How to Prepare as the Interviewer

It’s that time again.  You need to interview for an open position on your team, a position that you need filled yesterday!  Giving advance consideration to the questions you will ask your candidates will go a long way in terms of making the process as smooth and streamlined as possible.

While it’s appropriate to tailor some of your inquiries to each candidate, it will be easier to compare apples to apples if you develop a core set of questions that all interviewees are required to answer.  Create at least two questions for each of the criteria identified in your job description.  Each question should also have a rating scale attached to it.  For example, you might determine that an answer will be rated from 1-5 (with 1 being poor, and 5 being superior), providing a description of what encompasses a “superior” response and a “poor” response.

What are the best types of questions to ask? Several full-length books have been devoted to this subject, but I’ll share some guidelines from Martin Yate, author of Hiring the Best:

Adaptability and Suitability Questions

These show the candidate’s skill set and test his understanding of the problems that must be solved, the problems he is there to avoid, and what he’s there to produce.  Examples:  What would you say were the most important responsibilities in your previous job?  What was the most difficult project you tackled in your previous job?  With all of your responsibilities, how have you planned and organized your workload?

Motivation Questions

These demonstrate whether the candidate will be someone who comes to work with the intention of making a contribution and wants to spend the day engaged in focused activity.  Examples: What personal qualities do you think are necessary to make a success of this job?  What have you done that you are proud of?  Think of a crisis situation in which things got out of control.  Why did it happen, and what was your role in the events, and their resolution?

Teamwork and Manageability Questions

These showcase whether the candidate will be a cohesive influence, and whether her work style will mesh with your management style.  Examples:  Describe the best manager you ever had.  In what areas could your last boss have done a better job?  Tell me about an occasion when there were objections to your ideas.  What did you do to convince others of your point of view?

Management Questions

These illustrate that the candidate will be successful at hiring and training, as well as getting work done through others. Examples:  How do you quantify your results as a manager?  Tell me about an occasion when, in difficult circumstances, you pulled the team together. What are the common reasons for resignations in your area of responsibility?

Entry-Level Questions

These test a candidate’s potential ability to do the job when she has little or no prior work experience.  Examples:  How did you spend your vacations while at school?  What have you done that shows initiative and willingness to work?  What job in the company do you want to work toward?

The Passion Variable

Richard Chang, CEO of performance improvement consulting firm Richard Chang Associates, also recommends that you ask questions that get to the heart of an individual’s passion.  Look for people who have demonstrated that they have pursued experiences they were passionate about as they have matured – particularly with their own professional development.

Involve Existing Team Members

It’s a good idea for multiple people on your team to evaluate each candidate. Organizational psychologist Ben Dattner suggests that you look for interviewers with the following attributes:

  • Knowledgeable about the role, the team, and the organization
  • Representative of diverse groups within the organization
  • Reluctant to jump to conclusions
  • Open-minded and able to revise opinions
  • Self-aware and able to account for their own biases
  • Accurate in their predictions of candidate success over time

Your team should be coordinated on the roles that each interviewer should play. If a candidate is interviewing with four people, each person should be designated specific questions so that all four people aren’t asking the same things.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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