We’ve all had those hires that seemed incredible in the interview and turned out to be less than incredible on the floor. We wonder how we missed what now seem like glaring inconsistencies with our core values and our culture. There is no bulletproof method for hiring the right people 100% of the time, but we will tell you the three questions you should be asking every applicant – and probably aren’t.

  • Tell me more.
  • What does that mean to you?
  • What would make you feel successful at this job?

Tell Me More

Okay, we cheated here a bit. This is an invitation more than a question, but we count it as potentially the most helpful follow up question to any answer given during the interview.

This question can be asked at any time and should always be asked when an answer seems too good to be true. We are often understaffed and sometimes feel like we desperately need to hire anyone, just so we have more people on the floor, but when we feel like someone is a great match, we can get hijacked by our own biases and our own needs. We forget to ask more questions in our excitement to find someone – anyone – who can start now. The time it takes to ask a few more questions is so much less than the time it takes to let someone go and find their replacement. See below for an example scenario.

Hiring Manager: Why do you think you’re a good fit for this role?
Applicant: I have an extensive construction background and leadership skills.
Hiring Manager: Can you tell me a little more?
Applicant: Yes, I’ve spent the last 9 months helping my brother with his drywall business.

From this scenario, we realize that one person’s definition of extensive is different than another and that there is a potential inconsistency in this person’s answers. All helpful information. Tell me more is the easiest and most direct follow up and we suggest asking it after as many questions as you feel need more information.

What Does That Mean To You

We love this question because it helps us distance ourselves from our own communication biases. If you’ve studied DiSC or any other personality profile system, (or really if you’re in any long term relationship with another human) you know that what one person says doesn’t always translate to what another person hears.

We gave an example of a client’s new hire in our article on hiring mistakes where the new employee, we called him James, repeatedly called out sick, even though during his interview he said his attendance had been perfect at his other job, “unless it was an emergency”. What the hiring team didn’t know was what this employee considered an emergency. Turns out, he considered just about anything above a paper cut reason to call out.

What if they had used this particular question as a follow up tool? See below for an example scenario.

Hiring Manager: What was your attendance like at your previous job?
Applicant: Perfect, except for emergencies.
Hiring Manager: What does an emergency mean to you?
Applicant: My dog ran away a lot and I had a lot of car issues.
Hiring Manager: Can you tell us a little more about that?

With this simple question and extra step to clarify, the hiring manager in this situation would have had far more information and been better able to understand what that meant to James – and ultimately better information upon which to base their hiring decision. We recommend adding this tool to your hiring manager’s interview questions list.

What Would Make You Feel Successful At This Job

This question gets to the heart of what someone considers success – and it’s different for everyone. Perfect attendance might be someone’s ideal, or making manager in a certain amount of time, or like with one client who asked this question and the interviewee replied, “Talking to customers who seem like they’re having a bad day and getting them to smile.” Before you go fall in love with this answer, remember that what that means to you may be very different from what that means to her. Even when you love the answer – and especially when you love it – ask the follow up. What does that look like to you? Tell me more about how you would get that person to smile. You, of course, want her to say something about finding out their hardware problem and helping to get them what they need, or making an appropriate joke and getting them to laugh; but she might say, “Oh, I’d leave the store to buy them a coffee and help them talk through their problems,” either way, you’ll be thrilled you asked the follow up.

This question helps you better understand the motivations and fears of your potential hire. Someone who is a go-getter will answer very differently than someone who prefers routine and making sure everyone around them is happy. Neither is wrong, but it’s valuable information for you to have in order to hire to culture and not just to an urgent need for more people. See below for an example scenario.

Hiring Manager: What would make you feel successful at this job?
Applicant: Customer and team relationships that are meaningful and impactful.
<pause and reflect on your core values which are hopefully listed on your interview document>
Hiring Manager: Can you tell me more about that?
Applicant: Relationships are really important to me and I’ll do everything I can to ensure that everyone around me is well taken care of.
Hiring Manager: What does well taken care of mean to you?
Applicant: To me, it’s when a customer is walked over to the item they are looking for, understands how to choose the right size or fit, and then is told where to go next. When they smile, it makes me smile!

There is also leeway to riff on the core intent of these questions. In the case of James, the interviewer could have said, “What does an emergency mean to you,” let James answer and then followed up with, “Give us some examples of emergencies at your other job.” Asking for examples is a great way to gauge someone’s core motivators and personality type.

Ask these questions as stand alones first, and then ask your add on questions after you’ve gotten an organic response. You can ask, “What would make you feel successful at this job,” get their answer and then follow up with, “Do you feel more successful if you finish a task before moving on to another one, or do you prefer to have multiple projects going, getting them each done as quickly as possible?” If you speak DiSC, this will tell you whether you’re talking to a C or an S profile or a D or an i profile. Even if you don’t speak DiSC, this is useful information to have if you’re hiring for a cashier versus an inventory manager.


Use these three questions and you will change the quality of information you get to make your hiring decisions. They will give you a much clearer picture of the motivations and experiences of the person you are interviewing and they will help you see through your own interviewing hopes and biases. And if you’re looking for a baseline of questions to ask, check out this great list HERE.

If you want more detailed information on how to determine your core values, how to get more applicants, or any of these game-changing interview questions, reach out to us and we can help identify some options for you and your team. Click below to grab a quick meeting for us to chat! With Gratitude, Rand

Michelle Mountain Mojo Group

Jocelyn has been in the hardware retail business for over a decade, working with retailers from around the country on culture building, content creation, blog writing, website development, and overall marketing strategy. She has been working with Mojo since 2021.

Skip to content