…Good Question!


Top businesspeople reveal their go-to interview questions for job applicants.

Job interviews are nerve-racking. There’s a lot of pressure to put your best foot forward – to dazzle, impress, and outshine other candidates vying for the same job you’re trying to land. But while you’re sweating it out to choose your words and draw attention to your most noteworthy resume points, the person on the other side of the table also has a lot riding on this interview. With just a few questions, they need to find the most qualified applicant and the best fit for any available position within their company. So, what sort of questions do they ask? Below, local business leaders tell us what interview question gives them the most revealing answers and why.

Roshan Amin headshotRoshan Amin

President & CEO, Dynamic Group

I tend to prefer open-ended questions, such as:

“Can you share a detailed incident when things went horribly wrong and you were able to recover the situation to a level of service that exceeds your own passionate expectations for the industry?”

We want to know what triggered their passion for our industry to see if our core values align, while assessing their actual level of experience. You can’t always tell if an applicant has truly been hands-on in their role or whether they have the necessary skills to complete detailed tasks. This is a great opportunity for the candidate to have the floor and really demonstrate their skills, knowledge, decision-making, instinct, and creativity. It’s a sink-or-swim scenario for them. 


Todd Fortner headshotTodd Fortner 

President & CEO, Tennessee
Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU)

“How can you bring value to our organization?”

A good interview question allows the interviewer to glean multiple things about the applicant. On the surface, the question about how a candidate can bring value to the organization is an opportunity for the applicant to share their skills and see if they are a good fit for the position. It is also a chance for the candidate to expand on their past work experiences and share their career goals. But most importantly, it gives vital insight into their preparedness level and job interest. How much time have they invested in learning more about the position and the organization? We seek candidates who are interested in learning more about TVFCU.


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Marcus Jones headshotMarcus Jones

CEO, Magnolia Developments

My go-to interview question is a two-part question: “Why do you seek this job opportunity, and how do your previous experiences qualify you for the position?” This question gets straight to the point on the candidate’s achievements and experiences and how they relate to the position. 

These questions are key during an interview because they allow the applicant to connect the dots between their written resume and the position. If what is written in their resume is valid, the potential hire should be able to fluidly connect their experience to your position. In addition, these questions allow you the opportunity to look into the candidate’s eyes and feel their passion to advance the goals of the company.



Bryan Johnson headshotBryan Johnson

Superintendent, Hamilton County Schools

I don’t necessarily have a favorite interview question, but one I always enjoy asking is: “In the last 30 days, what is something in your current role that you wish you had approached differently, and why?” From my view, this question is a good way to evaluate a candidate’s humility, reflectiveness, and proactivity.

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Christy Gillenwater headshotChristy Gillenwater

CEO, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

Candidates care about career growth and lifestyle quality. When I ask the open-ended question “What is most important to you?” their answers enlighten and help inform our conversation. Some will say that it’s their family. In this context, typically, stability and flexibility will help this person feel deeply connected to the Chattanooga Chamber’s work. Others might say, “making a difference in our community.” Here, ensuring that they understand the Chattanooga Chamber’s mission, values, and purpose will lead to a deeper conversation about what this means. Matching the desire for impact with how we tell the story about our work helps discern whether a candidate will soar within our organization’s culture.





Tim Kelly headshotTim Kelly

Mayor, City of Chattanooga

It seems simple, but the first question I always ask is: “Why do you want to work here?”

The answer to this question will often reveal the candidate’s knowledge about the company and its values. It also gives a little space for anecdotes or stories that will provide a window into their qualifications and, most importantly, their motivations. I’ve often found that there’s a disconnect between a candidate’s qualifications on paper and their real-world aptitude, which is why conversations are so vital to find the best person for the job. An impressive resume is one thing, but without the necessary conviction to carry out the work and a connection to the mission, you can get wildly divergent outcomes. A good candidate can get the work done, but a great candidate will bring passion, competence, and intelligence, as well as the flexibility to grow and learn over time. Hiring decisions can make or break a company or project, and they also affect culture and retention, so it is critical to drill down to an applicant’s motivation. 

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Wade Hinton headshotWade Hinton

CEO, Hinton & Company

We should acknowledge that bias can show up in interview questions. So, a question like “Tell me about yourself” could present a challenge for those candidates from cultures that shy away from self-promotion. The result could be that we miss out on great talent. With that in mind, I tend to ask more behavioral-based questions, and my go-to question is: “Tell me about a time when you failed.” Some of the best characteristics to look for in a candidate are attitude, self-awareness, and ownership. This question allows the applicant to demonstrate all three. It also creates a moment of vulnerability for the candidate and gives the interviewer a sense of how that candidate responds to stressful situations.





Keith Sanford headshotKeith Sanford

President & CEO, Tennessee Aquarium

If it is a management candidate, which is usually who I interview, I say, “Tell me how you deal with problems or difficult employees and how that has worked out.” I want to make sure they deal with problems quickly and effectively to avoid protracted or continuing problems. 

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Janelle Riley headshotJanelle Riley

CEO, CHI Memorial Hospital

“What motivates you to work?” 

This question, to me, seems to reveal one’s passions, commitments, and expectations and, for a faith-based organization like ours, helps us discern an individual’s mission and compatibility with our organization’s mission. As an example, if a candidate shares that they are motivated by fast-paced work environments or that they love pitching in to solve a crisis, it indicates that they would be open to switching shifts when needed, coming in when it’s all hands on deck, and learning new technologies and protocols as medicine continues to evolve.



Glenn Morris headshotGlenn Morris

Board Chair, M&M Industries

My go-to interview question is: “Picture your absolutely perfect day at work and tell me, what makes that day so special?” 

I first tell them about my perfect day and why. That way, I have an example set up for them to understand my question in detail. This also gives them time to think about their answer. 

The reason I ask this question is that it tells me what they are looking for. Does the job fit their personality? Is it possible that they could have their best workday ever on the job they are applying for? For example, if you are high-energy and move from task to task, and I have a more sedentary job, it lets me know that you may not be happy in this position. 

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