the magic interview question gets featured on ABC News

Regular readers know what a fan I am of this magic question to ask your interviewer:

Thinking back to people who have been in this position previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?

I have now spread the gospel about it to, and it’s mentioned in this story (at the end).

{ 11 comments… read them below }

  1. Heather*

    Just wanted to share that I asked this question in my 2nd interview at my current company and she was super impressed. I then asked this to the VP of our operating group and he appreciated it as well! Awesome question!

    My second favorite is one that I believe you also suggested: 'What type of person/worker would NOT be good at this position'

  2. Anonymous*

    I'm fairly certain that this question is what led to me being contacted by an organization I had previously interviewed with this summer contacting me last week and inviting me to apply for a newly opened position.

  3. Anonymous*

    As I told you before in an email, I think that this question got me my current job! It is a great question although I hope everyone doesn't start using it now..

  4. Alysia*

    Since reading it here, I always ask this question. I also always ask the interviewer what they love about their job. What keeps them coming back to this company day to day instead of looking elsewhere. I had an interviewer tell me they hired me because of that question once.

  5. Danielle*

    I presented this question to a couple of hiring managers and they looked at me like I had 2 heads lol. The interview went great but I guess I was the first one to throw this their way. Still waiting to hear back about their decision btw… I’ve been working with this company since March!

  6. Kev*

    Ah rats! I’m interviewing for a newly created position at a location. Hmmm, maybe I can rework this: Thinking about the people who have held this position at the other location of your company, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?

    Would that work?

  7. Mak*

    I used this question yesterday at an interview and I got a ‘Wow!’ :-) Thank you!

  8. Katherine*

    Alison – could you post in comments or edit the post to talk about how you would modify this question for situations in which the post is newly created at the company? I get a lot of these because I work in a relatively new position in a field that changes a lot. I have some idea – i.e. “What qualities do you think would make a really great $x, rather than merely a good one?” – but I would be interested in hearing your answer since it’s your question in the first place :-)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s actually not going to be as effective in those situations. The reason it works is because most managers are acutely aware of the differences in how different people approached the position, and especially what was different about the best people in the position. When you ask the question, they immediately think back on that.

      There isn’t a comparable effect when it’s a new position. So you could still ask a version of the question (like what you have above), but it’s going to be harder for them to answer and it’s not going to have the same magic effect.

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