How To Ask The Right Interview Questions

Effective interviewing is an art that has to be honed over time. As you progress you'll find yourself asking better interview questions intuitively. While practicing it's important to have a plan. This guide will help you create and execute that plan.

Identify Character Traits Of The Ideal Employee

Before you begin to think about the questions you want to ask in an interview think about what traits make an ideal employee. The questions you'll ask depend heavily on the role. For creative positions think about the candidates' creativity. What drives creativity? Curiosity, attention to detail, focus, flexibility. For customer-facing positions think about presentation. What drives good presentation? Polish, public speaking, confidence. Continue this process until you've identified what's important for a candidate to succeed in that role. Then start formulating questions.

Create Questions That Identify Those Character Traits

There are several character traits you can look at for just about every candidate. They are teamwork, ownership, accuracy, resolve, determination, and refinement. As you get more experience interviewing you can add to this list and customize it for the types of roles you interview for.

Types Of Interview Questions

Interview Questions That Test Teamwork

When formulating questions to ask about teamwork think about how the role is involved with your team. Ask the candidate about what they find difficult about working with a team. Ask them to tell you about a time they experienced those difficulties and how they overcame them. Ask them what they like about working in teams. You're looking for evidence of emotional intelligence. Focus on how well the candidate identifies and understands the experiences of their coworkers.

Interview Questions That Test Ownership

Have you ever worked with someone who never took accountability for their failures? If you have, you know first-hand how detrimental to the success of an organization this type of person can be. Ask the candidate questions about specific times in which they made errors and took ownership. Ask them about situations in which they succeeded and received praise versus situations where their success was overlooked. While it's important for a candidate to have accountability it's also important to have some humility. This line of questioning can lead you to identify whether or not the candidate thinks too highly of themselves. To get more information about their character, ask them about a time that they perceived an injustice in the workplace. Look for signs that they stood up for themselves, moved on, and didn't let negativity affect their performance. If they go on a rant complaining about someone you might have a bad egg on your hands.

Interview Questions That Test Accuracy

Questions about accuracy are going to be based on the role the candidate is interviewing for. Ask them about specific times in which they had to pay very close attention to detail. Ask about how they had to use data to make decisions in their past positions. You're looking for details about the complexity of the situation. It's one thing to say that you had to make sure there weren't any errors. It's a whole different type of answer if the candidate can recall the types of errors, what caused those errors, and how they were able to avoid those errors.

Interview Questions That Test Resolve

Failure is a part of doing business. How you bounce back from failure is what's important. Often referred to as "grit", a candidate's resolve measures how well they learn from failures. It also helps to identify if they're a positive-minded person. Listen for the tone of their answers when asking questions about resolve. A negative tone about their failures or a lack of learning from those failures can tell you they lack resolve. However, if the candidate shows that they were able to adapt and grow as an outcome of their failure they've got grit! Ask them about a time when they failed and let them talk. If they never touch on lessons learned or adaptation, they might lack resolve.

Interview Questions That Test Determination

When faced with adversity a strong employee will rise to the challenge. Determination is a measurement of their will to complete a mission. Interview questions aimed at identifying the candidate's resolve tend to be situational. Ask the candidate about situations in which they experienced challenges in previous roles and ask them to explain how they overcame those challenges. Listen for positive language about the goal, and how they achieved the goal. If the candidate laments about the challenge or doesn't end up doing much to overcome the challenge they might not have enough determination.

Interview Questions That Test Refinement

Refinement can mean different things for different positions. For sales roles, it might be more about their public speaking and interpersonal skills. For a bartender, it might be more about their knowledge of mixology and the ability to explain the different flavors of a cocktail. Refinement isn't just about knowledge or ability. It's also about how well the candidate can communicate the necessary information to clients, customers, and you, the interviewer. Refinement can also be thought of as a measurement of the candidates' presentation or "polish".

Prepare Questions Before The Interview

As a general rule, it's best to go into an interview with a plan. While you may want to improvise some questions based on the candidates' responses, a clear plan of action is best. By preparing a list of questions that help to identify the character traits of a successful employee you'll be ready whether or not those improvisational situations arise. Here is a list of some of the best questions to ask a candidate during an interview.

Questions To Consider

  • What skill makes you most qualified for this position?
  • What achievement are you most proud of?
  • What challenges have you faced while working with a team?
  • What do you like most/least about working as a member of a team?
  • Please describe a time you felt slighted or witnessed injustice in the workplace. What did you do about it?
  • Please describe a time when you made a mistake at work. What did you do to fix it?
  • Describe a time when you had to complete a complicated project.
  • Talk about a time when you overcame a challenge
  • Please describe your working style
  • How would you describe your ideal working environment?

Take The Edge Off Questions

When candidates feel comfortable you're more likely to get well-thought-out responses. One way to make the interviewee feel more at ease is to ask questions rather than make requests or give orders. Instead of saying "Describe your working style" you could ask "How would you describe your working style?". If you find that your questions seem too open-ended and that they might frustrate the candidate, set parameters. For instance, instead of asking "how would you describe your ideal working environment?" ask "in three words how would you describe your ideal working environment?". This allows the candidate to answer with less pressure to formulate a compelling response. At the same time, it allows you to gain a better understanding of their ability to edit their responses. For the same reason, it can be good to add some edge to your questions if you need to test the candidates' ability to respond in tense situations. For instance that might be the case while interviewing for a customer service role.

Check out our other blogs on interviewing, great questions to ask candidates and the purpose of effective interviewing:

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