IMA Moments

Interviewing 101: Ask the Right Questions

By Jennifer Ashkenazy
February 13, 2019

As the director of Research & Development at IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants), I have had the opportunity to interview candidates for open positions in my department. And before joining IMA, I spent three years as a recruiter for executives in accounting and finance. Over the years, I learned that asking candidates the right questions can limit the amount of time, money, and resources wasted on interviewing.


The interview process is a dance between the interviewer and the candidate. Because interviewers shouldn’t ask personal questions, good interviewers will ask the right questions to elicit answers that exemplify the qualities they are looking for. If you ask the right questions, you will get the right answers.


“What are the top 3 things you want out of your next opportunity?”


You can really find out a lot about a candidate within the first two minutes of an interview. This is always my first question because the candidate’s answer tells me everything I need to know and whether or not I want to hire the person.


For instance, if the candidate responds with, “I want the company to be close to my house, I want a 9-to-5 job, and I want great benefits,” then you know the person is not a strategic thinker and is not motivated by his or her career. Conversely, if the candidate replies with, “I want a position that’s going to elevate me to the next level, I want to be relied upon as a manager, and I want to save the company money,” then you know he or she is a go-getter and is motivated by important things.


“How have you helped your company improve a process?”


When you ask candidates about their past jobs and what they have added, you’re actually asking about how they will perform the job at your company and how they can help you do your job better.


I once hired somebody who came up with a process to make a time line for acquiring a manuscript, from speaking with the author about the outline of the book all the way through production. And improving that process really helped our team and company. So, when I interviewed candidates after that, I knew that was a quality I needed in my next employee.


Read Between the Lines


I once interviewed a woman who had a great résumé with a lot of experience in the area we were hiring for. But she showed up to the interview 15 minutes late, was complaining about her personal life, and had a lot of space in between jobs that she could not explain. To add to the bad experience, her husband came to the interview as well. This was an example of someone who had a great background, but once we met face to face, I just knew it wasn’t a great strategic fit.


The interviewing process is very important to not only the hiring manager but also to the company itself. Hiring the right candidate saves the company time, money, and resources if you hire the right person. It’s always good as a hiring manager to learn better ways to interview and find the right questions.


What are your experiences with hiring? What questions have proven successful for you?


Jennifer Ashkenazy is the director of Research & Development at IMA. She can be reached at
5 + Show Comments
    Manjunath Lakshmanan November 7, 2020 AT 6:14 am

    HI Please pass on this article

    Sherri Ottinger March 22, 2019 AT 2:54 pm

    Thanks for that first question, I intend to use it next time we are hiring. The second question is also good – our HR dept has a very similar question on the standard list.

    Abdul Hameed - Zulqarnaine March 5, 2019 AT 6:17 am

    very tactic questions. Useful information.

    John P. Martin February 15, 2019 AT 1:56 pm

    I like both questions you list. However, you indicate that to the question of: “What are the top 3 things…?” you would rather hear a response of: “…I want a position that’s going to elevate me to the next level. I want to be relied upon as a manager, and I want to save the company money…” Yes, the candidate does appear to be a go-getter, which is a good thing, but as an interviewer/hiring manager, I would want to be sure that the candidate used/expressed that “enthusiasm” to learn and take the position they are applying for “to the next level” (at the same time helping the team) and that they don’t “plan to exit” if that “next level” is not available to them.

    John P. Martin – Finance Professional

    PARSHWA JAIN February 15, 2019 AT 12:21 pm

    Very informative

Comments are closed.