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Interview Questions Every Small Business Owner Should Ask

We’re outlining key interview questions to help you uncover a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, and whether they align with your small business values and goals.

Blog Author - Amanda Beach
Amanda Beach
May 17, 20245 minutes
Blog Author - Amanda Beach
Amanda Beach

Amanda Beach is a writer, editor, and project manager with 10 years of experience in tech and HR. She currently resides in Denver, CO.

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For small business owners, hiring the right people is a cornerstone of business success. With the right team, the growth potential for your company can be unlimited. That’s why the interview process is so important. It gives you a chance to vet potential candidates to ensure they’re a good fit for your company's needs.

But what happens once you’ve actually got a candidate sitting in front of you? What do you need to ask to best evaluate their fit? Keep reading to learn more.

Understanding the Candidate's Experience and Skills

While diving into their resume, it's important to write down the first questions that come to mind. There’s nothing wrong with asking the candidate to clarify something on their resume. Asking about past work experience can also allow you to gauge the depth of their knowledge and how their skills might transition to your company’s needs. 

Candidates should also be able to articulate why they’re a good fit for the role based on their skill set. Small businesses often require employees to wear multiple hats or adapt to changing roles, so it’s important to get some insight on their adaptability as well. To help you dig into their experience, skills, and adaptability further, here are a few questions you can ask.

Past Work Experience

  • Can you tell me about your current or previous role and what your responsibilities were?

  • What did you like the best about your last role? What did you like the least? Why?

  • How has your past work experience prepared you for this role?

Relevant Skills and Competencies

  • Which skills do you think are most important for this position? How have you demonstrated them in the past?

  • Can you tell me about a time when you used a specific skill to overcome a challenge?

Adaptability and Learning

  • What is the biggest challenge you face when starting a new job?

  • How do you adapt to changes in the workplace? Do you have a process for navigating change?

  • Can you share an example of when you had to learn a new skill to complete a project or task?

Assessing Cultural Fit and Work Ethic

Skills are crucial for candidacy, but so is cultural fit. A candidate can have the perfect background and a comprehensive skill set, but they may not fit into the company’s culture. A candidate's ability to mesh with your company culture is critical. And understanding what environments candidates excel in and what engages them can help you determine if they’ll fit in with your small business culture. We’ve listed some good questions to help dig into these aspects of your candidates.

Cultural Fit

  • What type of work environment do you thrive in the most?

  • If you could describe your ideal company culture, what would it look like?

  • Why do you want to work for a smaller company?

Work Ethic and Motivation

  • Can you tell me about a time when you went above and beyond for a job?

  • What motivates or energizes you at work? What doesn’t?

Problem-solving and Decision-making Abilities

As a small business owner, facing unique challenges that require quick thinking and problem-solving is commonplace. It’s important that the people you hire can contribute when things get tough. Ask questions that allow candidates to explain how they approach and resolve difficult situations. Small businesses will always benefit from employees who think outside the box and bring new ideas to the table.

Handling Difficult Situations

  • Can you tell me about a challenging problem you faced at work and how you solved it?

  • Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision quickly. What was the outcome?

  • What would you do if you don't know how to help a coworker or client?

Creativity and Innovation

  • Give me an example of a time when you implemented an innovative solution at work.

  • How do you approach projects or tasks that require creative thinking?

  • Where do you find inspiration as it relates to your current or previous role?

Communication Skills and Teamwork

Being able to work well with others and effectively communicate are essential in any workplace setting. Make sure to evaluate a candidate's communication skills and their approach to conflict resolution. Understanding a candidate’s role in a team setting can help you see how they might fit into any existing team dynamics you may already have. If you need some examples, check out the questions below.

Communication Style

  • How do you make sure you’re effectively communicating with your team?

  • Tell me about a time when your communication skills helped resolve a work conflict.

  • How do you communicate expectations with coworkers? With clients?

Team Collaboration

  • What role do you typically take on when working on team projects?

  • Can you share an example of when you had to work closely with others to achieve a common goal?

  • What do you do to help facilitate effective collaboration across a large team?

Learning from Past Mistakes

Mistakes are inevitable. We’ve all made them. They key, however, is how one learns and grows from them. A candidate should be able to speak to their past mistakes and explain what they learned from those experiences. Use the following questions to gather insight into a candidate's resilience and their ability to learn from their mistakes.

Overcoming Failure

  • Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle.

  • Can you tell me about a time when you failed? How did you handle it?

  • What did you learn from your biggest professional mistake?

Wrapping Up the Interview

As the interview comes to a close, there are still a few questions that are important to ask. One of those should be asking the candidate what questions they have. Giving candidates the opportunity to ask questions shows their level of interest and engagement with the interview process. Salary and start date are also two things to ask the candidate about. These logistical questions help set the stage for potential job offers and salary negotiations. These final questions can remain fairly simple.

Candidate Questions

  • What questions do you have for me about the role or the company?

Next Steps

  • What are your salary expectations?

  • If offered the position, when would you be available to start?

Interviewing candidates can be both an art and a science. As a small business owner, it’s a crucial skill to master if you want to build a successful and cohesive team.  The goal of an interview is not just to fill a vacancy, you want to find someone who will bring value, drive, and a strong work ethic to your company. By asking the right questions, you can make informed hiring decisions that will support your business’s growth and success for years to come.

How Justworks Can Help

Running a business takes a lot of time and energy. Between running payroll, maintaining compliance, and finding the right people to help you do it all…you barely have time to sleep! But you don’t have to lose sleep to succeed.

Justworks PEO offers 24/7 support with access to experienced HR Consultants who can provide valuable insights into the interview and hiring process. Not only will you be able to connect with these knowledgeable resources, but you’ll also get access to high-quality benefits, powerful payroll software, and HR tools to keep onboarding moving smoothly. It’s hard enough to find the right candidates to fill your open roles, so why stress about finding the right solutions for growing your business? Justworks PEO has your back. Get started today!

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.
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Written By
Blog Author - Amanda Beach
Amanda Beach
May 17, 20245 minutes

Amanda Beach is a writer, editor, and project manager with 10 years of experience in tech and HR. She currently resides in Denver, CO.

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