I regularly read a column in The New York Times called “Corner Office” by Adam Bryant. Each column is an interview with a CEO. Recently Hannah Paramore, president of the online and digital marketing agency Paramore, was interviewed. (See story.)

Paramore was asked what questions she would ask if she could interview somebody for just five minutes. Here's what she said:

“I would ask, ‘How old were you when you had your first paying job?’ I would rather have the person who had to work all the way through college than the person who got a scholarship and then went straight to the MBA program.
“I would also ask why they left their last job to see if they told me the truth. There is a certain amount of transparency and honesty that comes across if you just ask really direct questions like: ‘Why did you leave? What would have had to happen for you to stay there?’”

I completely agree regarding the importance of asking about each of these aspects of a prospective employee’s past.

In my work with facilitating Remodelers Advantage Roundtables, the question of how old you were when you got your first paying job is one that is asked. My experience is that most highly motivated people got a job in their teens. Look for people like that when you're hiring, as they are likely to have “get 'er done” in their blood.

“Why did you leave you previous job?” is a great question. If the candidate runs down his past employer or his co-workers, the candidate will likely do the same about your company at some point in his life. If the candidate says that staying there was purely about the compensation being insufficient, it's likely that you will end up with the same issue if you hire him.

The right questions asked in a job interview can save an employer a lot of time, aggravation, and money. Ask them!