The Art of Asking the Right Interview Questions (Hiring Series 4/5)

As your candidates move through the hiring process, it can be helpful for the committee to create a series of questions that will cut through the applicants’ buzzwords and bullet points to get a more accurate gauge on how they will perform on your team.  According to a study by Leadership IQ, 46% of new […]

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As your candidates move through the hiring process, it can be helpful for the committee to create a series of questions that will cut through the applicants’ buzzwords and bullet points to get a more accurate gauge on how they will perform on your team.  According to a study by Leadership IQ, 46% of new hires do not last longer than 18 months primarily due to poor interpersonal skills even though candidates may be qualified.  Asking questions that get at this issue can make a big difference. 

When thinking about the questions, you can choose ones that invite both scripted and unscripted responses.  Common questions allow them to share their prepared and practiced responses, such as tell me about yourself and why would you be an asset to this company, but it is only going to reveal so much.  You want to ask some questions that yield impromptu responses to engage in real-time self-reflection. This can show the best clues to whether the person would be a good fit. 

  1. Here are some attitudinal, career, and background-focused questions that can tap into both their scripted and unscripted responses: 

·      Tell me about yourself and highlight two turning points that led you to apply to this position.

·      What are your superpowers?  Give me examples of your strengths and put them in the context of your previous jobs.

·      Tell me about your track record of success.  What did you do to create your success and whom did you have to partner with to make that happen? [Research shows one of the best indicators that somebody will be successful in the future is if they have a winning past track record].

·      What are you not good at or do not like?  How have you addressed these weaknesses or found workarounds?

·      What are your pet peeves when it comes to collaboration? What types of people do you find the most challenging to work with? What is your strategy if you find yourself on a team with some of these people?

·      What do you look for in an ideal teammate?  What do you have to offer to the team?

· Whom do you admire as a leader and why? How would your teammates describe you as a leader?

·      What are the ingredients of good company culture?  How would you contribute to an incredible culture?

2. Behavior Questions:  Asking behavioral and future-focused, realistic questions related to how they would approach their job can give you a lot of data on their potential performance.  Knowing what they would do can yield more robust responses than attitudinal questions that are more theoretical and philosophical.  For example, what is your philosophy on leadership versus how you would handle this issue?  

Here is a sample set:

·      If two colleagues are not getting along, how would you handle it?  Name 2-3 specific things you would do. Other variations include: Tell us about when your team had disagreements.  How were these differences resolved, and what was your role?

·      What are the steps you would take to manage an underperforming employee?

·      Can you tell us about a time when you disagreed with your manager’s directions or priorities? How did you respond?

·      Tell us a time when you made a mistake or were asked to go back and make corrections. How did you handle it? An alternative can be, what was your biggest failure? What did you learn from it and how have you avoided repeating it?

·      Have you had to work with someone whose personality was particularly different from yours? How did you make it work?  Another variation: Tell me a time when you had difficulty working with someone, what made them difficult to work with? What steps did you take to resolve the problem, what was the outcome? What could you have done differently?

·      Tell me about a time you faced a challenging situation?  What did you do to improve your situation?

·      If you are trying to get a new initiative implemented, walk me through how you would do this.

·      Tell me about a situation in your last job where you volunteered to help somebody outside your area or an important project where you volunteered even though you did not have anything to do with the core assignment.  Tell me why you did it, what was the result, and what was your role?   [A question like this helps you assess their track record of collaborating or teaming up with others to succeed.]

3. Questions to assess their preparation and career aspirations:

·       Can you tell us what you know about our company and what stands out the most?

·       Please tell us what you understand this position to be?  What excites you, and what concerns you?

·       How do your values and mission align with the company’s values and mission?  You can follow up on their response and provide some of the company information if you are trying to figure out alignment.

·      What are your career goals? What would need to happen for you to achieve your professional aspirations?

4. Questions to help understand their listening, communication, and curiosity skills:  This could involve formatting some questions as directions. 

·       Teach us about one of your passions, something that you know a lot about or consider yourself to be an expert in, and as if we do not know anything about it.

·       What have you been learning about lately or what is a recent topic that has captured your curiosity?

5. Questions that help reveal their level of self-awareness:

·      What have you been doing to work on your non-strengths?

·      What conditions can you do your best work in?

·      What is the biggest misperception people have about you?   

The misperception question is about whether they know how they come across to others, even in ways that may not be a true reflection of who they are.  Tony Hsieh, the former Chief Executive of Zappos, uses this question often. He said, “I think it’s a combination of how self-aware people are and how honest they are. I think if someone is self-aware, then they can always continue to grow. If they’re not self-aware, I think it’s harder for them to evolve or adapt beyond who they already are.”

Tony Robbins said, “successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” To truly understand if the candidate is going to be a right fit, you want to inquiry well.  Specifically, behavior questions can be the best indicator of how the person will perform on the job. 

Quote of the day: “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” -Jim Collins

Q:  What are your favorite interview questions to ask? Comment and share with us, we would love to hear!

[The next blog in this series 5/5 will focus on the concluding parts of the interview process]

As a Leadership Coach, I partner with leaders to get clarity on the hiring process to secure the best candidate, contact me to learn more.

Which questions do you ask to get the best candidate?

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