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 primary method of vetting candidates for hundreds of years.
But deciding on which questions to ask is not always easy. The task so daunts some employers 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, they 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 essential too. There are a lot of laws about candidate vetting that are aggressively enforced if reported. It’s against the law to consider any protected class information in the hiring process. Be sure to avoid the following topics in your interviews: age, race, nationality, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy status, disability, and religious affiliation.
What Makes a Good Question?
A good question should accomplish a few things. Firstly, it should help you determine if the candidate has the necessary skills for the job. Secondly, it should give you insight into the candidate’s work ethic and attitude. Finally, it should help you gauge whether or not the candidate would be a good fit for your company’s culture.
Asking the right questions can be difficult, but it’s worth figuring out which ones work best for you and your company.
How do you craft the perfect set of questions that will help you find the ideal employee? Below are five tips:
- Do your research. Learning as much as possible about a potential hire is essential before meeting them in person. Read their resume and cover letter multiple times. Look for any discrepancies between the two documents. Research their work history and education. Check if there are any negative reviews online. The more you know about a candidate, the better you’ll be at asking them tough questions during an interview.
- Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are those that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” response. They force the interviewee to think critically and provide detailed answers. An example of an open-ended question is, “What made you decide to apply for this job?” Asking open-ended questions will help you better understand the candidate and whether they are a good fit for your company culture.
- Avoid yes, or no questions. Asking yes or no questions during an interview can make getting helpful information from candidates challenging. For instance, if you ask a candidate, “Do you have experience with customer service?” they might answer “yes,” even if they only have one month of part-time experience working in customer service at a retail store. It would be more beneficial to ask follow-up questions such as, “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an unhappy customer?” Yes or no questions can make candidates feel like they’re being interrogated rather than engaged in a conversation.
- Make sure your questions are relevant. There’s no point in asking irrelevant questions during an interview because they won’t tell you anything useful about the candidate. For example, if you’re hiring for an accounting position, there’s no need to ask the candidate what their favorite color is. Stick to asking questions that will help you assess the candidate’s qualifications, work history, and personality.
- Be prepared to answer tough questions yourself. Candidates will likely have questions, so you must be prepared with thoughtful answers.
Some common tough questions candidates might ask include:
- Why did you choose this company?
- What are some of the company’s biggest challenges?
- Where do you see the company in 5 years? -What are some of your challenges?
Here are some ideas for questions that will help you get started in creating a tremendous interviewing protocol. Remember to consider position-specific questions too.
“Tell me about yourself.”
This is a great way to start, but don’t be surprised if it makes your candidate uncomfortable. Unstructured questions like this might lead them to wonder what kind of information you are looking for. An experienced candidate will know you are looking for general job-based details 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 an excellent way to gauge poise, social, and communication skills.
“Why are you the right person for this job?”
This question tells you two things: What sets this candidate apart from their competition? What are his credentials, experience, or education would uniquely benefit your company? And second, how much does the candidate know about this company and position (which unveils genuine 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 they handle stress in the work environment. Most work environments are full of mistakes and problems, and an employee who can’t deal with them shouldn’t be at the top of your list.
“What are your top 3 motivators?”
Work can be highly 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 they are 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 need to sugarcoat their answer on this one. But, it will still be revealing to see which attributes they choose 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 work areas 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 if he contacts his current boss and wants his response to align with his boss’s answer. This is 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 contribute.”
With all the information available online, your candidate should have done their research and gleaned a lot of information about what you do and your values as a company. They should be able to answer all or most of your questions comfortably.
“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.
Hopefully, these tips will help make your next job interview go more smoothly! Remember to do your research ahead of time, focus on asking open-ended and relevant questions, avoid yes/no questions, and be prepared for tough questions yourself! With a little preparation, you’ll be on your way to finding the perfect candidate in no time. Good luck!