Asking the Right Questions

By Larry Gilhuly, director, Northwest Region
November 8, 2011

During the Northwest Turfgrass Association meeting in Pullman, WA in late September, a very interesting and common-sense presentation was given by Mr. Bill Griffith, Director of the Walla Walla Community College Turf Management program.  His talk was broken down into three distinct areas; decide what you need for the position you are seeking to fill, determining how to interview, and asking the right questions.  For the sake of this update, the focus will be on the last portion of his presentation. 

After spending hours researching various sites on this topic, Bill came up with very good questions that can help reveal not only the expertise of the person being interviewed, but who they are inside and how they react in situations found on a golf course.  These questions are geared more for individuals seeking a management position; however, they are still very effective for filling any position.  Here are the questions Bill delivered in his presentation that will assist you in selecting the best individual.

General questions 

  1. What do you expect from a manager?  What can a manager do to help you stay motivated?
  2. Tell me about a situation where you were able to have a positive influence on the actions of another person?   What did you do?
  3. How do you motivate yourself to do something you don’t find enjoyable or really don’t want to do?
  4. What do you do when you make a mistake?   How do you handle it?
  5. Have you ever dealt with a manager’s policy you weren't in agreement with? How?
  6. Share an example of how you were able to motivate employees or co-workers.
  7. Have you handled a difficult situation with a supervisor?  How?


 Questions that help determine attitude 

  1. What kind of people have you found it difficult to work with?  Why?
  2. Describe a situation where you were in the wrong, and others knew it. What did you do?
  3. Tell me about an instance where you had to work with an angry customer. What was the problem?  How did you resolve it?
  4. What has caused the most pressure for you in a work situation?  What did you do about it?


 Questions that help determine customer service skills 

  1. A customer complains that the greens are too slow -- how would you respond?
  2. A crew member is rude to customers -- what would you do?
  3. Tell me about a situation in which you 'blew it' with a customer. How did you resolve it?
  4. What do you say when you answer the telephone at your present position?


 Questions that help determine personality 

  1. What circumstance brings you here today? 
  2. How would your best friend describe you?
  3. What would you say are your two greatest weaknesses?
  4. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to throw a very abstract question into the interview to see how the person responds, such as “why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?”


 Questions that help determine leadership 

  1. What is the difference between a leader and a manager? 
  2. Describe the best boss you have had.  How would you define the qualities of a good manager?
  3.  Tell me about a leadership experience that did not go as planned. 
  4. Describe some of the circumstances under which a leader can fail.


 Questions to help determine work ethic 

  1. Who is the most successful person you know in our industry, and why do you think he/she is successful?
  2. Describe your work ethic.
  3. How many hours a week do you think you need to get your job done?
  4. Have you been in a situation where you didn't have enough work to do?  What did you do?


Larry Gilhuly can be reached at to answer every other type of question related to golf course maintenance.  In most cases he will have an answer, but if he does not, he can rely on the other 17 USGA Green Section agronomists for assistance.


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