Prospective Employee Interview Questions - especially for references

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by LawnLad, Mar 11, 2002.

  1. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    This is the time of year many of us look to bring on help. To date I've received a slew of applications, and of course, only a few worthy of interviews. A while back I came up with a list of good interview questions - or borrowed from a book called "The Five Minute Interview". Happy to share a few here with you - of course, in exchange for your good ones too.

    But what I'm really interested in knowing... when you call references, either work or personal - what questions do you ask? How do you elicit information from people that they may be hesitant to tell. Getting much more than, "He's a good person... hard worker, never had a problem." That's easy coming from a friend. Obviously the strength of the recommendation to begin with says something, but still, you want to get maximum information.

    For reference follow up I'm stuck verifying the information on the application.

    For work references:
    1) How long did the person work for you?
    2) Salary?
    3) Would you hire them again?
    4) What were his strong suits?
    5) Where did he need to improve?
    6) Can you tell me anything else about the person?

    For personal references:
    1) How do you know the person? How long?
    2) Can you tell me a little bit about them? - see if you get any follow up info you can ask secondary questions.

    Okay... since this forum is all about give and take, for your help with the above quesitons, maybe the questions below will help you out a little too. Quid pro quo.

    For a regular interview, here a few questions that are good conversation starters. They usually give you good info you can ask follow up questions. I like to try and get enough info that I can go three, four or five questions deep on follow up. Makes the intereview a good conversation while getting information that speaks to the persons character. Not necessarily in this order - as you may have to bounce around depending on the conversation. This is a partial list I use, beyond the questions abou the immediate technical position for which they are applying.

    1) What achievement at your last job are you most proud of? Why?
    2) What achievement are you least proud of? Why?
    3) What would you differently next time?
    4) What adjectives would you use to descirbe yourself?
    5) What kind of work environment are you most productive in?
    6) Similarly, what envirnoment are you least productive in?
    7) Of your past supervisors, who did you like best? Why?
    8) Who did you like least? Why?
    9) If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
    10) Did your last job have written performance appraisals? If so, what did it say?
    11) What was the basis for the evaulation?
    12) What did you think of your review?
    13) What aspects of your last job did you like best? Least?
    14) What are your greatest technical strengths?
    15) How do you feel they will help you on this job?
    16) What are you greatest technical weaknesses?
    17) What do you plan to do about it?
    18) What is the perfect job?
    19) Why should we hire you for this job?
    20) What questions do you have for me?!
  2. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    In calling employer references I ask yes no questions. That way there probably not be a be a problem with disclosure. I won't hire anyone who doesn't give an OK to check previous employers.

    Questions are like has he ever been late to work, been late more than once per month, been a discpline problem, had any safety violations, get along with others etc.

    I like people that have had cflose to 5 years somewhere recently as it show stability.

    I don't like people that complain about their boss, supervisor or crew members. I do take some of it with a gerain of salt becasue I know there are lots of A--hole owners and supervisors too.

    I give everyone an employee reliability inventory test from

    Other questions are have you ever been in the back of a police car and how many points do you have on your drivers license?
  3. Nebraska

    Nebraska LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 525

    Is it easier to teach an "old dog" new tricks or a "new dog" the ropes?

    Most references that are followed up on are going to be the ones the prospective employee wants you to know about.

    HB how long have you been using this assesment test and do the results that you get corespond with your experience after they are hired?
  4. stslawncare

    stslawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    from DE
    Messages: 1,484

    in business class they told us good interview questions that big companies like mbna ask are questions not even related to the field, just things that let u get to know there reactions to things, the way they think, and there personality.
  5. ohiolawnguy

    ohiolawnguy LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 397

    hey LawnLad. not to change the topic, but last year, I had an interview with the brickman group(20 minutes before i show up, the call me on my cell phone to tell me the position has already been filled. but, they still would like to see me)
    anyways, the interview questions you have
    posted are very similar to the ones that they asked me. so, considering that, i think your interview section is fairly solid.

    i wonder if there is some sort of standardized test out that could help an employer to decide whether an "experienced" lawncare proffesional is actually knowledgeable, or just filling the interviewer with BS? besides after hire testing like ODOA, ORLNA, and ALCA.
  6. gogetter

    gogetter Banned
    Messages: 3,256

    Aren't there laws about what you can ask previous employers?
    When I worked for a furniture store my supervisor told us that he was only allowed to ask certain questions when calling previous employers. And from what I remember they were very limited, like did he actually work there? From when to when?
    I thought he said he wasn't allowed to ask what kind of worker he was and stuff like that.
    Anybody else heard this?

    Perhaps this differs from state to state?
  7. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    gogetter... I'm no lawyer, but this is my understanding. As most of us would know, you can only ask job specific questions during an interview. You can't ask if they're married, have kids, handicaped, etc. But you can ask, "is there anything that will prevent you performing the job as it has been explained to you?" If they say their child care concerns may be a scheduling issue, they've opened the door to that discussion. You didn't ask specifically. They made it relevant.

    On the reference side, as a previous employer you should always ask for a release form before sharing any information. I won't talk to someone unless they fax/mail an authorization for release of information from the former employee. When I call on someone, if they don't require it, it's not my problem. I'll ask away. The burden is on them to draw the line on what they're willing to talk about. Some people won't talk about much of anything, other than answer yes/no questions. Maybe a little gun shy with all the lawyers out there. Regardless, you can ask, and if told, I don't see the harm in finding out the reasons why the company wouldn't hire your applicant again. Certainly I would keep the questions job specific, but I wouldn't be too concerned with the exact words.

Share This Page