My six favorite interview questions

Discussion
Jun 19, 2015
Doug Fleener

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of the Dynamic Experiences Group.

Here are some of my favorite interview questions, and why I ask them. The questions are loosely derived from behavioral-based interviewing techniques that provide insights into how the applicant acted in the past and how that might predict future behavior.

1. Tell me about your favorite store to shop. What makes it so special?

This helps to evaluate an applicant’s understanding of what makes a great store experience and what she personally values in a store. Push them to talk about a specific store.

2. Tell me about a poor store or restaurant experience you’ve had. What made it such a poor experience? What advice would you give the owner or manager of that business to improve the experience they deliver?

While similar to the first question, when you ask both you can get a clearer picture of what the applicant really believes. It’s a great question to ask a potential manager since you’re asking them how to fix the problem.

In-store personalization

3. Share with me an example of a time you were really upset with someone. Who was it? What were the circumstances? What was the outcome?

What I’m listening for here is how the person took responsibility for what was taking place. An applicant once got so upset reliving a situation as he described it, it was clear he had an anger issue.

4. Tell me about a successful team you were on or group you were a part of. What value did you add? What made this team successful?

With this question you can learn what a person values in a team, and if she understands how she contributes. I’m listening for how the person may have helped a team member, or how the group overcame some adversity. The team does not have to be work-related.

5. Tell me about a difficult customer you’ve had to deal with. Who was it? What about the situation made is so challenging? What did you do?

The answer will tell you how customer-focused the applicant really is, and if she wanted to satisfy the customer or just get rid of her.

6. Tell me about your favorite boss of all time. How do you carry the lessons from that person forward?

This is my favorite question. The applicant’s answer will tell you exactly how he wants to be managed.

Which of the interview questions mentioned in the article is your favorite? Are there any you would add?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I like these a lot! I’ve also used, "what is your X-Man superpower? That is the special talent you have that differentiates you from others and is perfect for certain types of situations?" In prior years, I’ve asked, "If you were a cigarette what brand would you be?""
"All of them are terrific questions. I think number three is guaranteed to take people out of their comfort zone, where pat answers will be impossible, so I like it best. But I’m a lousy interviewer because I tend to be gullible and think that most everyone is just wonderful, waiting for the right opportunity."

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12 Comments on "My six favorite interview questions"


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Joel Rubinson
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

I like these a lot! I’ve also used, “what is your X-Man superpower? That is the special talent you have that differentiates you from others and is perfect for certain types of situations?” In prior years, I’ve asked, “If you were a cigarette what brand would you be?”

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

I love these questions! Especially number five. Few store managers ask these probing questions. These six are pretty much all you need to get a great sense of how well the candidate may do on the job.

Warren Thayer
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

All of them are terrific questions. I think number three is guaranteed to take people out of their comfort zone, where pat answers will be impossible, so I like it best. But I’m a lousy interviewer because I tend to be gullible and think that most everyone is just wonderful, waiting for the right opportunity. So I often had team members who would be working with the applicant meet with him or her, so they could share impressions with me afterwards. I found it really useful. One good question I coulda-shoulda used once years ago: “Have you ever sued a previous employer?”

Max Goldberg
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Good questions. Once answered they present a well-rounded view of the candidate and how he/she looks at retail environments and personal interactions. I particularly like questions three and four. If a retailer truly values customer service, question three will highlight how the prospective employee will act in a difficult situation with an upset customer.

Grace Kim
Guest
Grace Kim
4 years 4 months ago

Favorite: Tell me about a successful team you were on or group you were a part of. What value did you add? What made this team successful?

I’d also ask: “Describe a time when things didn’t go your way. What did you learn from it and how did you overcome the situation?” You can tell a lot about a person’s character with this type of question, whether it’s to see their positive/negative attitude or to see whether they can think on their feet.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
4 years 4 months ago
Past behavior determines future success, therefore my interview questions are all around how interviewees handled themselves at work. What their favorite store to shop most likely will be one that gives them a deal. Favorite boss most likely was the one who was “flexible” or gave them hours. How about, “Can you give me an example of a time you screwed up with a customer and how you handled it?” In this case I can see how honest they are, how customer focused they are and can grade them in my head. An “A” answer is one in which they can give specific details, they apologized, took responsibility and made it right. A “C” answer is that the manager dealt with it and they learned from the mistake. An “F” answer is “I don’t screw up” so I’ll followup with “I think we can agree no one is perfect, think back again.” If they can’t, it stays an “F” answer. Hypotheticals like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” “What animal would you be… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

I like these. Questions three and five are strong indicators of the candidates’ customer service strength or weakness.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

There are two that resonate with me: “Tell me about your favorite store to shop. What makes it so special?” and “Tell me about a poor store or restaurant experience you’ve had. What made it such a poor experience? What advice would you give the owner or manager of that business to improve the experience they deliver?”

They provide insight into a person’s awareness of the shopping experience and how to improve them. We often forget about our own personal experiences when discussing the topic professionally. The answers are very frequently common sense but not common knowledge.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
4 years 4 months ago
Some of these questions are really good. They don’t make the mistake that most behavioral questions do by telling the applicant what the answer needs to be. As an example, tell me about a time you had to deal with an angry customer and how you solved the problem? Note we are telling the applicant that they needed to have solved the problem. I agree with the writer about the boss question; it can give you some real insight. The only addition I would make to this list is that they need to expand more into the area of attitudes. People in retail can be trained on the skills that are needed but it is hard to change people’s attitudes. When I design hiring processes for companies for hiring front line staff, we build questions that look for the following. 1. Taking responsibility: This would include responsibility to be at work on time, solving customer problems, and working well with others. If they have the attitude, we can give them the skill. 2. Wanting and… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

I’m told you might not be able to ask an applicant if he/she has ever sued a past employer, lest you be sued. This came to me from someone who is admittedly not a lawyer, but my thought is that you’d be best to avoid that line of questioning unless you get legal advice. As Uncle Wiggily would say, “Goodness gracious, and a piece of pie!”

Doug Fleener
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks everyone for your feedback and insight.

By the way Bob, I would be a laughing hyena. I guess I didn’t get hired!

Shep Hyken
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

I’m a customer service guy, so I’m partial to question number five, which is about handling the angry/upset customer. Love to hear how someone turned a situation around. Many times you can see them get excited as they share how they turned the rant into a rave.

I’d ask about their first job (they may have had as a teenager) and what they learned. I’d also ask them to spend time in the store and make suggestions about what they might change.

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Braintrust
"I like these a lot! I’ve also used, "what is your X-Man superpower? That is the special talent you have that differentiates you from others and is perfect for certain types of situations?" In prior years, I’ve asked, "If you were a cigarette what brand would you be?""
"All of them are terrific questions. I think number three is guaranteed to take people out of their comfort zone, where pat answers will be impossible, so I like it best. But I’m a lousy interviewer because I tend to be gullible and think that most everyone is just wonderful, waiting for the right opportunity."

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