Asking the Right Interview Questions

Last week I was driving to do some face to face interviews for a key position. With five hours on the road, I had a little time to think about what made the “perfect” personality, skill set, etc. for the opening. Then I started backing into the interview questions I wanted to ask. While we had asked mainly about background and experience during the phone interview, I wanted more of an idea of how people fit during the face to face (and final) interview.

Funny enough, I was listening to a podcast for a portion of the drive, and the speaker was talking about some of their hiring practices. He said that when he’s hiring for a “doer” position, which ours definitely was, he asks a specific question to delve into the person’s background of doing things. Basically, he says, “What have you done?” and takes the conversation from there with follow ups, etc.

If I had to critique most people I’ve seen interview in the past, they don’t do a good enough job of the follow up questions. They have their favorite questions and they are sticking to that list no matter what the person says. However, if you really want to dig deeper, uncover half truths, and establish an actual baseline for what the person can actually do, then you need to listen carefully to their responses, then ask an additional question.

It doesn’t have to be complex, maybe just a “tell me more about that” or “and then how did it turn out” or “what did your manager think about what you did?” Those questions aren’t on any preparation website, so it’s hard to study for them. You should get a good picture of what the person is actually capable of from those sorts of interactions.

I’m also now a big believer in asking situational type questions to determine how a person will respond. We haven’t done much of that in the past, but this time around I asked a dozen questions based on what an average day/week would look like, and the answers steered us to the right person.

How do you decide what questions to ask in an interview? Is it time to change?

2 thoughts on “Asking the Right Interview Questions

  1. Amy Smith

    I agree that you definately have to ask some follow-up questions. I, too, have seen supervisors stick to their “list” of questions and not deviate at all. I have also seen the opposite–managers going off-the-cuff asking all kinds of stuff that isn’t really even relevant to the role. I like the idea of thinking about the perfect person for the job and backing into the interview questions like that. It is a unique way of thinking about it but it makes perfect sense.

  2. Kyle Jones

    My only comment and advice regarding interview questions to any HR professional – myself included – is as follows:

    You must change your focus and evaluate your methods if your interview questions go from organic to scripted.

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