials are boring to most people. The exception lies in people who’re eager to improve themselves. These are the people you want on the team. These people have the initiative and intelligence required to contribute to and survive in a start-up.

What they’re learning is largely unimportant, though it’s certainly beneficial if they’re reading up on marketing or sales. The fact is, they’re trying to improve themselves. You’ll need people who can grow with the start-up. If they can’t keep up with the start-up’s growth and the challenges that’ll scale with that growth, they’ll become dead weight.

  1. “What’re Your Hobbies?”

As an entrepreneur, you may have come to the conclusion that a work-life balance is functionally impossible. The start-up needs your attention and when it comes time to choose between your company and your family, the company will and probably should win. This makes any downtime or hobbies important. Whatever time you can scrape together for yourself is time you spend recovering from work.

Asking potential employees what they do for fun informs you of their lifestyle and whether or not they can survive being in a start-up. Those with no hobbies may seem good on paper, but they’re more likely to burn-out than burn bright. Look for people who can stop working and focus on rest and recovery.

  1. “What Professional Accomplishment Are You Most Proud Of?”

What people are proud of is indicative of what values they hold dear. Asking an interviewee which of their professional accomplishments they’re most proud of will tell you how they define success and how much they’ve actually gotten done. For the most part, the scale of their success isn’t important – you want to focus on what kind of success it was.

Is it the kind of success that indicate meeting goals or surpassing them? You’re looking for the latter, for people who don’t just meet the deadline but instead get things done early so they can do even more. You want people who aren’t satisfied with meeting quotas. They want instead to prove that more can be done.

These questions aren’t perfect. Even employees who answered them correctly may turn out to be duds. As an entrepreneur, that’s just a risk you’ll have to take. However, asking these questions reduces the odds of getting a dud and increases the chance that whomever you hire will benefit your start-up for years to come.

About the Author

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