Identifying the right job candidate in an interview takes preparation. Ideally, you want to ask each candidate the same set of questions so you can compare answers. And you already know you should stick to questions that relate to the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to do the job. But you also want to be able to identify the candidate’s skill set and experience, as well as intangibles like communication skills.
Below are four common types of interview questions to ask a candidate that will help you get the information you need to make your hiring decision.
Discussion Interview Questions
Open-ended interview questions designed to encourage the job seeker to discuss their attitude or opinion fall into this category. “Tell me about yourself” is one of the most-used versions of this kind of question. However, in many ways, this question can be almost too open-ended. Without clear direction from the interviewer, you can end up hearing about topics that do not relate to job performance. Two discussion interview questions that can get you more information include:
What drew you to this position/working for our company? This question will reveal if a candidate has done their homework on your company. They know what kind of business you engage in and are sincerely interested. The answer can also reveal if there is a company value that the candidate is responding to – service, innovation, entrepreneurship. Job satisfaction surveys show that employees rate connection to a company’s mission above compensation.
What skills and strengths can you bring to this position? As a follow-up, this question can help you find out if the interviewee has considered how their skill set will match your business needs. Applicants should be able to think critically about how their abilities will benefit the company. This question can also surface any fundamental misunderstandings that may have occurred around the job description or highlight which part of the job description is most appealing to the candidate.
Informational Interview Questions
Simple, fact-based interview questions are an excellent way to get basic information about your candidate. Ideally, these require more than a yes/no answer. Balance your open-ended discussion questions above with questions that can help you confirm that the essential skills you saw on the candidate’s resume are present. These can set the stage for more complex questions too. Some examples include:
Are you comfortable working remotely?
Do you have social media experience?
Which version of QuickBooks have you used most recently?
Is there a project management system you like best?
Behavioral Interview Questions
A behavioral question asks the candidate to relate their past job experience to specific situations they are likely to encounter in the new position. Because these are hypothetical, there should not be an emphasis on a right or wrong answer to these questions. You are trying to get a sense of the interviewee’s less tangible skills like problem solving and communication. Here are a couple of specific examples of this type of interview question to ask:
Can you describe how you handle tight deadlines? How do you handle a missed deadline? Ask this interview question of a potential employee, and you will get their opinion as to how they deal with stress. This question also highlights communication and conflict resolution skills. For instance, no one wants to inform a supervisor or client about a missed deadline, but it happens. How would your candidate handle that situation?
Tell us about a time you went above and beyond for a work project. This question can elicit very positive reactions from the employee. It is useful to see what they might be proud of and how they describe overcoming challenges. This question is also a good one to use when checking employee references.
Non-Traditional Interview Questions
Employers have used these types of interview questions to see if the applicant can “think outside the box”. We have all heard versions of these like “How many golf balls would fit in a Boeing 747?” Rather than ask something quite that odd, a couple of non-traditional questions that could prove useful are:
What is the most interesting project you have worked on? This question can help you determine if the applicant would enjoy the work available at your company. For instance, do the types of tasks they find fulfilling align with the job description for your position? You want to find an employee who will stay and grow with the company’s needs.
If you could have anyone in our industry as a mentor, who would you choose and why? The answer can tell you if the candidate has a long-term commitment to and learning mindset about their work. Is there a QuickBooks blog that they follow? A sales and human behavior author that is interesting to them? Used in place of the expected “Where do you see yourself in five years,” this question can reveal what the candidate is genuinely interested in and wants to learn more about.
As a result of using these four types of interview questions, you will narrow the field to the candidate who is the right hire for your position. Need a refresher on what interview questions to avoid? This article on the Society for Human Resources website provides a good overview.
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