Creating Quality Interview Questions

Helping interviewers better assess their top candidates.

By Callie Verderosa

Interviewing for a job can seem like the most stressful part of a hiring process, but being on the other side of the desk isn’t necessarily a cake walk, either. Interviewers can feel pressure from start to finish in the hiring process: from marketing the job appropriately, to getting the top candidates to the interview, to asking the right questions to assess how the candidates will tackle the day to day work. 

When interviewers ask the right questions of their candidates, they have a better opportunity to receive direct answers to assess their candidates. But before an interviewer can ask the right questions, they must craft the right questions for the interview. 

The right questions, no matter the industry, create an opportunity for the interviewer to get to know the candidate while assessing job and organizational fit, skill, values, or motivation. Consider the question, “Can you tell me about a project you developed that you were proud of, and why?” or “Tell me about a time you set a goal for yourself in a previous job. What did you do to ensure you’d hit your objective?” Questions like these invite detailed responses from candidates that will likely include performance results, big wins, lessons learned, and past experiences.

Although questions that test a candidate’s knowledge of the organization could have a place in the interview process, they often aim to measure a candidate’s preparedness for the interview instead of their ability to do the job. A question such as, “What do you know about our organization?” can be tweaked to achieve the objective of learning about the candidate’s fit, skill, values or motivation. By asking, “How does our organizational mission and vision align with your personal values set? Can you share examples?” it addresses organizational fit, while also questioning if the candidate has done their homework.

How do interviewers create the right questions (especially when there’s so much out there from experts in every field)? Sifting through the abundance of articles, blog posts, and resources of the tactics to get a top candidate to say “yes!” can feel overwhelming. While these seemingly never-ending online resources can be helpful, they’re not always applicable to every hiring process – especially when it comes to question creation. So, we’ve put together our favorite tips to help interviewers craft questions that accurately measure what you need to know in order to make the right decision for selection.

  • Ask behavioral questions – Ask open ended, behavioral questions to address past performance and gain clues into the candidate’s behavior (and possibly their results) at a previous job or with specific job responsibilities. Ask for specific instances where the candidate had to overcome an obstacle, creative an innovative solution to a problem, or appease an angry client.
  • Be wary of hypotheticals – While interviewers should add some behavioral questions into the interview, they should be careful if asking hypothetical questions (“What would you do if…”), as this creates a chance for a candidate to give a hypothetical answer. To get a more specific (and real-life) answer, simply switch the “would” to “did.” (“What did you do when…” or “What have you done…”)
  • Focus on key responsibilities – This seems obvious, right? But, sometimes, it’s overlooked. If an interviewer doesn’t ask questions that relate to the key functions of the job (and experience with any software or technology associated with the job), they risk hiring someone who might be missing the skills needed for part of the job description. Ensure that all job responsibilities are covered in the questions, so you know if they’re prepared to tackle the busiest seasons or the smallest tasks of the role. 
  • Get creative – If you’re able, ask some questions that are creative and show the candidate your personality and the culture of the organization. A creative question doesn’t have to exist to just throw off the candidate. It can be a way to get to know them better. Examples of creative questions include: having a candidate teach the interviewer something in a few minutes to understand their practicality and how they  share an instruction, or asking, “how would your enemy describe you?” to get responses related to self-awareness and areas for personal improvement.

These four, simple tips for creating interview questions have helped our clients in the hiring and selection process, regardless of industry, organization, or job for hire. Interviewers using these tips can focus more time on assessing each candidate based on the job description and organizational fit, rather than guessing at what their responses might mean. Interested in more tips for hiring and selection? Contact us to help you grow your team.

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