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14 High-Impact Interview Questions to Supercharge Hiring

Nov 22, 2021 | Business

At Bolt, we’ve experimented with thousands of interview questions. It’s been a long road, but we’ve hired 300+ amazing people, and for our first five years, I personally interviewed every candidate. Today, I want to share the 14 questions I’ve found to be the most effective and impactful over the years. I hope they’ll give your hiring process a boost!

Question 1: I’ve read your bio, but how about we start by sharing each other’s stories?

This sounds fluffy, but it’s not—it’s crucial to learn who the candidate truly is. The best teams align skills, incentives, and personalities, but most hiring processes stop at the skills part. Get a well-rounded sense of the candidate by giving them an opportunity to tell their own story in their own words, right from the start.

Question 2: Give me an example of adversity you’ve had to overcome and how you pushed through?

The answers to this question will show you a lot about someone’s character. Especially as a startup, we face all sorts of adversity, major and minor, and it’s important to construct a team of creative problem-solvers.

Question 3: What achievement are you most proud of?

This allows you to peer into a lot of things, especially a candidate’s bar for achievement, which speaks to the level of excellence they strive for and expect; what makes them proud, which speaks to what motivates them; and how they weigh tradeoffs, which speaks to their judgment.

You can really dig in on this question with follow-ups like:

What part of the project did you own?

What was the toughest tradeoff you had to make?

What went wrong unexpectedly and how did you rebound?

There’s a lot of meat on this bone.

Question 4: What motivates you?

This question is aimed at the pride point from above. It’s important to understand why someone does what they do. If you feel like you’re getting a cookie cutter response, dig deeper to understand what motivates them on a deeper level.

Question 5: Who was your best boss? And your worst boss?

Ask for specifics here, too: What made them so great or so terrible? The answer will give you a really strong sense of what the candidate values in leadership. You’ll also get a sense of whether there’s a good fit with your style and approach.

Question 6: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

Everyone makes mistakes. For self-reflective and self-aware candidates, this should be a lay-up. For others, it’s a tough question. This also lets you know if they are comfortable talking about failure.

Question 7: What’s one thing people commonly misunderstand about you?

Everyone is misunderstood in some way—that’s what makes this question so powerful. I learn so much here. Remember, you’re not just looking to evaluate them, but also preparing yourself for working with them!

Question 8: What’s your greatest strength at work? What’s your greatest area for improvement?

I’m always amazed at how accurate people are assessing their own strengths and weaknesses. Instead of beating around the bush, just ask the question directly!

Question 9: Ask about a perceived weakness

During the interview, you’re evaluating in real time a candidate’s pros and cons. Instead of mulling over the cons in your head, give them a shot to turn you around. Make sure to ask questions that prove or disprove the concern. For example, if I think a candidate is a great executor but I’m concerned that they don’t have original ideas, I’ll ask what was the most creative or non-obvious project they undertook and how they came up with the idea.

Question 10: What’s an epic hiring close you made recently?

Don’t forget this important truth: No matter the role, in a startup, everyone is a recruiter. This is one of my favorite questions to ask (credit goes to Tido Carriero at Segment).

Question 11: Will people follow you here?

The best people bring other amazing people when they join you. It’s hard to predict this in advance, but I like asking this question directly to see what they say.

Question 12: What do you do for fun?

This is such an easy one to overlook, but I love to get the full spectrum of someone’s personality. Work is hard. You gotta work with people who have fun along the way. Both for your own benefit and for your team.

Question 13: So… what do you like about [Bolt]?

The most important question! If they’re talking to you, they should have a pretty good answer to this question. If their answer is something like, “I got an email and decided to interview”—no way. You need missionaries who believe in what you’re doing.

Question 14: What questions do you have for me?

I give them at least 10 minutes to ask me questions. Don’t forget that great candidates are also INTERVIEWING YOU. Interviews are half evaluation and half sales. Don’t forget the SELLING!

There we have it! These are the questions I rely on most to learn whether a candidate is a good fit at Bolt.

They are tried and true. My final tip is to show up present and engaged in interviews. It helps you evaluate better, and it also helps you leave a great impression.

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