How to interview a candidate – The art of asking questions
If you are a small business owner, you must have hired workers in your life. If you want to grow your company you cannot do it without good and competent employees. But how to pick them out from all potential candidates applying for the positions? Being able to conduct a successful and meaningful interview isn’t as easy as one might think. It is not enough to look at one’s CV and decide whether he will be best for the job. In today’s world soft skills are as important as experience and education. To help you with this impossible task we decided to write a series of articles about the art of conducting an interview. This week we’d like to help you out with the interview itself. We look into the questions that should or shouldn’t be asked during the interview.
What is the right question?
According to top interviewers, we can distinguish 3 types of questions: standard questions, investigative questions and bad questions. Standard questions are asked to compare all candidates against each other. These questions are probably as old as the hills, however, they are proven to be useful. Even if some interviewees have scripted answers.
- What are your main motivations?
- What attracted you to this position?
- What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
- What were the responsibilities of your last position?
These are samples of standard questions.
Investigative questions allow the interviewer to learn more about a candidate. You can find out more about competencies of the prospective employee, his or hers ability to cope in a new role: knowledge of the company, languages, or software if such is required. Some of the best investigative questions will allow you to find out about goals achieved by the candidate and his, or hers work accomplishments. Not only you find out whether the person is goal –oriented and focused. You also discover what that person considered to be a great achievement in the workplace.
Other investigative questions include questions, such as:
- What’s the biggest decision you’ve had to make in the past year?
- What management styles do you work best under?
- What has been the biggest challenge in your career?
Be aware of the bad questions
There is a phrase that says that there is no such thing as a stupid question, however, there is such thing as bad questions. Even more, there is such thing as unethical or illegal questions. Every interviewer should remember that is not allowed to ask about personal matters, such as age, gender, race, religion, sexuality or disability. Every candidate should be evaluated on the basis of what they represent professionally.
Generally, bad questions are these which don’t bring much concrete information about the candidate but can potentially bring the whole conversation off track. You might be a bit surprised but very popular question, “tell me about yourself”, is among them. This inquiry is too general. As an opening can lead to the topic of conversation we are not interested in. Let’s also not forget, that is not a question. It is understandable that we want to learn more about the candidate, but we should make our questions more specific and ask about things we are actually interested in, like: what made you choose this career path?
Where do you want to be in five years? If you were an animal, which one would you be? What can you do for us that others can’t? – these are just a few of bad questions you should stay away from.
Also, please remember not to bring the topic of salary in the middle of the interview. Generally, this topic is quite sensitive for candidates, and can easily throw them off during the conversation. Wait with this question to the end of the interview.
Keep it simple
Conducting successful interview isn’t a simple task. It takes years to learn how to ask correct questions and assess candidates. If you decided to take this dreadful task onto your shoulders, please remember to avoid bad questions. Also, before you meet with a candidate try to think what you want to find out and what is important to you. On this basis work out your questions. Don’t make the questions too difficult or sophisticated.