Ask Better Interview Questions

Could You Be Asking Better Interview Questions?

April 8, 2019 10:02 am

You’ve probably had the experience of falling in love with a job applicant in an interview only to have them perform disappointingly once you hire them. A job interview is one of the best ways to get to know a prospective employee, but they don’t always reflect their true selves in an interview setting. You can get more out of an interview, however, if you’re asking the right questions.

One of the problems facing interviewers is that people have gotten very good at predicting what they will be asked and pre-formulating their answers. They may know these questions simply because they’ve been floating around for decades and are as tired as an old shoe, or they may look up questions on the internet. Either way, they can rehearse answers in advance, resulting in an interview that is inauthentic.

Here are some ideas from professional placement services for shaping fresh and incisive questions. These tips can help you conduct better interviews and find the best employees for your organization.

Change it up. We all know the overused hiring questions: What’s your greatest strength? What’s your greatest weakness? Why should we hire you over the other applicants? Try putting a new spin on these questions to make them less predictable and more telling. For example, you could say, “Tell me about a time when you used a strength to improve your workplace,” or “What qualities do you possess that could help our company sell more products?”

Avoid yes-and-no questions. Keep questions open-ended. Instead of asking, “Have you had experience dealing with frustrated customers?” Ask, “What would you do to calm down a customer who was upset over receiving a late shipment?” Start your questions with words like how or tell me about. This can generate better discussion and reveal more about the candidate.

Ask hypotheticals. Consider putting the applicant on the spot with some hypothetical scenarios.

  • “How would you react to a co-worker who is always complaining?”
  • “How would you deal with a customer who demands a refund even though they are returning an item outside of the 30-day maximum?”

You can’t guarantee that a candidate will react as they say they will once they are hired, but these hypothetical questions can shed light on their thinking processes and values as well as their creativity and innovation.

Draw on their past. Past performance is a strong indicator of future performance, so it’s helpful to find out how employees have dealt with situations in former jobs that could translate to your company. Consider these questions:

  • Tell us about a positive change that you made in your last workplace?
  • What suggestions would you have for improving the company you most recently worked for?

Avoid leading questions. Questions that clearly indicate that one answer is better than another can steer responses and make them less genuine. Instead of asking, “Are you willing to be a team player and take on extra work hours if needed?” Ask, “How many hours would you ideally like to work? And is there a maximum number of hours per week that you prefer not to exceed?”

Don’t be afraid to go off-script. You shouldn’t be confined to your set list of questions. In fact, you should look for opportunities to probe beyond your pre-determined list. If an applicant says anything that could be clarified or expounded, continue your line of questioning until you can get more information. This kind of focused questioning can take you down new paths and reveal more about the interviewee.

As a couple of final pointers, make sure to stay away from questions of a personal nature. Inquiring about relationships, hobbies, or finances can put you on shaky legal ground. You should also make sure to put candidates at ease. If someone feels anxious or overly nervous, you may not get an accurate depiction of them.

Though better interview questions don’t guarantee perfect hires, they go a long way in increasing the chance that you’ll get a more accurate picture of job applicants so you can make smarter hiring decisions.