The job interview is the moment when you put the person and the resume together. It’s almost impossible to get a clear picture of anyone when all you have is printed words on paper. The interview is so vital and effective that it’s been the main method of vetting candidates for hundreds of years.
But decided on which questions to ask is not always easy. Some employers are so daunted by the task that they try to wing it. This isn’t the best method because your responses won’t be uniform. If the interviewer is having a bad day, he or she might not ask the best questions and cause the candidate to be seen in a different light. This isn’t fair and could cause you to miss a good hire.
Knowing what NOT to ask is important too. There are a lot of laws about candidate vetting that are aggressively enforced if reported. It’s against the law to take any protected class information into consideration in the hiring process, so be sure to avoid the following topics in your interviews: age, race, nationality, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy status, disability, and religious affiliation.
Here are some ideas for questions that will help you get started in creating a great interviewing protocol. Remember to consider position specific questions too.
“Tell me about yourself.”
This is a great way to start, but don’t be surprise if it makes your candidate uncomfortable. Unstructured questions like this might lead them to wonder what kind of information you are actually looking for. An experienced candidate will know you are looking for general job based information that you might not be able to find on their resume. Others will flounder and might tell you too much about their personal life and hobbies. But, it’s still a good way to gauge poise, social skills, and communication skills.
“Why are you the right person for this job?”
This questions tells you two things: First, what sets this candidate apart from his or her competition? What in his credentials, experience, or education would uniquely benefit your company? And second, how much does the candidate really know about this company and position (which unveils true interest in the opportunity or lack thereof)?
“Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you handled it.”
Crisis management, especially a crisis that the candidate created, shows a lot about how he or she handles stress in the work environment. Most work environments are full of mistakes and crises, and an employee who can’t deal with it shouldn’t be at the top of your list.
“What are your top 3 motivators?”
Work can be extremely challenging and sometimes monotonous. Your employees need to be motivated enough to push through and consistently perform well. Does this person’s motivation align with your company’s culture?
“What frustrates you?”
If the answer is, “when other people’s work product isn’t as good as mine,” you might want to consider not hiring this candidate. It tells you he or she is possibly arrogant and not a team player. Depending on the position and the team, you should try to choose candidates whose personalities are conducive to contributing the best possible work without conflict.
“How would your current coworkers describe you and your work performance?”
The candidate will obviously sugar coat his or her answer on this one. But, it will still be revealing to see which attributes he or she chooses to highlight. It might be “I am smart, hard-working and dependable,” or “I can be demanding, but fair.”
“How would your boss describe you? When I call him, what will he say are your strengths and your areas of work that need improvement?”
This question is another form of “what are your strengths and weaknesses,” and usually elicits an honest response. The candidate will know the interviewer will find out anyway if he contacts his current boss, and will want his response to align with his boss’s answer. This is also another test of how the candidate perceives his current employer’s opinion, how he handles constructive criticism, and how a working relationship with this candidate might be.
“From everything you’ve learned about this position and our company, tell me how you think you would make a contribution.”
With all the information available online, your candidate should have done his or her research and gleaned a lot of information about what you do and what your values are as a company. They should be able to comfortably answer all or most of your questions.
“What single project or task would you consider your most significant career accomplishment to date? Walk me through the plan, how you managed it, how you measured its success, and what the biggest mistakes you made were.”
After ten years of looking, Lou Adler, author of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired and Hire with Your Head, finally found what he thought to be the best interview question when deciding whether or not to hire someone. You can make this question more conversational since it’s so long. You can start with the first segment and ask the rest as you go. But here you are looking for what the candidate values, how they value themselves, and how they deal with failure.
Composing a list of questions or your interviewing protocols can be challenging. It’s something that is worth your effort, though, because the result of lack of planning means lower quality hires and poor recruiting practices.
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