Eight Interview Questions Every Small Business Owner Should Ask

Discover the eight pivotal interview questions every small business owner should ask to uncover the true potential of candidates and build a team poised for success.

Starts at $0 + state fees and only takes 5-10 minutes

Excellent 4.7 out of 5 stars 15,281 reviews

Hiring an employee – especially your first employee – is immensely exciting for any successful entrepreneur. After all, you’re inviting a new person into your organization to help you achieve your business goals. However, it can also present challenges. 

As a small business owner, you likely will be working one-on-one with this new hire or in a very small group. In either situation, you have many considerations to weigh. You want to ensure that the person does their job well, but you also have to consider how personalities will mesh and how well you’ll work together. You can’t learn this type of information about the interviewee on business connection websites like LinkedIn.

After you’ve written the job description and reached the interview process, you can speak personally with the candidates interested in your position. This allows you to learn more about them beyond what’s listed under the work experience section on their resume. This information can help you make the right hiring decision, if you ask the right questions. 

As you prepare to walk into your next interview, here are eight of the best interview questions to help gauge whether the person in front of you is the right fit for your company culture.

1. What motivates you at work?

Every person has a source of professional motivation. For some people, it may come from the excitement and love for their field, while the paycheck might motivate others. No right answer really exists regarding motivation. 

However, when you speak with potential new hires, learning about their motivation can tell you a lot about their values and personal drive. You’ll see how well their thoughts and values align with your own and any other team members. It can also give you a good idea of their personality and professional work ethic, which can help you determine if this person fits at your organization well.

2. What is your work style?

Each person who comes in for an interview will also likely have their own work style. However, in a small business like yours, this is an important area where you want to ensure that personalities fit together well. 

You don’t have to have the same work style, but you have to be comfortable working with each other. If one person prefers to work individually, while their co-worker likes to talk through their questions, clashes will likely occur. When you have only a couple of people in the office, these differences will only be magnified, so you want to find work styles that complement each other.

3. What are you looking for in this position?

Professionals generally apply to jobs with two types of goals in mind. On the one hand, they want to accomplish goals for the company — they see the value they can add to the organization and have ideas of what they would like to achieve. On the other hand, they hope this particular job will help them reach their personal goals in their long-term career.

Understanding how a particular candidate views this job can help you gauge the value they place on the position and how well they align with your ideas. Some related questions that could make a good follow-up here include specifics on what drew the candidate to this position and the company as a whole.

4. Why did you leave your last position

People leave jobs for various reasons, ranging from boredom to wanting to escape a personality conflict with someone else at the organization. Although this question doesn’t have a right or wrong answer, it helps provide you with clues into this candidate’s work personality and context for their work history. 

If they have left multiple jobs in the past because of interpersonal conflict, for example, they might not be a good fit for your opening. The more you understand the environment and history that this candidate would bring to a particular job, the better decision you’ll make regarding their fit. 

5. How would you handle this situation?

Most businesses face certain recurring stressful situations. For example, a marketer might have clients who don’t understand that SEO doesn’t bring results overnight. They may receive calls from panicked clients until those clients begin to see the fantastic results that the marketer brings. A heating specialist might face urgent calls at all hours of the night during the cold winter months. 

Pick a common situation that your business faces and ask the candidate how they think they would handle it. Their answers will help you better see:

  • How well their solution aligns with your solutions
  • Their thinking process about problem-solving
  • How they might react in a typically stressful situation 

6. What do you like to do for fun?

A common hiring mistake is not asking questions beyond the job. Knowing how a person enjoys their free time can also provide immense benefits during an interview. Many people find that it helps to put the candidate at ease. They feel more comfortable speaking about the topics and activities that interest them outside of work, helping them relax and answer future questions more naturally.

7. What do you want in an ideal work environment?

Small business environments can be unique in many ways. For some people applying to your open position, it might represent a change from the environments where they worked before. They might be accustomed to more people moving about the office, additional people needed to coordinate projects, and more bureaucracy to accomplish basic tasks. Although many professionals thrive in a small business environment and appreciate entrepreneurship, you want to make sure that the candidate in front of you is one of them.

The insight they provide into their ideal work environment, such as communication strategies between colleagues, collaboration structures, and expectations of the typical workday, can help you see how well they fit into the reality of your office.

8. Do you have any questions for me?

Hiring managers know it’s a good idea to allow candidates to ask questions about the company at the end of the job interview. This can help you get to know your candidate in a few ways:

  • You’ll get a better sense of the level of interest the candidate has in the job. If they have read up about your company, what you want to accomplish, and their role, they’ll likely be more prepared to ask highly relevant questions.
  • You’ll be able to make sure you don’t miss covering important issues. Candidates have factors that impact their job search as well, and you should discuss any critical information with this candidate that could impact the decision-making process.
  • It also provides the candidate with the chance to get to know you a little bit better.

Remember that, following an interview, it’s not only you who selects the candidate — the candidate must also select you and your organization. In the small work environment of your entrepreneurial business, you want to give them the chance to learn more about your vision for the company and what you hope to accomplish so that they can make the best decision, and you can be confident that your hire is the best fit for the job.

Use smart interview strategies to set your business up for success

Hiring a new employee for your business is an exciting but daunting task, particularly when it’s your first time. Bringing someone new into your small business requires careful evaluation of the candidate, as bad hires can hinder a successful business. You want to bring in a professional who will fit well with your organization since there will be a limited number of people working there. 

Having personalities that work well together, a common understanding of the organization’s goals, and a working relationship that will help the business grow and thrive are critical. As you prepare for your interview, consider adding the questions above to your list to give you a more thorough understanding of your candidates.

As your business begins to grow, ensure that you’re also keeping up with the required paperwork. At ZenBusiness, we want to make it easy for startups to stay on top of the documents they need to form a business plan, build their organization, and track their progress. Learn more about how you can use our services to keep your business moving forward.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

zenbusiness logo

Written by Team ZenBusiness

Start Your LLC