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The Best Job Interview Questions You Should Ask

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Interviewing prospective job candidates can be an onerous task. And, often, valuable time is wasted conducting interviews that leave you no closer to finding out anything useful about the people you've met. BusinessNewsDaily asked five hiring experts to tell us what questions they would ask to find out what they need to know before making the hire .

Question:  When you finish your work, what do you like to do? -- Michael Mercer, author of the new book: "Job Hunting Made Easy" (Castelgate Publishers, 2011)

"The question is artfully vague, in that the applicant is not told if the answer should focus on work or personal activities. Work-oriented applicants who possess fantastic work ethic will give an answer that is work-focused. For example, they may talk about how they ask their boss for more work, ask co-workers if they need help or find another project to start. Applicants who are not work-oriented and have a lousy work ethic will talk about personal, nonwork activities they would do, such as eating, going out or other entertainment, or playing with their kids, family or pet."

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Question: What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone? -- Evan Carmichael, founder of Evancarmichael.com, which provides expert business advice to entrepreneurs

"At our company, we look to hire people who are 'nice.' It's a personality trait that’s important to our company culture. The question usually catches the person off guard, and you usually get a pretty honest answer."

Question: Tell me about yourself. -- Arlene S. Hirsch, career and psychological counselor

"The 'tell me about yourself' question is still one of the best ways for an interviewer to evaluate a candidate.  Since it is a question that is often asked, it is also one that the interviewer would expect a candidate to have prepared and rehearsed.  If the candidate is surprised or unprepared, it tells the interviewer that the candidate didn’t do their homework. The way the candidate presents and organizes the information is also important.  Well-prepared candidates will have researched the company, analyzed the job description, and organized their presentation in a way that reflects a good fit between the candidate and the position or company.

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Although candidates say they hate the question, I think they should embrace it.  The employer is giving them the time and space to really talk about themselves in a meaningful and convincing way."

Question: I’m interested in learning about a time when you were at your best. What was the situation, the actions that you took, and the end result? -- Alan Carniol, co-founder of Career Cadence

"The candidate’s response should highlight what they consider their best attributes. If these attributes aren’t a match for what’s needed in the job, then this isn’t the right person. Also note that some interview candidates are great employees, but not interviewees. These are separate skills. For example, someone who is impressive on a first date may not necessarily make a good spouse. If the candidate struggles with providing a complete response to this question or others, the interviewer shouldn’t be afraid to follow up with questions, like ‘Were there any other actions that you took?’ or ‘What skills did you use?’ or ‘What were you thinking at that moment?’"

Question: What type of reference do you think your former boss will give you when I call? -- Steve Penny, owner of Hiring the Best People

"It forces the applicant to answer questions from their former boss’s perspective.  They want to get their two cents in before they think you are going to talk to their boss .  You get them to reveal information you would never get as candidly if you called the boss who is afraid of saying anything that could lead to a lawsuit."

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.

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