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Asking the Right Questions

The following sample interview questions are taken from a list developed by HSUS employment manager Nancy Allen. The questions are specifically designed to help determine whether an applicant possesses characteristics employers often seek; they are general enough to apply to most jobs and can be tailored according to the position in question.

Analytical Ability:

Give me an example of a potential work problem that you anticipated and resolved. What are some of the measures you took to prevent the situation from becoming a problem in the future?

Communication Skills:

Describe a time when your listening abilities helped you communicate better.


Describe a time when you broke away from the regimented way of doing things and developed a creative solution.

Decision-making Skills:

In your prior job, what decision did you ponder the longest before making? Why was it difficult?

Diversity Orientation:

How do you value the differences that employees bring to the job?


Describe a time in your current job when your boss assigned you a rush project even though you had other important priorities at the time. How did you feel, and what was your response?


Tell me about some new ideas and suggestions you have made to your supervisor in your current job. Which were accepted? Why?

Interpersonal Skills:

Tell me about a situation where you had to demonstrate empathy.

Job Motivation:

Give me an example of when you have felt the greatest sense of achievement. What made you feel that way? What makes a job interesting to you? What “turns off” your motivation in a job?


Give me an example of a time when you had to ask your manager for assistance on a project or situation.


Describe a situation in which you had to gain cooperation of others outside of your organization. What were the challenges, and how did you overcome them?

Management Skills:

How do you communicate organizational changes and other relevant information to your staff? How would your staff describe you as a manager? What would they say are your strengths and your opportunities for improvement?


Describe a situation where your enthusiasm convinced a person(s) of your point of view.

Planning and Organizing Skills:

Give me an example of when you had conflicting priorities and how you completed them on time.

Presentation Skills:

Tell me about a time when a presentation did not go well and what you did to “rescue” it.

Teamwork Abilities:

Tell me about a task force or project team that you were a member of and the role you played in that group.

Time Management:

In your present position, what limits your ability to manage your time? How do you work within or around these limitations? 

Digging Below the Surface

Shelter-specific questions can elicit more than the bare facts of a resume. Phrased correctly, they can be the catalyst for a deeper discussion of personal philosophies. Most questions listed below are more appropriate for those with some prior experience in animal care and control.

  • What do you feel is the most important thing the agency can do for animals? For citizens?
  • What do you believe is the role of animal control?
  • Are you an “animal” person or a “people” person?
  • If the kennel space is full and people are calling to relinquish animals, how would you handle it?
  • How do you feel about euthanasia?
  • If a donor complained about being issued a ticket for an animal control violation, how would you handle it?
  • What are some preventive programs that humane agencies can provide?
  • Suppose a relinquisher says his cat isn’t using the litter box. If he wants to adopt another animal, what would your suggestion be?
  • If you are having an outbreak of parvo, what would you do first?
  • How would you promote shelter adoptions to a stranger?
  • Suppose a visitor says, “I’m looking for a purebred collie,” but there are no purebred collies in the kennels. How would you respond?


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