What B2B companies can learn from Apple’s job interview questions

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Getting a job at Apple is no easy feat. The company wouldn’t have soared to become the major tech player it is today if it didn’t have strict quality control on its hiring practices. Success is often reliant on the staff building the company.

During the hiring process Apple has posed some interesting questions to applicants – some of them, such as “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” are pretty standard, but other questions are looking outside of the box.

Could your B2B firm benefit from Apple’s hiring practices by asking similar questions? How much can the answers tell you about an applicant?

“Tell me something that you have done in your life which you are particularly proud of.”

This is a question that Apple posed to a person applying for a software engineering manager position. It is a great question for B2B executivess to ask potential employees because it could demonstrate exactly what types of endeavors the person finds to be of value. For example:

  • Is the accomplishment something that could benefit the good of the whole or is it something more self-serving?
  • Did reaching this proud moment mean traveling a difficult road and overcoming adversity?
  • Was the person highly focused on reaching the goal?

With just one question, you can learn a whole lot about a person and perhaps even determine whether he or she is driven and has what it takes work in your organization.

“What’s more important, fixing the customer’s problem or creating a good customer experience?”

Apple posed this question to a candidate seeking a job as an At Home Advisor. It’s a great question for any position. Both aspects of this question are important, as an interviewer can evaluate just how a person decides to tackle the question.

For instance, how an applicant answers this one can provide insight as to how a person’s mind works – is the individual focused on problem-solving or always thinking ahead to ensure a solid customer experience by striving to avoid problems in the first place? Both are qualities are attractive – but one is a reactive response, the other proactive.

“Describe an interesting problem and how you solved it.”

While experience and knowledge are attributes all HR reps and hiring managers look for in an applicant, these “functional” levels of expertise won’t necessarily get the job done on a day-to-day basis. According to a survey conducted last year by CareerBuilder, 77 percent of employers believed soft skills are just as important as hard skills. Sixteen percent considered soft skills even more important.

Asking a candidate how he or she handled a work problem can shed some light as to how the person might:

  • Communicate with others
  • Collaborate in a team environment
  • Level of innovation when it comes to problem-solving

The answer given may also illuminate information about a person’s work ethic – something any B2B firm would be interested in learning about a person.

“What was your best day in the last 4 years? What was your worst?”

Talk about a heavy but illuminating question! In addition to learning about the candidate’s experiences, hiring reps can ascertain an applicant’s level of positivity, flexibility and ability to work under pressure by asking the above question.

  • Does he or she answer the “best” day with a level of enthusiasm?
  • What about the “worst” day? Is there pure negativity associated with the day or did the person learn from the experience and/or share a silver lining?

This question can also be coupled with Apple’s “You seem pretty positive, what types of things bring you down?” It can help gauge a person’s tolerance levels for stress and dependability – important qualities to have in a fast-paced environment.

Routine questions can provide basic information, but posing the unexpected or unusual to potential employees can provide an insightful glimpse into the applicant’s personality and career outlook.

Photo of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (left) via Flickr Creative Commons

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Leigh Goessl

Leigh Goessl

Leigh Goessl has been writing on the web since 2007. She currently is a freelance writer and enjoys writing about business and tech topics. Leigh's previous work includes ghost writing for a a legal website, a major online college and an education website. Her education includes an MBA with a concentration in information security.
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