Ques­tions to ask when inter­viewing job candi­dates, based on Appre­cia­tive Inquiry prin­ci­ples. These are designed to create story­telling expe­ri­ences for the candi­date that produce more in-depth under­standing for the candi­date and you.

Set-up each time for yourself and the candidate

  • There are no right or wrong answers.
  • We’re together to discuss the posi­tion that’s open, and whether it’s the right one for you. So this is a discovery process for us both.
  • Encourage the candi­date to ask ques­tions throughout the inter­views. “I’ll ask some ques­tions, and feel free to ask any ques­tions you might have as we go along.”
  • What do you hope to find out today?
    [both answer] or What are your expec­ta­tions about our conver­sa­tion today?

Probing questions

  • Can you tell me in more detail what you mean?
  • Why is that impor­tant to you?
  • What do you have in mind?
  • How do you feel about this?
  • Can you give me some exam­ples?
  • From what context do you ask?

Closing at end of each conversation

Is there any ques­tion you wish I had asked but didn’t?

[you and candi­date both answering these ques­tions, reviewing the process]
  • How does where we are at this moment compare to where we intended to be?
  • How did we have ____ [fun] in our conver­sa­tion today?
  • What worked today?
  • What would we do differ­ently next time we talk?

Your reflection after each conversation

Record your impres­sions imme­di­ately after the conver­sa­tion. Consider asking the candi­date to answer these ques­tions as well now, and share them after the candi­date has joined the staff as a way to deepen the under­standing of each other and clarify any assump­tions.

  • List the things that stood out for you about the candi­date. What stood out most strongly?
  • What do you consider the essence of this candidate’s success? What is this candidate’s source of commit­ment? What images, stories, or metaphors capture that essence?
  • What did you notice about your­self and your own system?
  • What poten­tial new oppor­tu­ni­ties for your­self and your system occurred to you?
  • What are the most impor­tant insights you took away from the call/visit?
  • What ques­tions or puzzles arose in your mind during the call/visit?
  • How are your obser­va­tions about the candi­date similar to your values, beliefs and behavior? How are your obser­va­tions similar to behav­iors that you do not appre­ciate? How do you know your obser­va­tions are about the candi­date and not about you?

First phone conversation

  • How did you learn about our orga­ni­za­tion?
  • Why are you inter­ested in the posi­tion? or Why would you like to work here? or What are some of the reasons you’re inter­ested in this posi­tion? Stay with this ques­tion awhile — it will give you a sense of what is moti­vating the inter­viewee.
  • What do you already know about our orga­ni­za­tion? [clarify assump­tions]
  • What attracted you to [your company’s product i.e. “cancer care”]?
  • What attracted you to working in [your company’s busi­ness i.e. “medi­cine”]?
  • How can we have the most fun in these conver­sa­tions? [both answer]

Second phone conversation

Outstanding achieve­ment. Ask the candi­date to “Take a minute and think about your most outstanding, signif­i­cant profes­sional achieve­ment.”

  • Invite the candi­date to share their story. “What is a story from your own life that describes a time when you glimpsed your own highest poten­tial?”
  • What about you made this achieve­ment possible?
  • What did you see and how did you feel about what you saw?

Be patient; honor the time it takes the candi­date to be comfort­able with sharing their story. The candi­date may need some quiet time. Encourage confi­dence, even bold­ness about how they describe them­selves and, above all, actively listen.

Your calling, your contri­bu­tion

  • What called you to [the skill/work] initially?
  • What contri­bu­tion did you envi­sion making and how have you succeeded in making that contri­bu­tion?

Peak moments

  • Can you iden­tify any “peak moments” in __________ [the skill/work]? i.e., moments that embody what you feel __________ [the skill/work] is all about?
  • What make these moments “peak moments” for you?

Your week

  • Tell me about a week in your present job.
  • What’s appealing to you?
  • What would you do differ­ently?
  • What are the pres­sures in your current job?

Expec­ta­tions and feed­back

  • In your current posi­tion, what are the “indi­ca­tors of success” that tell you that you are doing your job the way you’d most like to do it?
  • How do you know when you’re doing things right?

In the flow. Think of a time when you were so engaged and alive in your work you lost all track of time.

  • What was happening?
  • What were you doing, feeling?
  • What circum­stances allowed for such an incred­ible expe­ri­ence?
  • What gave such meaning to that moment?

Service to others. Think about the most memo­rable expe­ri­ence you have had as a customer.

  • Can you tell me where it was?
  • What were you doing, and what about this expe­ri­ence made it so special?
  • Now, can you share with me the most satis­fying expe­ri­ence that you had serving someone else?
  • Where were you working?
  • Who was the customer?
  • What were they wanting?
  • How did you help them?

In-person interview

These ques­tions are often adapted to the comfort level of the candi­date after 2–3 inter­views. Meaning, you can frame similar ques­tions that are easier. When you ask these ques­tions, give the candi­date suffi­cient time to formu­late an answer.

Collab­o­ra­tion. Tell me about a time when you were a member of a group who collab­o­rated to achieve amazing results perhaps even in the face of many chal­lenges.

  • What allowed you to work together so elegantly even in the diffi­cult times?
  • What were you doing? What were others doing?
  • What methods did you use to make deci­sions?
  • What did the orga­ni­za­tion provide that created such an impor­tant outcome? (tools, resources, people)

Trust and hope. Describe successful expe­ri­ences you have had in which trust and hope were essen­tial elements.

  • What does trust mean to you?
  • How do you demon­strate it?

Your passions

  • If you could create any work envi­ron­ment you wished, an envi­ron­ment that would be incred­ibly mean­ingful for you, what would you wish for?
  • What would your ideal look and feel like?
  • What kind of people would you be working with?
  • What do you value deeply? or What are the essen­tial values and purposes that make you who you are, without which you would cease to be?
  • How are these values reflected in your work?
  • Which of these values are most impor­tant to your future?

Rela­tion­ships: your managers. Think about the [managers] you’ve worked with and select the one you found to be the most enjoy­able or exciting in your work together.

  • What makes it enjoy­able and exciting to work with this person? What’s happening when things are great?
  • How has this person contributed to your success?
  • What are some of the ways that this person has enabled you to do your best work?
  • What did you learn from this person?
  • How did you know you were doing good work? [feed­back]

Rela­tion­ships with colleagues

  • What do you think are the chal­lenges in working with [various depart­ments]?
  • What different person­al­i­ties have you observed in the orga­ni­za­tions you’ve worked with?
  • What are the different ways you receive feed­back from your current employer?

Lessons learned. Think about the events in your life that turned you in a new posi­tive direc­tion. Some­times they are the things that make me go “a ha!”.

  • What was one of the most memo­rable expe­ri­ences for you? or What is a story of a turning point in your life that brought you here?
  • What were you doing, and what about this expe­ri­ence made it so special?
  • As a result of that expe­ri­ence, what would you bring to our orga­ni­za­tion?

Chal­lenges. Think about some of the chal­lenges facing [your industry] today.

  • Which insti­tu­tions and/or indi­vid­uals are in the best posi­tion to deal with these chal­lenges and why?
  • What lessons could we learn from them?

Change. Think about a time when you were involved in an orga­ni­za­tion that was going through lots of change.

  • How did you cope with that?
  • Tell me about how your job changed through that process?

Our company

  • From what I’ve told you and what you’ve read about our company, what are you expecting to find at our orga­ni­za­tion?
  • What do you find most exciting about our [product i.e. “cancer care”]?
  • What do you think will be the chal­lenges?
  • What do you hope to accom­plish at [orga­ni­za­tion]?
  • What will success look like? Why will it be impor­tant to you?

Your future

  • How do you see this job fitting in with your plans for the future?
  • Why do you think we should hire you?

Your reflection before hiring

If possible, share these answers with the candi­date after they have joined your staff.

  • What qual­i­ties and skills are needed for a person to succeed in this posi­tion?
  • How has this list changed for you since the inter­views began?
  • What have you learned from others about how the candi­date would fit in?
  • What concerns do you have about the candi­date fitting in? Or the change the candi­date would bring?
  • How do you see the busi­ness differ­ently because of our [you and candi­date] time together?
  • What do you believe the candi­date will learn from this expe­ri­ence?
  • How do you see the company impacting the candi­date?
  • What do you believe the candi­date will learn from you person­ally?