Your small business relies on its workers to maintain seamless operations. As a result, your team is one of your most valuable assets. They help ensure a top-quality product or service—and they are often on the front line with customers, serving as the recognizable (and hopefully friendly) face of your brand. Therefore, small business owners should be vigilant when hiring new employees to join their teams.

Most smaller enterprises don't have their own hiring managers, so the responsibility of building the perfect team rests on your shoulders. If you've never vetted potential employees before, this might be intimidating. Not to worry: The right questions will help you find the right people. This guide gives you a list of the best small business interview questions to ask.

What to Look for When Asking Interview Questions

The entire point of an interview is to gain additional information that you can't glean from a person's resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile. When interviewing job seekers to fill a position with your small business, you want to check for a few things:

  • Skill set: Do they have the experience and knowledge to do the job at hand? Of course, references and educational credentials like degrees can attest to this to some extent. However, the interview can give you an idea of how effectively the individual can take what they've learned in theory and put it into practice.
  • Personal fit: Is the individual's personality a match with your company culture? You want to build strong teams that support one another. Integrating new persons into your business will be easier if they are able to get along with their colleagues. This can also spare you the hassle of workplace drama.
  • Work ethic: Does the individual have the motivation you want from your team? Again, this is largely about ensuring seamless integration into a team. If you hire someone who isn't motivated to do their job, other team members will have to pick up the slack. This can cause discontent among your employees—more workplace drama you don't need!

Small business environments are typically more personal and close-knit than those of larger corporations. Taking the time to assess these points will ensure you find a fitting person to support your business success.

10 Essential Small Business Interview Questions

So, how can you use the right interview questions to assess the points mentioned above? Here's a list of essential queries you can pose in the job interview process. Beyond this list, you may also need to consider questions that are specifically relevant to your type of business or the job description you've posted. This list covers more general points.

1. Why Are You Looking for a New Job?

This is the type of "low ball" question your interviewee is likely to expect. Interviews can be nerve-wracking, so start them off with something easy! Their answer can also help you start to determine whether they'd be a good fit for your business. For example, say you're hiring a waiter for your restaurant, and they say that their current job requires them to pool tips—which they don't like. If your restaurant also has server pool tips, you already know they aren't a good fit.

2. What Are Your Long-Term Career Goals?

Interviewing and onboarding new employees takes time. Ideally, the people you recruit will remain dedicated to your business for at least a year. Asking about big-picture goals can help you learn about a person's plans. For example, if they mention that they are hoping to go to graduate school, you might inquire about the timeline for that plan.

3. What Did You Like Most and Least About Your Previous Job?

Again, this question can help you quickly identify red flags that might bar someone from fitting in with your business team. It can also offer inspiration on how to make your team happier. For example, the interviewee might tell you that they enjoyed monthly employee get-togethers outside of the workplace, like beer-and-pizza nights, bowling, or minigolf. You might want to adopt these approaches to building team spirit in your own business.

4. Why Don't You Want to Work for a Bigger Company?

Big companies with recognizable brand names can be attractive for many job candidates. However, inquire specifically why they might be drawn to working for a smaller team. For example, they might tell you that they prefer a more hands-on approach and dislike the red tape of working for major corporations. This shows they are a great fit for a smaller company like yours.

5. What Professional Accomplishment Are You Most Proud of?

Give your interview a chance to show off! This is another question that can help candidates loosen up. It also gives you a sense of what matters to that candidate and demonstrates their values. For example, they might talk about a positive interaction they had with a customer. This shows you that they value social interaction and are eager to help others.

6. Can You Give Me Examples of Any Professional Development You've Undertaken?

This question allows you to assess how willing a person is to pursue self-improvement. You want candidates who are willing to evolve, complete training, and do better. These are the types of people who will go beyond the bare minimum of their job description. In addition, asking this question allows the candidate to address types of professional development that didn't come with a certification, and these aren't listed on their resume.

7. Situational Questions

Situational questions are essential to demonstrate a candidate's communication skills and get a better sense of how they work in real-world situations. For example, you might ask questions like, "Tell me about a professional situation that took you out of your comfort zone," "Tell me about a workplace conflict you experienced and how you resolved it," or "Tell me about a time you had to make a snap-judgment decision without a manager."

8. What's the Most Complicated Thing You Know About?

This question will likely come as a surprise to your candidate. That's good! At this point, you've eased them into the interview and can throw them a curveball. See how they react. Asking them to explain something complicated to you also allows you to assess their communication skills. This is also a fun question that also lets you discover a candidates' unique passions.

9. What Do You Like to Do Outside of Work?

As you get to the end of your interview, get more personal. You've already covered the major points that relate directly to the job, allowing you to assess skill set and work ethic. Now, take a deeper dive to see if the person's personality might be a good fit for your team. For instance, asking about leisure activities allows the person to share their interests with you.

10. Is There Anything Else I Need to Know?

Finally, open up the floor to the interviewee. While there is no way to cover every relevant detail about a person in a single interview, you don't want to miss essential facts because you didn't ask. You can also rephrase this question by asking the person, "Is there any question today that I didn't ask that you wish I had asked?" Sometimes, people find it easier to broach the topic this way.

A Word of Caution on Illegal Interview Questions

Whenever you interview a person for your small business, be cognizant of anti-discrimination laws. You want to ensure that any queries you pose are in line with your state's anti-discrimination laws and federal regulations set forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Err on the side of caution. You should never ask questions about a person's marital or family status, pregnancy, age, race, ethnicity/color, gender/sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, country of origin, religion, or birthplace. These points are, in any case, irrelevant when considering the goal of an interview—assessing skill set, personal fit, and work ethic.

There are other questions you can ask to get the information you need. For example, you obviously want to make sure anyone you hire has the right to work for you legally. So, instead of asking about their citizenship or nationality, you can simply ask whether they have the legal right to work in the U.S. You get the information you need without risky questions.

Manage Your Employee Expenses With Skynova

Have you found the perfect employee for your small business? Congratulations! You've completed a successful interview. Now, it's time for onboarding. First, you need to collect relevant data from your new hire, like contact details and bank information. You can then set them up to receive payments in your payroll system and add their details to your bookkeeping/accounting system.

Skynova simplifies the process of managing small business expenses like employee wages or salaries. With our streamlined accounting system, you can track invoices and expenses in one place, saving time and reducing stress. Find out how Skynova can support your startup's operations.

Notice to the Reader

This content is meant as general guidance only. If you are uncertain regarding interview questions, consult an attorney familiar with your state's employment and discrimination laws. Some rules—such as whether you're allowed to ask about earnings at a previous job or not—vary between states. Further, when implementing new accounting or bookkeeping tools, always consult with a professional accountant to ensure you're meeting accounting standards and laws.