It has been said that a business is only as good as its people and, as a small business owner, you would most likely agree.  Especially in today’s business environment, hiring the right people is more crucial than ever. Whether you’re a B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer), competition in virtually every business sector is increasingly fierce and hiring motivated, loyal, highly-skilled employees is an essential part of a successful business.

When vetting candidates, how can you be sure that the ones who shine during the interview process won’t fizzle once they’re brought onboard? Of course, there’s no way to be 100% certain, but asking these five candidate interview questions will increase the odds that your employees will perform as well on the job as they do during the intervew process.

Can you tell me a time when you exceeded expectations?

The way the candidate answers this question will give you insight into his core values and priorities. You may find that he is more concerned with his own expectations than those of his employers, co-workers or customers.

In some cases the answer may reveal that he had no clear understanding of what his employer’s real expectations were. Or you may find that what he considered to be above and beyond the call of duty is what you would consider the bare minimum for remaining employed.

Can you tell me about a time when you had to “think on your feet?”

No matter how good your employee training program is, there will inevitably be times when your employees will have to “think outside the box.” Ideally, you want employees who can think for themselves while ensuring that the decisions they make serve the best interests of the company. By simply asking this question, you’ll get an insight into how well and how quickly the candidate can respond to the unexpected. Of course, you will also want to foster an environment that allows employees the freedom to make tough decisions when faced with unusual circumstances.

Can you give me an example of a time when you showed initiative?

As a small business, you need employees who don’t wait to be told what to do. Self-starters who take the initiative are willing to help their co-workers and can be trusted to keep things running smoothly – even when you’re not around to oversee their activities. They’re also the ones who innovate and keep your business moving in a positive direction. At the same time, you don’t want them to be so aggressive with initiatives that they change business processes without consulting with you, but you DO want motivated employees who will approach you with new ideas and initiatives that may help improve your business.

Why do you want to work for our company?

The answer to this question will show you whether the candidate values your company or simply needs a job – any job. What the candidate says attracts her to your company will also tell you a lot about her personality. For example, if she cites your company’s reputation for exceptional customer service as a reason for wanting the job, it’s likely that good customer service is important to her.

Why should I hire you for the job?

This question allows the candidate the opportunity to demonstrate how well they can organize their thoughts and present skills and talents that might not have come to light during the rest of the interview process. It also provides them with a chance to demonstrate their poise, confidence and persuasive abilities – all of which are highly desirable attributes, no matter what the position they’re applying for.