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Hiring 101 Part 7 – Asking Effective Interview Questions

In this video, Recruiting Daily Advisor Editor Stephen Bruce talks about conducting meaningful, legal interviews. One of the basic skills of interviewing is the ability to ask effective questions. The guidelines in this video will help you to frame your questions in ways that bring out revealing answers.

SB: This is Steve Bruce for the HR Daily Advisor.

This video is the seventh in our series Hiring 101. It–and the next one–are about conducting meaningful, legal interviews.

One of the basic skills of interviewing is the ability to ask effective questions. The guidelines below will help you to frame your questions in ways that bring out revealing answers.

Ask open-ended questions.

Question: Did you have supervisory experience at your last position? Answer: Yes. This is not productive. How about this: Describe the supervisory challenges you faced at your last position.

Avoid telegraphing the answer.

Question: Do you like to work under tight deadlines? Answer: Oh, yes, I love a tight deadline. You’ve “telegraphed” the “correct” answer by the way you asked the question. How about this approach instead: What’s more important in your current job, getting the product out by the deadline or being sure the quality is up to standard, even if it is delivered late? Or ask, How do you prefer to work, in a hectic environment, with tight deadlines and last minute changes, or a more structured environment that is calmer and better-planned?

Always probe for additional details.

Often the candidate’s first response will be “canned.” As you probe, however, you will start to get more candid responses. For example, Question: Tell me about an important project you managed. Answer: I installed a new computer system, on time and under budget. That sounds impressive, but you probe deeper. Question: How many people worked with you? Answer: 12. Question: How did you select them? Answer: Well, the consultant picked them. Question: How did you manage the switchover to the new equipment? Answer: We followed the consultant’s schedule.

Probing revealed that the candidate’s involvement wasn’t as impressive as it seemed. In actuality, the consultant did most of the work.

Use reflecting to get more information.

For example: Answer: I managed big projects. Reflection: You say you managed big projects?

Take the candidate beyond the first answer.

Try overstating the candidate’s response, for example: Answer: I ran a big project. Question: Would you say this was your biggest contribution to your employer? Or ask, Would you say that you are an experienced project manager?

Present the candidate with a scenario.

Many interviewers like to present candidates with scenarios, and ask what they might do. For example, for a candidate for assistant plant manager, say, “You notice a spill of oil. You call to one of the workers there to clean up the oil. She says she didn’t spill it, so she won’t clean it up. What do you do?” Or say you are interviewing for HR manager. Say, “You hear from someone outside the company about some sexual harassment in the company. What do you do?”

These scenario questions can be very effective, but don’t be locked into expecting a specific answer—the candidate can’t know all the particulars of your operations. Instead, look for the logic of the ideas the candidate comes up with.

Finally, consider creative questions.

Many interviewers have favorite questions that they like to ask candidates, just to see how they will respond. For example:

  • What will your boss say about you?
  • Tell me about yourself in one word.
  • How do they make M & Ms?
  • What is important to you in life?

When asking these questions, be aware that some candidates are more glib than others, and you may be measuring glibness with these questions, not the traits that are important for the job.

Be sure to watch the next video in the Hiring 101 series, which offers a step-by-step outline for your interview.

For hiring and for all your HR challenges, we recommend HR.BLR.com.

This is Steve Bruce for the HR Daily Advisor.