52 Interview Questions

Over the years I found myself becoming more frustrated with the interview process.  As I mentioned here last week https://ps1944.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/lessons-learned-hire-wisely/, the interview is a game that both particpants understand very well.  The questions and answers are pretty much rote.  “Tell me about yourself.”  What are your career goals?”  “Why do you want to work here.”  Tell me about your greatest professional achievement.”  Blah, blah, blah.   Nobody ever had a bad experience, the candidates are nearly always likeable and they can hardly wait to start.

So, what’s wrong?  I have found that too often once the interview was over, I really had no idea if the person could actually perform.  Could she solve a problem?  How does he think?  What’s she like under pressure? 

Then I read How Would You Move Mount Fuji? by William Poundstone.  He looked at the interview techniques at Microsoft, which receives over 12,000 resumes a month.  They figured out that they needed to really understand how people think and solve problems.  They devised questions to learn that.  The point is that the answer is not necessarily right or wrong.  What is really important is how did the person go about solving the problem?  That display of critical thinking was usually pretty accurate in telling the interviewer how the candidate would perform at Microsoft.

So, inspired by that I devised 52 of my own questions.  Some are more advertising centric, which I used in  my Incredibly Successful Career at the intergalactic agency.  Most of the questions can be used anywhere.  Hopefully they will inspire you to come up with your own.  Either way, these kinds of questions are sure to spark an interesting and revealing conversation.  You do want to know how candidates think, don’t you?

Fifty-Two Questions

 The Premise:  The most useful skills are curiosity, problem solving, thinking, intuition, honesty, team building and relationship building (both internally and with clients.)  In other words:  leadership.

Interviews must be able to give you a decent, albeit imperfect, sense of those qualities.  Whether among existing employees or potential employees there must be some definitive sense of the abilities of these people.  Our success is predicated upon having people who can think and solve problems.  These are people who inspire, instruct, inform and confidently lead their team and their clients while solving business problems.

 These questions can provide some insight as to the problem-solving and thus,  leadership potential of candidates.

 1.  Tell me something that might surprise me about you.

 2. What are you most proud of personally and professionally?

3.  What law would you change?  Why?

4.  What is the greatest invention/innovation of the past 100 years? Why?

5.  Why or why not?

6.  What do you want most right now?

7.  Which state in the United States would you eliminate?  Explain why.

8.  How do people dream who are blind from birth?

9.  How would you convince someone to donate blood?

10.  How should music be sold?

11.  Which of your qualities do you most want in the U.S. president?

12.  Tell me about your best vacation ever.

13.  What qualities did your best boss have?

14.  What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

15.  Whose job would you find most rewarding?

16.  What do you do worst?

17.  What scares you?

18.  What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?

19.  Would you rather lead the parade or be in the parade?

20.  What does work/life balance mean to you?

21.  Would you prefer to work four days for a little less money, or five days for more-money?

22.  How would you sell a great idea that is off strategy?

23.  How would you convince a client to go beyond the budget for a great idea?

24.  Your creative team is always late, always over budget and always has killer ideas.  What should you do?

25.  What are you doing to improve?

26.  Name three guests you would love to see speak at a company meeting.

27.  What are the five best books you ever read?

28.  Who would you add to Mt. Rushmore?  Why?

29.  Describe the perfect client.

30.  How do you become invaluable to a client?

31.  What should you do to improve work?

32.  What invention do you wish you created?

33.  What was the best gift you ever received?  That you gave?

34.  If you received $1 million, what would you do with the money?

35.  You made a mistake that cost several thousand dollars.  What should you do?

36.  The client just called and said that the phone number in their ad is wrong and they won’t pay for the ad.  How would you resolve this?

37.  You day-to-day client contact is a jerk.  How can you improve the situation?

38.  Your company has a chance to get a new account that represents millions of dollars in revenues and more money for all employees.  It has a reputation as being abusive to agencies.  If the agency does not get this client, there will probably be layoffs.  If you were the CEO what would you do?

39.  Would you rather work in a company with a roster of really interesting clients, a great reputation, make lots of money AND have to work 70-80 hour weeks; OR a company that has solid clients that are incredibly profitable and you can work 40-50 hours a week?

40.  You have to hire a new creative director.  One candidate is an established CD who has worked on many high-profile, award-winning campaigns. Everywhere he has gone the agency has picked up new business and gained increased stature.  But he is also known as an insufferable prima donna.  The other candidate is a great guy, never been a CD, done some good things…nothing flashy.  He supposedly has great potential.  But he isn’t well known and probably won’t get you any new business right away.  Who would you hire?

41.  What do integrated communications mean to you?

42.  Many say that traditional advertising is a dinosaur and becoming less relevant in today’s business world.  What do you think?

43.  Describe your dream house.

44.  Do you read the directions or dive in?

45.  What is a favorite guilty pleasure of yours? (Keep it clean)

46.  What’s the greatest event you ever attended?

47.  When has your intuition served you best?

48.  What is the single most important thing you have learned?

49.  What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done for someone else?

50.  Describe a time you managed up.

51.  What do you love about technology?  What do you dislike?

52.  Write your epitaph. (One paragraph)


2 responses to this post.

  1. The 52 questions will change my job also! i have attended many interviews and i was unable to answer few of this questions. Can have a place where i can get answers? Thanks a lot


  2. Again, there are not right or wrong answers. Success lies within your problem solving ability. Thus how you approach it, how you think about it, what your research is and various considerations are the “right” answers.


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