Great Interview Questions

By Michael Matalone

 Our job is to hire the best candidate, and the candidates job is to be the best candidate

This means that candidates are trying to say everything that they think we want to hear. Our job is to determine if they actually possess the required knowledge and skills to be successful in the role or if they are just feeding us a bunch of BS. Unfortunately, far too many great candidates are overlooked because of the “way” you may be asking questions. The following are six things you need to know about conducting objective interviews that will help you identify the most qualified person for the role:

1. The Quality of the Question Dictates the Quality of the Response: If you ask a vague question, the candidate has to take a guess about what you are seeking and unfortunately about 50% of the time, they guess wrong which results in us thinking that they do not have the “right” answer and/or possess the desired knowledge. Conducting a great interview is NOT about seeing if the candidate can read your mind. If you ask for the details and they know the details, they will tell you what you want to know.

2. Preparation: prior to any interviews, create 3-4 detailed questions based on identifying the specific knowledge and skills a candidate must possess to be successful in the role.

3. Structure: These must be open-ended questions Vs closed – yes or no answers that sound like this: Please describe how you _ (fill in the blank) _ -Vs- have you _ (fill in the blank) _, which always ends up with the candidate saying yes, or no, but I can learn.

4. Response Guidelines: In addition to developing great interview questions, you also need to develop great response guidelines. How would any knowledgeable candidate respond to this question? This means putting some thought into what a great response is and ensures that you and all of your hiring managers are in sync and can objectively evaluate candidates.

5. The Only Way to Compare Candidates: Ask these same 3-4 questions to every candidate and then compare how they each answered them. Be sure to take notes as you won’t’ remember all the details from each candidate. You can ask as many other questions as you like, but focus your first interview on these comparative questions. This will help you determine if they get to come back for a 2nd interview where you will spend as much time asking whatever else you like (as long as the questions meets EEOC guidelines).

6. The Process: Almost every candidate is either nervous and/or anxious at the first interview and we all have “brain farts” when we are under pressure. Spend a little time relaxing the candidate before you dive into these questions. Never interview from behind your desk or across a big conference table. Be aware of your tone, facial expressions, body language, etc. These can all intimidate the candidate. Be friendly and smile a lot – your job is to create a great candidate experience so they want to work with you! Have your pre-determined questions and response guidelines in front of you when you are interviewing and then READ the question to the candidate to ensure you are asking it correctly. Then compare their response to the response guideline to ensure that they actually answered the question you asked. When a candidate does not know the answer, they typically will talk faster and add lots of content in an attempt to confuse you so you “think” they answered your question.

Did you find this helpful? What other ideas do you have about asking great interview questions? Please share your thoughts with me.

Want to learn more about hiring top talent? Click here to download my free e-book, The Talent Gap: How to Get the Right Person in the Right Roles and sign up for a demo of the XP3 Talent System that provides role specific questions, response guidelines and a 5 point scoring system to help you make the best possible hiring decisions.