Asking consistent questions of each candidate aimed at identifying behaviors that have proven successful at your organization is the best way to ensure effective hiring decisions.
Interviews are designed to help recruiters assess which candidates 1) have the credentials and skills needed to perform effectively; 2) demonstrate behaviors that have proven successful at the organization; 3) will easily integrate into the department/organization and 4) WANT the job. In order to make such determinations, you must consider the questions you ask. By selecting 4 or 5 benchmark questions to ask every candidate, listening to the responses and asking strong follow up questions, you will learn everything you need to know to make wise hiring decisions.
• Why are you interested in our organizations?
• What are your favorite classes? Why? (for entry level)
• Why do you want to work here?
Questions to Probe Work History• Tell me about a typical day in your current position?
• How have previous jobs equipped you for this position?
• How long will it take for you to make a contribution?
• What were/are the biggest pressures on your last/current position?
• What were the most important projects you worked on at your last job?
• Take me through a project where you demonstrated ______skills.
• What has been your most important work-related innovation or contribution?
• What would you say are some of the basic factors that motivate you in your work?
• What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing this field/industry?
• What did you learn from your experience at….?
• How did your experience at X compare with your expectations?
Questions to Determine Ease of Integration• What can you do for us that someone else can not?
• What are the 3 reasons for your success to date?
• What kinds of obstacles to meeting deadlines do you face most often at work? What strategies have you designed to overcome them?
• Do you prefer to speak with someone or send a memo/e-mail?
• How do you motivate people?
• What 2 or 3 accomplishments have given you the greatest satisfaction? Why?
• What would you have liked to have done more of in your last job?
• What do you do when you are having trouble solving a problem?
• How would you describe your management philosophy?
• How would you describe the best/worst supervisor to whom you have reported?
• How do you cope with the inevitable stress/pressures of a job?
• What is the most useful criticism that you have ever received?
• What interests you about this position?
Questions to Uncover Motivation• Describe your ideal job.
• Give me an example of a situation where you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get something done.
• How can we best reward you for doing a good job?
• Why do you think you’ll be successful in this job?
• What do you think determines a person’s success in a firm?
• Tell me abut a project that really got you excited.
• Define cooperation.
• What two or three things are important to you in a job?
• How does this position compare with others you’ve interviewed for?
• What kinds of people do you like to work with?
• What kinds of people do you find difficult to work with?
• What is the unwritten contract between you and the people who report to you?
Questions to Close the Interview• Based on what we have discussed, are you still interested in the position?
• Do you have any questions?
• Is there anything else I should know about you?
• What single message would you like me to remember about you that would convince me you are the one we should hire?
• May I contact your present employers/references?
• Our time is about up, is there one final point you would like to make?
Teamwork & Leadership• Describe a situation when you worked as part of a team. What role did you take on? What worked well; what did not?
• Describe a situation where you had to manage a task/project.
• What kind of people do you like to work with?
• What kind of people do you find difficult to work with?
In addition to knowing what questions to ask, it is equally important to know which questions to AVOID. Hiring decisions tend to be based on somewhat subjective material. Trying to determine if someone “fits in” can lead to subtle forms of discrimination. In an effort to get to know someone, you may inadvertently ask a question that makes the candidate uncomfortable. To avoid going off track in the interview, ask yourself, “is the answer to this question job related?” “Will it reveal information to determine what kind of employee this person will be?” If not, don’t ask it! Some questions to avoid include:
• How old are you?
• What is your date of birth?
• Where were you born?
• How long have you lived at your present address?
• What was your previous address?
• What church do you attend?
• What is your father's surname?
• What is your maiden name? Are you married, divorced, separated, widowed or single?
• Who lives with you?
• How many children you have?
• How old are your children?
• Who will care for children while you are working?
• What year did you graduate?
• How will you get to work?
• Where does your spouse/ parent work or reside?
• How do you spend your spare time or what clubs do you belong to?
• Do you have a disability?
• Have you ever been treated for a drug/alcohol problem?
• What is your native language?
Your objective is to assess the candidates' credentials, form an impression about their personalites and determine the degree to which their interests and background correspond with your hiring needs. Your impression is typically based on the person's communication style. Is the candidate's handshake firm and confident; is eye contact strong; is appearance impeccable and confidence apparent? Be mindful not to make decisions soley on superficial criteria, but do pay attention for clues to support the substantative information you have garnered based on your questions. Throughout the interview, you should be searching for clues that address the following questions:
• can this person do the job?
• does this person interact with people easily?
• is this person easy to interview, confident and clear in answering questions?
• does this person listen?
• does the candidate ask sensible questions?
• is the candidate likeable?
• will the candidate compliment or disrupt the department?
• is this person manageable?
Once you have made a candidate an offer, you would be wise to check references to confirm your decision. Consider asking former employers the following questions.
Questions to Ask References• What were the candidate’s duties? How well were they performed? Where you satisfied with the work product?
• Any issues with attendance? Punctuality? Attitude?
• What are the candidate’s strongest skills?
• If you had to identify one “red flag” issue, what would it be?
• What key personality trait enabled candidate to be successful in this job?
• What management style does the candidate respond to best?
• How would co-workers describe the candidate?
• If you had the opportunity, would you rehire this person?
Interviewing is not an exact science but by asking consistent questions of each candidate, employers can increase the odds of making a wise hiring decision.