Selecting the Best Interview Questions


I am often asked to suggest good interview strategies. What questions are the best? To help you make the most of the interview experience, consider using some of my favorite questions:

QUESTION: Tell me about a situation in a past job or organization where you encountered some conflict, and how did you address or handle it?

This question reveals these important indicators: 

  • This is a fairly complex question. Can the candidate recall a situation on the fly, and then provide a cohesive answer? Their response helps me understand if they can think on their feet, can handle something quickly, can determine a good answer, and then deliver a well-considered reply.  
  • How they have handled conflict in the past is a predictor of how they will handle it in the future. If they answer that it was all the fault of the other person, and the supervisor had to handle it, or the candidate simply left the company, that is probably not a good response. If their answer includes how they addressed the conflict directly with the person and talked it out with them, meeting halfway to handle the situation, that is the preferred response.
  • If they say they have never had a job with any conflict, that is a big red flag. This candidate is either not truthful or they can’t think on their feet.

QUESTION: At XYZ company, we value helping fellow employees and we are FOR each other. When in a previous position, have you been able to help a coworker get recognized for something they have done or help them achieve success?

Here’s what I am looking for here:

  • This is a good one to figure out if they are FOR other people or FOR themselves. To me, this is a significant factor in evaluating a candidate. If they can never remember a time that they helped a peer, then you don’t want them on your team.
  • This might give the candidate a glimpse into who you are as a future employer. They may not believe in this value. They may be such a self-centered driver that it is all about them. In this case, your environment would not be good for them, and they might self-select out. 

QUESTION: What is one thing that you would like to be better at in five years?

Look for these things:

  • I like someone to be self-aware. Do they know where their weaknesses are, and are they willing to share one with you?  If they answer this quickly, that’s a good indicator. If they don’t, that means that they haven’t thought about this lately and are not trying to self-improve. Ask me this question right now, and I have a list of five things in my head that I am trying to improve upon. That is what you would like to see.
  • I am looking for a humble employee. If they are open to share their developmental issues with you, then they are likely humble and this could signify a good candidate.  

Searching for more questions?  Here are 30 you may also want to consider.

When you work with Innovative Outsourcing, we provide you with the finest candidates. Work with us for your next open position. Our outreach identifies the best candidates, and then we use personality testing, phone screening, and in-person interviews to select the best two candidates for your review. Then, we schedule the interviews, and you simply ask some of these good questions.  It’s easy when you let us help!

New I-9 Form. Did you meet the deadline?

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No one likes to hear the word "audit". However, like Mondays, they always seem to come around eventually. Make sure your records are flawless by reviewing these newly released guidelines from USCIS regarding the I-9 form.

USCIS released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, on July 17. Effective Sept. 18, employers must use the revised form with a revision date of 07/17/17 N at the bottom. Employers must continue following existing storage and retention rules for any previously completed Form I-9. There were some minor changes to verbiage on the form. But the more significant changes relate to the List of Acceptable Documents.

Revisions related to the List of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9:

  • The Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) was added to List C. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer will be able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Sections 2 and 3. E-Verify users will also be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.
  • All the certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350, and Form FS-240) were combined into selection C #2 in List C.
  • All List C documents except the Social Security card were renumbered. For example, the employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security on List C changed from List C #8 to List C #7.

All these changes are in the revised Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274), which is also easier for users to navigate than before. Please visit the USCIS website for more details.

We know it's important to you to maintain a legal workforce. While the changes to the new I-9 form are minimal, failure to comply effective with the September 18th implementation date can result in significant fines for your organization. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced increases in fines for Form I-9 violations last year. So make sure all employees with hiring responsibilities in your company have scrapped the old form and are using the new one. 

Please reach out to you Innovative Outsourcing Account Manager if you need additional information or if you have any current staffing need. We are hear to help you.

Book Buzz: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

What if you took a “crazy idea” and made it one of the most successful brands the world has ever known? What if you had no idea how to do something but surrounded yourself with the right people to reach that dream? This is what Phil Knight did as he took a love for running shoes and created one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

In his autobiography Shoe Dog, Nike founder Phil Knight weaves an inspiring tale of what began as a “crazy idea” for a class at Stanford and developed into a worldwide apparel bonanza. This compelling story of a young man with a passion to change the status quo and do what he loves is simply inspiring. In this book, Knight weaves his journey of how he turned a $50 loan from his father into a company with annual sales topping $30 billion. The reader is inspired to learn how Knight achieved the improbable, building a wildly successful company from scratch out of his parents’ garage in Portland, Oregon.

The three essential themes Knight outlines in this book can serve as guideposts and inspiration to all types of business leaders:

Four key parts to a great performance review

Cindi Filer, CEO of Innovative Outsourcing shares helpful advice you can use. Second message in a three-part series on performance evaluations.

Performance reviews are important to your business. Over the past few weeks, we have investigated why this is critical, and then also underscored the importance of a great job description as a precursor to the performance review. Now here's how to set the stage for a purposeful and productive meeting.

In your mind, imagine the perfect 45-minute employee meeting. Now fast-forward to the end of that meeting so you can now work backwards to achieve the best structure. Here is how that time should ideally be spent:

  • 18 minutes –  Encouragement
  • 9 minutes –  Improvement points
  • 9 minutes – Development needs (What do you think they need. What do they think they need.)
  • 9 minutes – Self-reflection 

Your past performance reviews may not have followed this ideal 40%-20%-20%-20% strategy, but this should be your goal. Here is how to make that happen:


Why should encouragement dominate your performance review time? Surveys find that the primary reason people leave their jobs is because they do not feel appreciated. While we need to give encouragement often, a performance review is a GREAT time to tell your employee what he/she does well, attitudes you like, and skills they possess USING EXAMPLES. (Recognize the time they helped retain a client, or notice the extra time spent on a result-producing project.) When you share these key examples, even if they are small “wins,”  it sets the tone for a productive review.


"Everyone has room to improve." Begin this segment on a positive note, immediately following your encouragement message. Focus on measurable improvement areas. If something is not quantifiable, (for example, their temperament when things don’t go their way), make sure that you communicate this by providing specific examples. Jointly agree upon a goal for improvement and an expected reevaluation date. If you fail to set and follow though on reevaluating, you may as well not discuss improvement points at all.


Next, discuss what the employee perceives they need most, and include what you feel that they need. Perhaps this includes leadership training, skills training, or being mentored by an experienced colleague or outside source. Following the same improvement points strategy, development goals need to be specifically outlined with expected completion and reevaluation dates. By devoting time and money in training, even inexpensive training by webinars, it shows that you are investing in them. You send a two-fold message: "I want you to succeed professionally, AND I value what your continued development brings to the company."  


Prior to a review meeting, the employee should complete a self-assessment which will likely mirror many of your thoughts. This self-reflective process is a learned skill equipping the employee to possibly correct future issues even before it comes to a manager's attention. If you need assistance creating an evaluation tool like this, Innovative Outsourcing offers a full range of customized employee evaluation services.  If you are designing your own form, consider a section requesting their perspective on overall company performance, what they would do if they were “king for a day,” and how they could be part of an improvement strategy. The responses you receive could be your company’s best “free” consulting advice!

Let’s review:

  • Performance reviews are important.
  • It all begins with a good job description.
  • Plan your performance review time proportionately between these four key areas.

Next time, we will talk about who should conduct the reviews and the best timing. In the meantime, I’d appreciate your feedback or questions on this topic. Email me at

Critical first step to a great performance review

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Cindi Filer, CEO of Innovative Outsourcing shares helpful advice you can use. Second message in a three-part series on performance evaluations.

While some may feel that the performance reviews are a thing of the past, I have expressed my case for why this is still a relevant and critically important practice.

Now that we have established the “why” in performance reviews, you may assume that the next step is “how.” But wait! There is one very important step, and the success of your performance review strategy hinges upon this. Effective reviews first begin with a great job description. If you haven’t objectively communicated to your employee the measuring stick that will be used for evaluation, then you are setting yourself up for an ineffective performance review.  And the benefits of having functional job descriptions for all your employees adds key benefits that transcend reviewing performance. (Here are more reasons small businesses need job descriptions, and you may have never considered #5!)

What should an effective job description include? To be used as a springboard for evaluation, both the employee and the manager must a have a reference including concrete parameters of performance expectations.  

Are you feeling overwhelmed already?  Here is a step-by-step strategy that will work:

First, list the employee’s top six action items or requirements.

Next, assign a percentage of time they should work each month to fulfill each of those requirements. Here’s an example:  

  • 35% - Answer telephones, forward calls, and take messages to assure no dropped calls and no caller waiting for more than one minute on hold without being successfully transferred or speaking to you with an update on their anticipated wait time.
  • 30% - Complete accurate data entry of visitor information within one hour following their arrival.
  • 20% - Greet guests at the door, ensuring they are comfortable, they are offered a drink, and keep them updated on the anticipated wait time.
  • 15% - Perform office housekeeping and restock guest refreshments.

Lastly, the job requirement should also include a section for required education and prior experience necessary for the job. (This is a whole exercise in itself which we won’t cover at this time.) For the review process, the action item list and assigned percentages will become the basis for your performance review.  

Once you have this type of job description completed, then you have the foundation upon which your performance review can be based. In my message next week, we will use this as the springboard for planning the actual review.

Begin now! Identify who will be your company’s “owner” of the reviews. I have found that in many cases, CEOs are not driving reviews because it is too far down on their “to-do list.”  If this is that case, then consider assigning one manager that you trust to be the driver of this process.  Maybe it’s an outside consultant. (This is actually a service Innovative Outsourcing can provide.) One thing that stands in the way of an effective performance review strategy is making this a priority, and as a company leader, that initiative can begin with you.

In the meantime, I’d appreciate your feedback or questions on this topic.  Email me at

Why evaluate employee performance?

Cindi Filer, CEO of Innovative Outsourcing shares helpful advice you can use. First in a three-part series on performance evaluations.

The small business community is abuzz now, debating this hot topic. Is it still correct to do employee performance appraisals?  Some argue that leaders should have “evolved” past this fossil management tool.  I’m going to make an argument that they are still relevant and actually, critical.

Over the next three weeks, look forward to receiving some practical advice on why and how to successfully implement performance appraisals.

Why do performance reviews? Let’s boil it down to these four critical reasons:

  • To INFORM employees – “Where do you stand with your boss?” If I asked your employees that right now, would they know how to answer? 
  • To INCREASE productivity – Studies show that when you regularly evaluate employees and they know that they are being evaluated based upon a measurable standard, their productivity increases.
  • To RETAIN staff - According to the research by Direct Recruiters, Inc , feeling undervalued and lacking feedback are two of the top seven reasons why an employee quits. Both of these issues can be addressed by using employee reviews.  For millennials, this is even more crucial.  They need reviews at least quarterly and perhaps more informally. They crave feedback, and will perform much better if provided appropriately.
  • To be able to FIRE with less risk - You have heard this from me before - document, document, document!  Performance review records document that your poor performers have regularly been coached and given deadlines for improvement.  Without this, when you call me for advice on letting someone go, I will likely say that you are in a position of RISK. Employee reviews mitigate this. 

Designing the best performance review is critical, or you could fall into the trap that has given traditional performance reviews a black eye. The key for small business is to make this tool inspire instead of deflate, and make it simple enough that both the employee and the manager find it a valuable use of everyone’s time. Next week, we will investigate the critical task you must accomplish prior to your performance appraisal. In the meantime, I’d appreciate your feedback or questions on this topic.  Email me at

The Year Ahead: What Employers Need to Know

Cindi Filer, CEO of Innovative Outsourcing shares a helpful reference from her legal labor resource who offers this concise reference for the year ahead.

When my legal resource, Eric Magnus, Jackson Lewis, P.C, provided me with this very inclusive reference to the year ahead for employers, I knew that you would benefit from this information, too!  CLICK HERE to read the report.

Employers can expect sweeping changes in the year ahead. Here is of our exclusive outlook, “2017: The Year Ahead for Employers,” an executive summary of key developments in the past year and what employers can expect in the coming months. It is a quick read and ideal for senior management and those responsible for Human Resources.
— Eric Magnus

If you have a need for further legal advice on HR topics, please contact Eric Magnus at Jackson Lewis, P.C.  He can be reached at 404-525-8200.

Book Buzz: Dare to Serve

What would happen if we fundamentally changed our leadership style? What would happen to our companies if we chose to serve those we lead? These are the premises of Cheryl Bachelder’s Dare to Serve

As the CEO, Cheryl was instrumental in turning around Popeyes over just 7 years, with restaurant sales up 25%, profits up 40%, and market share up 7%. What was the key to this success? It was the direct result of making a conscious decision to lead in a new way. Do we want different results than we had last year? In my experience, Cheryl’s experiment here is real, and if we choose to lead this way, we will see tangible bottom line results.

I know that you are thinking, “Of course Cindi feels this way, because she is an HR person.”  But honestly, this applies to you, too. I'm suggesting that you may want to take some time during this holiday season, when it just seems right to turn our focus to relationships, and read this book. I believe it will be worth your time.

The premise is simple:

  • Decide to think positively about the people you lead
  • Decide to be a leader who serves others over self-interest

The book is full of very practical ideas you can apply in your business right now such as this one interesting take-away. 

So Dec 1 is the new April Fools' Day for the Dept. of Labor

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Cindi Filer, CEO of Innovative Outsourcing updates you on a new court ruling that may affect you.

Over the past few months, we have been keeping you up-to-date on the December 1 implementation of the Department of Labor’s White Collar Overtime Exemption, raising the minimum annual wage (salaried or hourly) for overtime exemption to $47,400.  

But it is 2016, and in keeping with the year’s theme of “expect the unexpected,” last week a federal judge blocked the rule, siding with 21 states and an organized business group, siting that the “rule is unlawful and granted their motion for a nationwide injunction,” according to Reutters.

This means that this regulation has been delayed, as the Department of Labor now files an appeal.  In light of the changing political climate, even a successful appeal could be “Trumped” by new legislation, or the incoming Department of Labor may withdraw it all together.

What does this mean for you?

The December 1, 2016 implementation is no longer required, and at this moment, no one really knows what will happen.

What do we recommend?

If you have procrastinated and done nothing, this is one time that you might actually be reaping the reward. Keep an eye open for a new date and possible implementation, but this may never happen.

If you have made pay changes already in anticipation of this, you will need to make a decision to pull back or continue.  Again, we have no way of knowing when (or if) this will be enacted.

Plans for tracking and reporting hours

I know that many of you have put in place a method to report hours for all employees due to this implementation.  My recommendation is to keep this in place. For many reasons, it would be a good idea to have all employees report hours.  It is a safeguard for you in this litigious climate.  And it is also a prudent practice for your employees to view the hours they spend in an ongoing self-evaluation of their time management.

The bottom line

For many businesses like yours, this means you may have earmarked money for overtime that now can be channeled into staff expansion instead.  Consider hiring a part-time employee to help ease the work load of your full-time staff. We have great talent waiting for an opportunity to bring their highly professional skills to work for you part time.  Just give me a call, and we can talk about your specific needs.

So the calendar says December 1, but when it comes to raising the overtime exemption minimum compensation, it feels more like April Fools' Day instead!

Book Buzz - 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time

Do you have a work/life balance issue?  Does your spouse often remind you that you are present but not “present?" Is it challenging to get ahead of your email inbox so that you can really be productive. How are your outside-of-work relationships?

These days, it seems like work consumes us.  Our phones and laptops have allowed us to be “on” right up until we go to sleep and at the first minute we wake up.  In this new electronic world, perhaps we need to learn how to make good boundaries between where work ends and life begins.