Creating Interview Questions That Work

HRH 3 | Interview Questions

Sometimes, people are only great at interviews. Who they are during the hiring process do not live up to their performance on the actual job. Where did it all go wrong? Andrea Hoffer points that to your interview questions. In this episode, she shares with us how we can create interview questions that work, that can actually help us assess whether someone is perfect for the job or not.

She tells us some of the key areas to focus on that will not only make your selection process clearer but also save you and the candidate some time. Get to know candidates better by asking the right questions. Allow Andrea to teach you how.

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Creating Interview Questions That Work

In this episode, we’re going to talk about creating interview questions that work. I often get asked why is it that I interview somebody, they say all the right things, I get so excited and they start the job. I’m wondering what happened to the person I interviewed because they’re not showing up the way I expected them to, based on their interview. This often happens for a couple of reasons. One, maybe the interview questions we’re asking are not giving us the information we need to know if they’re the right person. Also, there’s so much information out on the internet right now on how to interview well. Basically, it’s giving them scripts on what to say for typical interview questions. Often, I see interviewers who ended up talking 80% to even 90% of the interview, so they don’t get to know the person that they’re trying to interview.

The candidate should be doing most of the talking because the whole purpose is for you to learn if they’re going to be successful in your position. Giving them the time to ask some good pointed questions so that they know they’re the right fit as well. We’re going to talk about this. How can we be more successful at interviewing? One of the first things you need to consider when you’re writing down your interview questions, I recommend that you have standard interview questions. You should ask every candidate for the same position, the same questions and there should be a purpose to each question. That means that the question ties directly back to the job that you need to get done. Meaning, that when you get a response from this question, it should give you some information about whether they have the skills, the behavior and the experience to do the job.

We often will ask vague or creative questions, “What animal do you want to be?” These questions are playing games with the candidate. There’s no real purpose for them. You’re wasting both your time and the candidate’s time. It will frustrate the candidate and you because they won’t know how to answer it and you won’t know what you’re looking for. I recommend that you don’t play games with the candidate. You want each question to be pretty clear about the information you’re trying to gain. The other thing is we learned some of the traditional interview questions that we used to ask, things like, “Tell me about yourself.” That can open you up to gaining personal information about the candidate and there’s no reason to go there. One, it could open you up to some legal consequences.

Don't play games with the candidate during interviews. You're wasting both your time and the candidate’s time. Click To Tweet

You should always speak to your employment attorney about the different interviewing and employment techniques that you use to be sure that you’re being compliant. If the question is not directly tied back to the job you need to be done and could start to give you information about their personal life, that’s not a good question. Get rid of that, “Tell me about yourself question.” Never ask it again. Some things you want to consider as you’re starting to create your interview questions. There are three areas that we normally like to look at. We divide your interview questions up into these three main areas to make sure that we’re hitting on them. They typically also tie back to the job posting that we create and to the core values. If you missed our last episode on How to Hire for Culture Fit, we talked some about core values. You may want to revisit that episode.

The first thing you want to look at is job fit, career fit. Not only can they do the job, but do they want to do the job? Does this fit in with their career plan? Do you see why they want to do this job or is it they are looking for any job right now? You want to make sure this fits in with where they’re going in the direction for their career. That way, they’re more likely to be happy and stay longer. The other section is about cultural fit. These you want to be tied back to the core values that again we talked about last time. You want to get some examples from them to understand how they’re going to show up day-to-day in your business. Do you live the values that your team and you live by?

Lastly, you want to get a feel for their coachability. Nobody’s perfect. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career. There may be areas that you want to improve or maybe they need to learn how you do certain things. You want to go through a series of questions where you’re learning about why they left each position that they’ve been in. What would their successes and their challenges be? What do they think their previous bosses will say about them? We have a series of questions that are often used by hiring and interview gurus that you can download from our website. I recommend every time you’re hiring for a position, you use those series of questions with every candidate.

HRH 3 | Interview Questions
Interview Questions: When interviewing, bring down the candidate’s defenses. Make them feel like they’re in control as much as you’re in control so that they feel comfortable in sharing with you.

It helps you to learn about, do they feel they have control over not only their actions but their situation and are they open to improving and learning? It also gives you an idea of why they left previous positions. If they left for a specific reason that you think might be something that could affect them in your job, they might not be the right fit for you or vice versa. Maybe your organization is completely opposite to what they described as the reason they left their last job. That might say that they could fit very well in your business. Now, we’re going to talk about how to frame your questions. If you’ve heard me speak about interviewing in the past, you know that I’m very step-by-step and very specific about how a question is framed.

The beginning of them all tend to sound similar. The first part is you want to see what you can do to make them as comfortable as possible. You want to almost make them your friend. I know this goes the opposite of what a lot of people think about interviewing. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who feel that you want to come across as stern and putting them on the hot seat. The truth is that’s going to bring up their defenses and you’re not going to get to who they are. You want to bring those down. You want them to feel like they’re in control as much as you’re in control so that they feel comfortable in sharing with you.

One way to do that is to frame a question in a way that sounds like you’re giving them control instead of being directive. In old traditional interview questions, when we start it with, tell me, subconsciously that’s very directive. You’re not giving them a choice on answering that question. If you start with could you share or could you tell me about, it softens it a little bit. They still are going to have to answer the question, but it makes them feel like they have an element of control there. I recommend that you start all or most of the questions that way. The second part is you want to get details from them. You want to learn how they actually acted or behaved or functioned in previous jobs and previous situations.

When interviewing, connect each question to the job needs. Click To Tweet

You want to say, “Give me a specific example. Could you share a specific example?” When I do interviews, most of my questions start that way, “Could you share a specific example or a specific time?” The last part of the question changes based on your position and your culture, “What exactly are you looking for?” In order to figure that part out, you need to know what this person is doing day-to-day. What are the situations that come up in your business regularly that you want to know how they’re going to show up in that situation? To give you a little bit of an example, let’s say you’re looking for somebody who you know on a regular basis are going to need to be resourceful. You’re not always going to spoon-feed them everything they need.

A quick question might be, “Could you share a specific example of a time where you lacked the skills and knowledge to complete a project that you needed to get done for work,” and leave it there. The good candidates are going to share with you a lot of details here. Sometimes you may need to probe a little bit. You can say, “Walk me through, could you share with me what happened next? I’m not very clear. Could you give me a few more details?” What you’re listening for is, are they complaining about the situation? Are they blaming their boss or somebody else? Did they give up or did they take specific steps that they share with you to put the situation back in their control? Were they resourceful? That’s what you’re listening for.

One thing that you’ll notice by this question is we didn’t give away the answer. We didn’t say, “How did you find the information?” If we said something like that, we’re telling them that’s what we want to hear. Most candidates will come up with an answer for that. If they were resourceful in their past situations, they probably won’t be able to give you a specific story. You don’t want to tell them that’s what you’re looking for. You want to see what their actual responses to the question. That’s very important. I hear often, somebody will ask a question, there was a problem. How did you fix this? That’s giving away the answer. You always want to put them in the situation, ask them to describe a time when they were in that situation and then see what they share with you.

HRH 3 | Interview Questions
Interview Questions: Make sure that each interview question ties back to what you’re looking for in that particular job and your culture.

Maybe they still failed, but they tell you what they learned from it and how they used what they learned from it going forward or the actions they took to try to mitigate any of the fallout from the situation. Another good question is let’s say you’re looking for a leader. You can ask, “Could you give me a specific example of a time when you failed to look at a problem or issue from the big picture and because of that, you paid the price for it?” We’re not saying “and fixed it.” We want to know, what was the failure? How significant was it? Did they recognize their part in it? Did they learn something that they then made changes going forward?

Will they recognize if they’re going to make that same mistake again? These are the types of questions that you want to be asking, and you want to make sure that each question ties back again to what you’re looking for this particular job and your culture. To sum up, you want to connect each question to the job needs. You want to be conversational so that they feel comfortable sharing with you. You want to get details, you want to ask for specific examples. Lastly, please don’t give away the answer. Let them share with you what actually happened. Thank you for joining me. I appreciate it.

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