Identify Complainers and Contributors

Interview Questions to Help Identify Complainers and Contributors

Linda Byars Swindling, author of the book Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers: How to Negotiate Work Drama to Get More Done offer a collection of questions that she had been offered by HR professionals for interviewing job candidates. These are examples of interview questions that can be used to sieve out complainers and energy drainers. What you are watching and listening for is to see if someone is self-aware, is a problem solver, and takes responsibility for his or her own actions and mistakes or participates in the blame game. Click here to buy her book from

General Questions about Working Style, Preferences and Handling Stress

  • What do/did you like least about your current/last job?
  • Do you prefer to work under supervision or on your own?
  • What are you strengths? What are your weaknesses?
  • What top three things motivate you?
  • What does open-door policy mean to you?
  • Where do you see yourself in five or so years?
  • Give me an example, or describe a time, you worked under pressure. How did you handle the stress?

“Use follow-up questions to determine if they were part of problem solving process or just complained about it.”

Questions about Working with Others

  • If I were to call your previous manager for a reference, what would they tell me? • What would your supervisor say about your ability to work well with others?
  • What qualities do you seek in your leaders/managers?
  • What would your previous employers tell me about you?
  • What would your previous co-workers tell me about you?
  • What would your supervisor say about your response to supervision?
  • Describe what makes you successful on a team?
  • Do you enjoy working on teams? If so, why?

Questions about Taking Responsibility for Failure or When Blamed

  • Tell me about three times when you failed.
  • How did it happen?
  • What did you do to correct it? “Hopefully you’ll get past the one or two failures that people package to look good.”
  • What would you describe as your biggest failure?
  • Tell me about a time when you were blamed for someone else’s work?
  • Tell me about a time when you failed and it wasn’t your fault.

Questions about Conflict and Conflict Resolution

  • Describe your temperament. “To dig further, consider giving yourself as an example and ask, ‘If I upset or anger you, how would you handle the situation and what would you say to me?’”
  • How do you handle a co-worker who will not do his/her fair share?
  • How did you handle a difficult co-worker, or one you did not get along with? What would you change or do different if ever in the same situation?
  • How did you handle a supervisor you did not get along with?

Questions about Professionalism and Ethics 

  • What would you do if you see or know a co-worker is violating work rules/policies?
  • If someone told you something about another co-worker, what would you do or say?


In addition to the questions above, you may want to consider asking these additional questions of candidates for management roles, to help you sieve out candidates that are complainers and energy drainers.

Questions about Leadership Style 

  • Describe the best leader you ever had. How has that leader affected your leadership behavior?
  • Give me an example of a process, project, or idea you presented that was implemented?
  • How do you interact with HR, or the HR department?
  • When do you seek HR’s assistance or guidance?
  • When do you seek help from your boss or supervisor?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment in a supervising/managing role?

Questions about Coaching and Counseling Style 

  • How do you handle an employee that is difficult and or resistant to participating on team projects or does not contribute their share on projects?
  • How do you handle an employee that does not agree with you?
  • What qualities do you determine are essential for the success of your employees?
  • How do you provide feedback to your employee?
  • How do you correct an employee when they do something inappropriate?
  • What is your definition of progressive discipline?

Questions about Handling Conflict, Failure and Disappointment

  • Have you ever disagreed with your superiors and how do let him/her know? If so, describe how you continue working with him/her on assigned projects/assignments?
  • What is your biggest failure as a supervisor/manager?
  • Describe a time you had to complete a difficult project but were not provided the resources you wanted or thought you should have to complete the project? Did you complete the project timely? What was the outcome?
  • Describe a time when you did not successfully complete a project as expected? What did you learn from the processes/outcome?