6 Questions to Spot Which Candidates Will Be Productive Employees

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Jan 14, 2020

You have the great productivity tools at your company. Great. But that doesn’t mean your people will actually be productive. How, then, can you tell which candidates are more likely to be productive employees?

Here are key interview questions that will help you identify candidates who have the mindset and habits to become your most productive employees:

1. How would you describe a typical workday in your current role?

Yes, it’s a common interview question — but for good reason. You can gain insights into a candidate’s productivity if you know what to look for in the answer.

Seek out candidates who have a clear structure to their days. Not surprisingly, people who have a set of routines and processes in place tend to be the most productive.

For example, employees who spend the first 10 to 20 minutes of their morning planning out their days and prioritizing their tasks are more likely to focus on the highest-value activities during their workday. (Even better is when someone routinely does this the night before the following workday.)

Moreover, productive employees don’t just do busy work — they focus their time and efforts on critical tasks and have the ability to prioritize them autonomously. 

2. How do you deal with distractions at work?

We’re inundated with notifications from our smartphones and alerts on our desktops. Add multiple conversations happening across the room, plus all the email threads and Slack messages, and no wonder it’s hard to stay focused on tasks.

Workplace distractions are the biggest productivity killer, and employees need to develop effective techniques to help them focus. Whether it’s working in 90-minute blocks, tackling one task at a time, or making a conscious effort to avoid office chatter, the most productive employees use their time intentionally to focus on what matters most. To that end, candidates who do time blocking are often more apt to be productive. 

3. What do you do to stay upbeat at work?

It’s often overlooked, but being in a bad mood can lower productivity. In fact, anxiety and depression can lead to lower cognitive performance and limit the ability to think creatively. While it’s human to feel down once in a while, being stuck in a rut for too long will not only affect people’s productivity but also impact those around them.

Understandably, it’s not always easy to stay in a positive mood. The right coping strategies can help employees minimize the impact of mood fluctuations on their productivity. These can include eating a mood-boosting snack, adding physical movements to the day, taking a power nap, or incorporating regular breaks to help stay focused.

4. Can you tell me a time when you took initiative?

Again, a fairly standard question, and again, for good reason. Employees who are driven to take action and feel confident in introducing their ideas are more likely to come up with new and better ways of doing things. 

Ask candidates about a time when they pioneered a positive change that helped improve efficiency and results. This will allow you to identify self-starters who are willing to go the extra mile to improve productivity not only for themselves but also for the entire team.

5. Can you tell me your biggest achievement and how you reached that goal?

Productive employees are often results-driven, so ask questions that will prompt candidates to tell you how they achieved outcomes. For example, you can ask, “Can you talk about a time when you reached your goal?” or “What’s your biggest achievement?”

Look for candidates who talk about tangible outcomes as a result of their hard work. They’re most likely to have their eyes on the prize, make a plan to achieve their goals, and use their time productively to create meaningful results.

6. How do you maintain work/life balance?

Workaholics are not likely to be your best employees. Rather, people who can achieve a good work-life balance tend to have the approach of working smart, not hard.

Look for candidates who can talk about different aspects of their lives, such as hobbies and interest, to identify those who can effectively manage their professional and personal lives.

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