Interview Questions That Help You Detect Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting can kill corporate culture, productivity, and revenues. These are the question to ask in an interview to identify quiet quitting before it happens. Interview questions.

by Amrit & Loralyn


If you are wishing that you had a list of questions to ask in an interview to sniff out quiet quitting, then you are in luck! We have assembled this list based on our conversations through leadership development training. Like everything else, it’s part science – part art – and no guarantees that the person you hired in the Spring is going through the same experiences and is in the same mental headspace later in the year. And therein lies part of the problem – things change. People do, too. What works for both parties now this season may no longer work by next season.

But there are some tell-tale signs that send the red flag up the pole. So, if your selection is down to a couple of candidates and all else seems equal, how candidates respond to the these questions can create some distance between the candidates’ seemingly equal qualifications. That is, unless you want quiet quitting employees working for you …

Our guess is: probably not. One of the key challenges is “sussing out” job candidates who are more likely to be practitioners of quiet quitting than the others who applied for the same job. It’s not like you can ask people straight up in an interview, “Hey, what do you think of quiet quitting? Are you going to do that to us if we hire you?” Not cool. This line of questioning has the potential of backfiring on you by risking alienating a “good” candidate who may take offense to your insinuation.

Asking interview questions like these would most certainly send out “this-is-not-a-safe-place” vibes. In this era of TikTok, perhaps more appropriately called, “the site where secrets go to die,” your company would be instantly exposed. Then good luck trying to recruit after that …

Alright, you’ve waited long enough to get to the part you came to read. Next, we’ll get into interview questions that you can safely ask. Think of it as gentle probing to uncover patterns and behaviors that may be associated with quiet quitting. Here are seven (7) questions to ask in an interview.


7 Questions to Ask in an Interview

Listed below are some interview questions that you can ask to gauge how inclined the candidate is towards quiet quitting. These interview questions are not fool proof, but an experienced interviewer asking these questions can read between the lines by “hearing” what the candidate is thinking but not vocalizing.  The key here is for the interview to practice active listening and to make careful observations of the candidate’s reaction.

Be especially focused on what the candidates don’t say. That’s right, watch their body language in reaction to the questions that you ask and see how their body language changes from one question to the next. Look for a quick flinch of the shoulders shrugging upwards and a slight flush to the cheeks: both suggest that you introduced tension to the conversation by asking whatever you asked. If the candidate looks down or away from your gaze, that can also suggest discomfort as they take a moment to compose themselves and pull together an answer that they hope you think is believable. Swallowing hard is a visible “tell” that they are thinking double-time to process what you just said so that they can formulate a credible response.


1 – How do you prioritize and manage your responsibilities during a work crunch?

This will give you insight into how the candidate thinks when they are working under pressure. Undoubtedly, every one of your employees will have previously faced a crunch situation. Did they take any initiative to be creative and solution for the problem? Did they just shrug their shoulders and state that it was not their responsibility to handle time crunches? Perhaps they pointed fingers and played the blame-game in that it was someone else who had time management issues, not them.

Many candidates may know how to give the “right” answers but there are always cues that you can catch. Otherwise, a straightforward answer will easily tell you how the candidate’s reaction is going to be if something extra is expected of them. The answer you should be hoping to hear is one where the candidate remains calm, self-assured, acknowledges that work ebbs and flows in that crunch periods are a natural part of the job. That is, unless they happen all the time – nobody wants to be in perpetual crisis mode.


2 – How do you handle the feeling of being dissatisfied with your job or manager?

One of the major forces behind quiet quitting is that the employee is dissatisfied with the job, their superior or the leadership. In many cases, if employees had a safe space to communicate their concerns so that they felt seen and heard, the outcome has the potential to be much different. Workplace mediation and conflict management training not only gives staff the tools that they need to navigate such dissatisfaction, but this training also cues up an open – and safe – invitation to raise issues formally so that they get addressed. Professionally and maturely sorting the issue out instead of letting it affect performance is the desired path forward and the answer you want to hear from the candidate.

Ideal work conditions never exist. Everyone needs to perform within the existing constraints, whatever they are. It’s a matter of what you can personally tolerate, and everyone has a different trigger threshold. The trick is to minimize these constraints so that performance by all individuals, the team, and the organization can be delivered.  An employer, and more specifically its leadership, must know how to create optimal (if not nearly ideal) conditions for the workplace. This can be done by routinely talking to colleagues, peers, and staff instead of simply tolerating quiet quitting and turning a blind eye to it. Another leadership development opportunity and the tip is to have these conversations regularly so that your “optimal conditions” can evolve at the pace required and in synchrony with your team’s changing needs.


3 – How do you prioritize and manage your responsibilities?

A candidate who has identified that they needed to establish and now follow a prioritization system that works for them is less likely to indulge in quiet quitting. This is the response you are listening for.

On the flipside, employees who struggle with prioritization are more likely to emotionally shut down when they feel overwhelmed. And if the workload is routinely high – at least it is perceived as routinely or “always” above normal – the employee is likely to be one of those quietly quitting. Again, there may be some exceptions but, in most cases, employees that indulge in quiet quitting are simply trying to minimize their effort because they find everything overwhelming.


4 – What do you do when you see a colleague overwhelmed with their workload? What about when you see a colleague with a lot of free time?

What you hope to hear is that the candidate asks their colleague if they need or want help. And if your candidate was unable to provide direct assistance, then your candidate asked their colleague for permission to discuss support options on their behalf towards a sustainable solution versus getting caught up in the endless loop of covering for a co-worker who can’t get it done. That’s for the overwhelmed colleague. The response you hope to hear for the candidate who has a co-worker that doesn’t seem to work all that much is as follows. The candidate asks their colleague for time management or workplace efficiency tips since they appear to get their work done faster than everyone else. If the pattern continues, the candidate next asks their co-worker for help with a project. Then the candidate escalates it to the team’s supervisor requesting a different workload allocation across the team since your candidate has expressed that they are struggling to keep up.


5 – What did you like most about your last job? What didn’t you like?

If your candidate begins with complaints about their last job, especially if they list a series of complaints, that’s something to take note of. On the other hand, if your candidate begins with a comment or two about the things they liked most about their last job, that’s a potential sign of greater positivity and resiliency versus the complaining candidate. A prospective quiet quitter will have lots of issues regarding their previous job listing and numerous reasons why they hated working there. They are likely to struggle to respond with even a single, positive comment about their last job.

Sure, sometimes your candidate will have exited a toxic environment where it was previously impossible to perform at such a workplace. Fair enough. But, during your conversation, you will be able to interpret their body language and comments to determine if it was the workplace that was toxic or if the candidate’s personal outlook limited their potential to navigate or overcome those challenges.


6 – List a few things that you did that were not part of your job description.

One of the biggest traits of quiet quitting is that the employee doesn’t do anything that is not formally listed as part of their job description. Conversely, desirable employees eagerly take on responsibilities that are not included in their job description because they are self-directed, motivated, and want to be noticed plus rewarded for their efforts.

This is not to say that employees should be expected to take on job responsibilities they are not being compensated for. That’s not what we’re saying. Once in a while just about everything (except those intolerable never-okay things like harassment and abuse) is generally okay. For example, there might be a spike in work every year around tax time or at year-end because of the nature of your job, but that spike shouldn’t be week after week after week.

Having that emotional intelligence (EQ) quotient enables you to astutely see that your co-workers’ loads are spiking when your queue is slow which should direct you to lean in and offer a hand. That’s part of corporate culture – you don’t let your colleagues drown – it’s another matter entirely if everyone is always drowning. Every job will periodically (and that’s the keyword) have some unexpected challenges. Employees grow careerwise when they stretch themselves and explore new possibilities. This cannot be achieved if they are constantly holding themselves back from doing something extra because their job description doesn’t include that task.


7 – How do you see your responsibilities changing over the course of the next year, two or three years?

Candidates who are enthusiastic about their future have a mental picture of their job profile after a certain period of time in the role they are interviewing for. Quiet quitters on the other hand are generally more interested in maintaining their current state but getting pay raises to do the same job. A candidate who is likely to indulge in quiet quitting will often give a vague answer to this question.

No matter what the reasons for quiet quitting are, you don’t want to hire employees who may be inclined toward this behavior. Ideally, you want to hire driven employees who are committed to completing their responsibilities and being self-aware plus conscientious enough to want to lend a hand. Look for those who may be constantly fretting about everything: the stereotypical “whiner” who will poison your culture and drive away good workers. The bottom line, you want people who are going to get their jobs done and contribute to the productivity of the organization. Organizations don’t grow on the shoulders of slackers and quiet quitters!

If an employee has a problem, they should be able to articulate it clearly and without risk of retaliation. If they don’t like their job, they should switch to another department or out of the company altogether rather than gripe and lament working for you. If they are not fully committed, they should make way for those who are. When you as a leader reach out to identify what – if anything – you can do to make their situation better, and then if you can act upon that feedback, that could change the perspective and attitude of the employee. In fact, it has the potential to induce a 180° response where they are converted into champions for you and your company.


Tips for Your Leadership

As the employer or hiring manager, you need to make boundaries clear. Is your staff member resentful? Do they think they are being exploited? Is there a risk of material harm to the other members of your team? Are the lines dividing their professional and personal lives constantly being blurred by your lack of leadership or clarity? Do they find themselves ill-equipped for the responsibilities they are asked to bear because you have not enabled them for success? Do they find themselves trapped in a rut? Are they burnt out? Have you done all that you can to address and improve the situation, including fostering their productivity and supporting their professional development? How is your leadership changed as a result of the experience?

The bottom line? Ask questions. Don’t limit the interrogation period to the interview process. Encourage open, honest dialogue with your team and amongst your team members. Be astute enough to dial into conflicts to identify what you can do to reduce their intensity. And, most of all, find ways to stay engaged with your employees, thank them for what they do, and give them the safe space they crave so that they can tell you what they need. These efforts will reduce, if not all but eliminate quiet quitting.

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