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50 Contractor Interview Questions

Contractor Interview Questions - If You're a Millionaire, STOP reading now

Contractor interview questions are extremely important. You must convince yourself that you're hiring a person that will:

  • respect you and your property
  • is honest
  • is trustworthy
  • finish the job for the agreed-upon price to your satisfaction

Do Professionals Refuse to Answer Questions?

No, a professional understands your anxiety. She/he understands that many other homeowners have been taken to the cleaners by dishonest and bottom-feeder contractors. Shifty contractors will get uncomfortable very fast when you start to ask too many questions.

What's at Stake If I Just Hope the Contractor is Great?

Your money and peace of mind. If either of those two doesn't matter to you, then just sign the contract and get on with your life. If you don't care about losing thousands of dollars by hiring a dishonest contractor, then you can just stop reading now.

It's important to realize that you should have complete confidence you have the right person for the job. Don't make a decision based on hope. You only hope for something when you can't control the outcome.

You can control what contractor works for you.

How Did You Come up with These Questions?

I was lucky enough to interview a seasoned police department detective for this column. His name was Donald Clark and he had interviewed hundreds of people over his career about countless topics. "Tim, people love to talk about themselves. When you ask questions in the right way and the right order you'd be surprised what the person will gush out," Don told me during the interview. Don suggested many of the following questions as they open a window into the average person's feelings about all sorts of things.

You may want to modify the order of the questions. A question I propose may stimulate a question you feel is important. Remember, YOU control the interview.

The contractor is on the hot seat, not you. If at all possible, try to have a spouse present with you. Have the spouse ask some of the questions. Don't be shy. Remember, the contractor has sat through many a presentation, while this may be your first attempt.

Open up the discussion by telling the contractor, "It's important to me/us that I/we get to know you. I need to trust that you are the right person to work in my home." Words similar to that set the stage quite well!

  • How many people - direct employees - work for your company?
    This answer will give you an indication of company depth.
  • What are their job descriptions?
    This answer tells you if the contractor has adequate support staff.
  • What do they do each day?
    You should get a feel if the people are full or part-time.
  • How many jobs does your company have in progress right now?
    Will your job be lost among these?
  • What is the average number of jobs you do at the same time?
    Does this number seem in line with the amount of support staff
  • Do you have any other outstanding bids right now?
    If these turn into jobs, will your job drop to the bottom of the list?
  • Do you work from your home?
    This can be a sign of under-capitalization. I never had an office of my own, so ask more if this is important to you.
  • How do you manage your jobs on a day-to-day basis?
    All jobs require management. Ask for details! Who checks for quality, mistakes, and progress?
  • Who will be on-site and in charge of my job each day?
    Get a name and cell phone/pager number!
  • Have you or your company ever been sued before?
    The truth is available in the courthouse records!
  • Have you or your company ever sued anyone or filed mechanics liens before?
    What happened? Why the disagreement?
  • What is the worst building experience that happened to you?
    Listen! What is the story behind the tale?
  • What has been your best building experience?
    Listen! What is it he/she likes to do? Ask why.
  • What are your business ambitions?
    Are the words quality, customer satisfaction in the answer? If you hear, "...make a lot of money..." WATCH OUT!
  • Have you ever been on unemployment before?
    Many people have. Ask why, how long.
  • What is the longest amount of downtime you experienced between jobs?
    A contractor in demand has little or no downtime.
  • Who were your two best customers? Why?
    Listen! Do you sound similar or opposite?
  • Who were your two worst customers? Why?
    Listen very closely..... do you sense a conflict on the horizon?
  • Who do you most admire? Why?
    It better be the person's spouse or a close family member.
  • Do you volunteer to work at your church? Describe.
    Need I say more?
  • Do you have children? Ages?
    If so, does the contractor seem interested in them? Sense any negativity?
  • Do you do volunteer work at your child's school? Describe.
    Coaching, PTO, committees, etc?
  • Have you/your company ever caused/been involved in an accident that caused someone to receive hospital treatment or be hospitalized?
    This is ANY accident. Automobile, construction incident, etc.
  • What is the dumbest thing you ever did?
    Was this recent activity or a childhood mistake?
  • What is the smartest thing you have done?
    Look for wisdom here. Do you sense intelligence or luck?
  • May I please inspect the inside of your truck or car?
    This tells/shows organizational skills.
  • Do you use sub-contractors?
    Most contractors do.
  • What is the average length of time they have worked for you?
    You are looking for 5 or more years here!
  • Do these individuals have Workman's Comp & General Liability coverage?
    Better be a "Yes!
  • Can you supply me with the individual certificates from each company to prove this? When will I have them?
    Stop the conversation and write down the day he says they will be delivered.
  • May I please see your driver's license?
    He/she may not have one! DUI, suspension, etc. Stranger things have happened!
  • What are your two favorite hobbies?
    Everyone needs to unwind. Listen to things that you like.
  • What is the title of the last book you read?
    Listen! This answer tells you much about personal interests
  • What trade magazines do you subscribe to?
    Ask to borrow some back issues for design ideas.
  • Do you have Internet access?
    In today's world, it should be a "Yes!"
  • What are your 2 favorite building & remodeling websites?
    Go visit them. See what you can learn.
  • When was your last vacation?
    It better be within the past 18 months.
  • Where did you go?
    Modest or extravagant
  • Do you plan to vacation during my job?
    If "Yes", who will manage in his/her absence?
  • What do you want to accomplish in life?
    Listen again. Is it a selfish answer or one that has a sharing theme?
  • Do you belong to any professional associations?
    A "Yes" would be preferable, but not necessary.
  • If "Yes", do you attend regular meetings or hold an office within the association?
    Active membership tells you a Pro is answering the question!
  • Do you attend national trade conventions?
    Ask where and when. Where is the next one? Go to www.nahb.com to find out!
  • Have you taken any continuing education classes?
    In what areas?
  • Where do you bank?
    Is it local?
  • Do you have a separate company bank account?
    Mixing funds in one account is a recipe for disaster.
  • Do you supply notarized affidavits or release of liens BEFORE I give you payments of any kind?
    This must be a "YES!" It is unconditional.
  • Do you invest in the stock market?
    Doesn't have to be a "Yes", but is this person a forward thinker - a planner?
  • Who are your top three material suppliers?
    Contact the general manager or accounts receivable person at each place. Is the contractor in good standing?
  • Have you ever declared bankruptcy or operated a company under a different name?
    Listen to this answer!


12 Responses to 50 Contractor Interview Questions

  1. "May I please inspect the inside of your truck or car? "

    Have you seen "clients from hell"? I'd be ending the meeting right there and then if anyone ever asked me a question that presumptuous and ridiculous. It would indicate only that you have micro-managerial tendencies that would be intolerable in any reasonable client. You should only ask such a truly stupid question if you really want to damage your reputation when prospective contractors describe their experience of meeting you to their peers. A meeting isn't an interrogation or an opportunity for you to get away with acting like an ass. Remember that if you ever want anyone reasonable to work for you.

    • Rachel, I have to disagree. It's not about micro-managing. It's about doing your due diligence. That question is very simple. If the inside of a contractor's truck looks like a LANDFILL, how do you think he'll treat the inside of your home? If the inside of his truck is pretty clean - and I know MANY CONTRACTORS who have very clean truck interiors - how do you think he'll care for your most expensive possession?

      I worked for micromanagers. In fact, it's the reason I started AsktheBuilder.com. But my twenty years of doing AsktheBuilder.com and my syndicated newspaper column has proven that TENS OF THOUSANDS of homeowners should have asked that question of their contractors. Why? I get to do autopsies each day when homeowners come to me telling me how SLOPPY, DISGUSTING, FILTHY their houses are because they made the MISTAKE of choosing contractors that have very bad habits about cleanliness and respect of the homeowner's property.

      You go ahead and end that meeting in the future. But ask yourself the question Clint Eastwood poses to the bank robber at the beginning of Dirty Harry. "Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?" That customer you walk away from could be your ten-million-dollar customer - the one that connects you to many other of his/her friends who's collective contracts on all the work adds up to MORE THAN ANY OTHER REFERRAL.

      I was LUCKY enough in my career to have one of these Golden Customers. I'm glad I didn't walk out of the meeting because HE DID ASK ME A SERIES OF TOUGH QUESTIONS that fortunately I had all the right answers for. I wish you the best in your future gambling encounters.

  2. I am 100% in agreement with Tim Carter. I have had this exact experience and it is so true that if the contractor has a sloppy - not old - vehicle they are sure to treat your home as such. If they are reputable then they get it and won't have any problem answering your difficult questions. I have owned my current home for 28 years and have remodeled several times, either by choice or necesiity (earthquake and upkeep). Each time I've learned what to watch out for, particularly when work is abundant and contractors crawl out of the woodwork. Don't underestimate your instincts, it not only will cost you in aggravation, but costly repairs and possible litigation - been there too.

  3. I should have asked to see his vehicle first because the contractors who are building our house leaves it filthy. I cant tell you how many times my husband and I come out to the house to pick up trash, pick up debris, sweep, etc... And yes, we have complained to the builder but we just hear "its part of the construction process." If I has walked through one of their homes during construction, and saw how they kept it...I would have second thoughts. So, I do agree with Tim.

  4. I get that this is an old post, but wanted to chime in on a couple of points. I'm a working carpenter; my vehicle looks like a mess. We do everything possible to make the renovation process as effortless as possible, which includes a clean and organized jobsite. (We get paid to do that. It's how we operate. Our clients view it as a paid service just like everything else.) Secondly, if a potential client came at me with this list, the thing I'd be asking myself is this: "Is this client so ill-informed that they feel like a list like this is a relevant tool, or are they a pernicious micro-manager?" If it's the latter, the client is fired. If it's the former, the question becomes whether or not the client can be educated in the reality of construction.

  5. I'm with Rachel also. Other sites have listed 8 or even 5 questions to ask and all are good questions. Also agree with Jessica that this is a creepily invasive list.

    • Marilyn,

      You're most certainly entitled to your opinion. It's only money that's involved, so it's no big deal if you have plenty to waste.

      Ask someone who's been screwed by a contractor if they feel the questions are too invasive. I'm quite positive they'll answer you they wish they would have asked all the above plus twenty more.

      Good luck in trusting the contractors you choose hoping all works out.

  6. So many of these questions are SO illegal and unethical it isn't even funny. Do you have children? Ages? PFT. Ask these if you want to be sued.

    • Rachelle,

      Can you point out which questions are illegal? You might want to think before you ask because homeowners are not necessarily subject to the same laws as might apply to a business that's about to hire a new employee.

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