Interview questions


30th October, 2018

The Magnificent 7 – questions to ask your potential first hire

Hiring your first full-time employee is a fantastic marker of a company’s success. You’re off and running. But is the person you hire the right fit?

Tapping into a network of contractors works for a while. At some point you’ll need to bring a full-time employee into the fold to tackle the workload without breaking the bank.

But whoever you hire as your first employee is pretty much going to become a de-facto partner in the success of the business – so it’s important you get this one right.

This could be a regular freelancer you’d like to bring on, you may advertise the role or it could be someone in your network. Whatever way, you’ll want to ask them some key questions before the contract is in sight.

For those flying solo, asking the right questions is tricky – there’s no background in hiring to fall back on.

Here’s the pick of the questions (in no special order) to ask so you land the right person:

1. “Beyond your skillset, how do you think you can help the company?”

If you’re interviewing somebody, you’ve probably rifled through a whole bunch of resumes. You’ve got an idea of their skills.

But given you’re in startup mode, the new hire needs to wear a few hats.

This question draws out the candidate’s homework on the company, its goals and aspirations. Or not.

Making this effort means they’ll show what else they can bring to the company beyond their resume’s bullet list.

2. “Do you have experience working in a startup environment?”

Startups aren’t everybody’s cup of tea. That’s okay.

Some people love routine – the 9 to 5 role means clearly defined responsibilities. You’ve got to sniff out the ones who relish the chaos of startup life.

You’ll need somebody who’s at ease in shifting sands, who can keep up with new goals and targets that may change day to day. So the thing to know is if they’ve worked in that environment before and if they enjoyed it.

3. “Why should we hire you?”

This may be a little blunt and to the point, but it’s a valuable question to ask.

People who are well-equipped for this answer are confident, not conceited, about themselves and their abilities.

You want somebody in your business who’s not overwhelmed by new tasks. The key to that is confidence.

On the other end of the spectrum, who wants someone who thinks the world of themselves – it’s about finding a good balance.

4. “Tell me about a time you were frustrated at work – what did you do about it?”

There’s no shaking it, frustration is a part of working life. That’s why it’s “work”, not “sit around and get paid”. It can also stem from a place of passion.

If you want a person who’s pushing the envelope, to do better, frustration can set in when they come up against walls.

But here’s that funny human experiment: how people handle their frustration? Is there a way over the wall or do they give up?

5. “What would you need from me to make sure you’re doing the best work you can do?”

On par with the priority to pay them is your working relationship. At least to begin with. We’re talking a quasi-partnership really.

That implies that it’s a bit of give-and-take, with them obviously helping you by doing the work – but also you providing an environment where they can do their best work.

This response will give you a sense of whether a lot of hand-holding is required or your newbie will work independently from the get go.

6. “What are your salary expectations?”

This one’s fairly simple, but can be forgotten.

There’s nothing worse (or awkward) than offering your dream candidate a role, only to find that the labour cost is way more than you can actually pay.

Some candidates offer way below market rates, too, and this is a surefire indicator that they lack confidence in their abilities.

7. “Do you have any questions for me?”

Curiosity is one of the most important qualities to look for in staff.

It’s the niggling desire that strives for new frontiers for the company. The employee who is curious is constantly learning and bringing new skills to the role.

The one thing curious people do, almost constantly, is ask questions.


Want to know more about hiring? MYOB has a handy-dandy guide to everything you need to hire right here for Australia.