7 best interview questions to hire temporary employees

With seasonal and temporary hiring on the rise, our Seasonal Workers Series is here to help you find the right temporary hires, assimilate them into your workplace, and keep them productive.

Last week, we explored the benefits of using temporary staff.

This week: interviewing for temporary positions.

A good employee is a good employee no matter what, whether they’re taking on a short-term position or a permanent one. That said, there are specific traits that are especially attractive in temporary hires. The ability to adapt, for example, ensures that a temporary employee will acclimatize to their new workplace quickly and easily. Asking the right questions helps you to find the temporary employees that can really thrive. Here are the top 7 to ask.

“Why do you want a temporary position?”

This question elicits a wide range of answers, and most of them will be illuminating. Do they like to move around? Are they sampling different industries? Are they so in love with your company that they’re fine with a short-term position? Asking a candidate about why they want a temporary position can also help to gauge whether they’d be interested in staying on full-time, which, as our previous post discussed, can be useful for making meaningful hires later on.

“Describe a moment in your career when you had to adjust to a new situation quickly.”

Adaptability is one of the most covetable traits of a temporary worker; because of the quick turnaround, temporary staff needs to be able to recognize and respond to the office culture, pick up the specifics of their project, and learn process and protocol.

“Do you have all the mandatory skills listed in the posting?”

Yes, the battle between hiring for potential versus hiring for skills is an ongoing one. But when it comes to temporary staff, they need to be starting out with a core knowledge base – and the more the better. If the project they will be working on requires know-how of certain software, for example, you’ll want to stick to candidates who are able to show you demonstrable experience of the programs.

 “Describe a time when you showed initiative with a project.”

If adaptability is the number one trait, initiative is a close second. Even if you have onboarding in place, temporary hires are always getting less training and orientation. The best candidates are the ones that will ask questions, actively search for solutions to problems, and take on new tasks – even if they weren’t specifically covered in training.

“How do you get motivated?”

Every workplace is different, but in general, temporary staff usually doesn’t have access to the same incentives as the permanent staff, including benefits, perks, and long-term relationships. It’s important to broach this subject from the beginning, and establish that a candidate is able to find motivation in their own achievements and goals.

How would you describe your communication style?”

Another symptom of a truncated – or non-existent – onboarding and training program is that temporary hires have less time to pick up on the nuances of communication between their new team, and the office as a whole. Having efficient and constructive communication habits will ensure your new hire is learning and adapting at a rapid pace, and is avoiding misunderstandings.

What frustrates you at work?”

Again, temporary hiring usually means a peak period or important project – both of which can lead to tension in the workplace, especially for newcomers trying to jump into things quickly. Ideal temporary candidates would be able to handle a reasonable amount of chaos without taking it out on their coworkers and derailing their projects.

See also:

5 benefits of hiring temporary workers
7 telling questions that reveal a candidate’s true potential


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