Ask the Right Interview Questions

Job interview questions can become repetitive and ineffective. Here are helpful ways to go beyond the predictable choreography and ask relevant questions to make the right hires for your organization.

Key takeaways:

  • To hire the workers that align with your goals, ask probing, creative questions.
  • Always prepare for interviews.
  • Make your interviews conversational so that candidates will feel more comfortable opening up.
  • Ask open-ended, situational, and role-specific questions.

Your workers are the difference between a thriving business and a struggling one. That’s why you need to take interviews with prospective workers seriously. Good interviews are important not only for interviewees but for your organization. 

Job interview questions like “What are your biggest weaknesses?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” aren’t usually that effective and can produce rehearsed answers. 

Instead, you want to ask thoughtful, probing, and relevant questions that will help you discern if a prospect will be a good fit for your business and the role. Below, we share some handy tips to help you become an interviewer par excellence. Ready? Let’s dig in.

Prepare for the interview

If you’re the founder, co-founder, CEO, or department head of your business,  you probably know it like the back of your hand. To be a good interviewer, though, you need to prepare and practice your interviewing skills.  

That’s why you should prepare for every candidate interview just as you prepare to make a client pitch. Here are a few things you should do:

  • Clearly define the available role and the qualities you’re looking for in a suitable candidate in the job post.
  • Put together a team that may work with the person in this role. Meet with them to decide how you’ll conduct the interview.
  • If you conduct team interviews, settle on which areas members will talk about beforehand. For example, one person can focus on a candidate’s technical skills while another one probes to see if the person will fit into your company’s culture.
  • Know how many candidates are on the list and decide how much time you’ll spend with each of them. That way, you’ll avoid becoming overwhelmed. 
  • Look over each candidate’s resume before the interview. That way, you can hone in on areas that will help you understand the candidate better.

Make the interview a conversation

Rather than just probing your interviewees with questions, make the interview process a conversation. You’ll learn more about your candidates when you allow them to talk and express themselves. 

You should have a set of questions or areas to cover within your interviewee, but don’t be afraid to veer off into areas that can help you understand your candidate better. For example, when you ask prospective employees about their inspirations, you might get generic answers like “ a desire to help others.”

However, if you allow the candidate to express themselves, you might learn that a past experience may have informed their desire to help others. You can then lean into such stories to better understand your future employee. Also, if you share your own experiences, you can open up the conversation even more and make it more light-hearted to increase the chances the interviewee will answer more freely. 

What’s more, non-verbal cues can make a nerve-wracking interview feel more like a conversation. For example, smiling, nodding, and maintaining eye contact can help a candidate feel like you are paying attention and care. 

Ask open-ended questions

Closed-ended questions often require a “yes” or “no” answer. While such questions are usually best for quantitative queries, you’re better off asking open-ended questions if you want to know your prospective workers better. 

An open-ended question forces a job seeker to pause, reflect, and provide a thoughtful answer. 

Here’s an example:

Closed-ended question: Do you think we should hire you?

Open-ended question: Why do you think we should hire you?

Which question do you think will demand a more thoughtful and comprehensive answer? Of course, the second question. 

As you’re aware, open-ended questions often start with “what,” “what if,” “why,” and “how.” Even if you start with a close-ended question, follow up with an open-ended one to ascertain more details. 

Ask situational questions

The best way to test if a prospective employee can perform a role adequately is to actually give them that role and see if they can handle it. The next best way is to put them in a hypothetical situation. 

Think of situational questions as role-playing. These questions are imaginary scenarios that measure what an employee will do in a real-world situation. Here are some examples:

  • What would you do if you have a disagreement with a coworker?
  • How would you handle an angry customer?
  • If you had $50,000 to build your own business, what would you do?
  • Pitch our company to me as though I were a customer. 

These are questions interviewees don’t often prepare for, so you will get unique, on-the-spot answers that can help you pick out the best candidates. 

Dig into their backgrounds

Aside from background checks, it’s important to ask questions about a job seeker’s past experiences. While you should avoid getting too personal, ask several relevant questions about their professional experience to assess their skills as they pertain to the role you’re hiring for.  

You can ask about their education history: What schools they went to, what certifications they have, and any achievements they made while in school. Questions about education help you to understand a person’s training and what they’ll be bringing to the table. 

Also, ask questions about the applicant’s work history. This is a given but make sure you go deeper into projects they’ve worked on, how they’ve worked with a team, and what led to their departure from their previous role.  

Answers to these questions will help you understand the caliber of the person, including their professional strengths and weaknesses. 

Ask about long-term goals

Sometimes hiring managers make the mistake of focusing too much on a candidate’s previous accomplishments. Remember, CVs can be embellished. 

During an interview, ask about your applicants’ long-term goals. Where do they see themselves in the next few years? What is their career plan and how does this role fit into their plans? What opportunities are they excited about exploring?

Ask role-specific questions

Take some time to delve into questions specific to the role you intend to fill. For example, if you’re hiring software developers, ask questions about the programming languages your developers use to test their proficiency. 

You can also ask questions about their workflows. This is where hypothetical questions come in handy. Give them a hypothetical task and ask them to walk you through their workflow. 

Of course, software developers will list the programming languages they are proficient in on their CV, but listening to them explain how they’ll solve a real-world problem gives you better insights about them. 

Role-specific questions help you decide if a job seeker has the skills, expertise, and experience to handle the available position. 

Assess if they’ll fit into your culture

Finally, it’s crucial to discover if a prospective employee fits into your existing team. You don’t want an employee that has the technical know-how but is terrible at working with a team. 

Ask the candidate questions to see if they can work with others, be honest, diligent, and productive. For instance, to test honesty, ask about the last time they made a mistake at work and how they handled it. 

DOXA will help you build a winning team

A team of businesspeople sitting after conducting interview questions with candidates

DOXA is here to help you hire a great team. We will collaborate with you to discover your business objectives, values, and culture to connect you with talent you can depend on. Book a free consultation to see how we can take your business hires to the next level. 

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