By Nancy Friedman, Keynote Speaker; Customer Service Expert; President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training

We all get desperate. And it’s not fair to anyone – the prospective employee, the current employee, the employer, the entire company and eventually the customer.

If you interview applicants, you know, of course, there are rules, guidelines, laws, things you can never ask them; things you shouldn’t ask them and they’re usually the questions you really want to ask. Most of us know the difference between legal and illegal questions. A few simple examples:


Illegal: Do you have a car?

Legal: How will you get to work?


Illegal: How many sick days did you take last year at your last job?

Legal: How many days of work did you miss last year?


Illegal: Have you ever been arrested?

Legal: Have you ever been convicted of fraud or theft?


Years ago, I came up with some out of the box interviewing questions. They’re simple questions that will get a bit more information than, “Where do you want to be in 3 or 5 years?” “What did you think of your former boss?” Or “What will your former employer say about you?”

All good questions, absolutely. Not to be discarded by any means. All those questions we’ve read in hiring books are well thought out ones and should be used.

But these ‘different’ type interview questions have served me well. I share these with you to ADD to what you’re using…. not to replace them.


  1. What type of theater background do you have?Actor – large or small part. Or any part of theater: grip, stage manager, director, assistant director. Any part of the performance. Any part of theater brings along a sense of urgency, being on time, listening skills, following direction, eye contact, and so much more. Again, whatever part of the performance they were in is a plus.

If they have never had any contact with theater, go for dance, cheerleading, baseball, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, any sport where, again, timing is critical along with all the other talents above – listening skills, following direction, eye contact and more. Those active in sports (dance, cheerleading, etc.) where they were part of a ‘team’ and had to rely on others and vice versa is great information and, in most cases, what they learned in those activities will transfer over into work related situations.

Sports that you play alone (i.e. tennis, golf, and non-team-oriented sports) are usually a more competitive personality.


  1. What was the last book you read? Or what kind of books do you like?This question will give you an idea of their hobbies and social life without asking, “What do you like to do in your spare time?” It’s also a great rapport building question to get the ball rolling.


  1. What was the last movie you saw?Again, an insight to a bit of their personal preferences. Questioning them about the film will allow you to see if they’re detail oriented. If they know author’s name, a BIG plus. Shows they can give credit, an important office talent.


  1. Please tell me about yourself in 30 seconds. The old ‘elevator’ speech. This is really a great question to see how they handle stress and if they are quick on their feet. If they ask you, “Well, what would you like to know?” That’s not the answer to the question. They didn’t follow directions.


  1. What clubs where you involved inas a youngster/teenager?Look for Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H Club, and things of that sort. Great upbringing.


A few other hiring tips I’ve learned along the way:

Interview in groups. Instead of one on one, get 4 or 5 applicants or even more in at the same time.

Ask them all the same questions and see how original some folks are. Watch for those that follow what someone else says with, “Well, that’s what I was gonna say.”

A must: Have a phone interview with the applicant before allowing them to get in to see you.  Or at least at some time during or after the initial interview. Hiring someone without talking with them on the phone can be a recipe for disaster. Interviewees need to “EARN” the interview. It doesn’t need to be a long phone call; 3+ minutes or so will let you know if the person is speaking properly, difficult to understand and a whole lot of other things.

Phone interviews are a critical part for most job positions; should be mandatory, in my opinion, for any phone related position (i.e. call center, handling of customers, retails, hospitality etc.) including internal positions.

Breakfast or Lunch: Depending on what the job entails, especially if working face-to-face with clients, consider a short, inexpensive meal with the candidates. Seeing etiquette and manners is a key element often overlooked. And how do they treat the waitstaff?

You know the old saying. Hire for ATTITUDE; we can train for the skills. These questions can help you find out about their attitude.



Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman

Communication and customer service expert Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor, founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, is back in the saddle again. Well, back into live onsite programs, and still offering her ZOOM programs, in a cost saving manner. Whichever you choose, onsite or Zoom, you’ll be glad you did. The reviews are excellent, and audiences have loudly applauded her in either area. Sales, customer service and communication skills are her area of expertise, and she welcomes calls, texts, or emails. You can reach her directly at; through the website at, where you can sign up for her newsletters; or call/text directly at 314-276-1012 central time. Bring it on. Whether you need a keynote speaker or workshop/breakout speaker on customer service and communication skills, you’ll make a great choice.