Few things can stress us out as much as the word interview.  Taken at its basic definition, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. 

Interview – Question (someone) to discover their opinions or experience or orally examine (an applicant for a job). 

Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?  And yet, it isn’t.  An interview for a position at your company must check all the boxes.  The questions must be relevant to the position, framed in such a way that we get the information we are seeking, and don’t break any laws.  How do we formulate those good interview questions?

First, we have to make sure we understand what we are hoping to receive.  Who do we need?  What is the skill set required?  Is there any education needed? For answers to those questions, we look to the job description. Second, but perhaps equally (if not more) important, is the personality of the candidate.  Will they fit into the company culture? The mantra “hire for fit, train for skill” comes to mind. After all, anyone can read and respond to emails, and any skilled tradesman can fix what’s broken, but it takes a special someone to do these things and feel at home within your organization. Last, but not least, we need to make sure that the questions we ask are not discriminatory or illegal in any way. Call it the interview recipe.

After fully understanding the position and knowing what type of person we want (social, introverted, personable, focused, etc.) we can begin to formulate some strong questions that will give us the information we need to make a great hire.

There are many types of interview questions.  Here are a few of the common ones:

  • Open Ended questions. These are created to let us hear what the candidate has to say.  How they explain themselves, what they say, and how they say it. For example, if you are hiring for a position that requires succinct communication and attention to detail, and your candidate rambles all over the place, they may not be a good fit.
  • Specific information questions. Answers to this question, as implied, are meant to get a real sense of specific information.  For example, if Excel is a required skill, you can ask direct questions about the experience the candidate has.  “Can you create a pivot table?” “Are you able to combine several spreadsheets that flow into one data source?” “Are you able to create a Gantt chart?”
  • Behavioral questions.  Sometimes also referred to as “stress questions,” behavioral questions give us insight into how someone will act in certain situations. 

There are many interview topics to choose from.  Questions that reveal attitude and personality – others that reveal intelligence.  Some questions reveal attitude, work habit, experience and education.  And the questions we ask of a potential salesperson will be different from those we ask of the CFO (this is why having the job description is so important).

And, throughout this process, we must remember to keep it legal. We cannot ask questions about national origin, religion, citizenship, age, marital status, disabilities, arrest and conviction record, military discharge status, race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual preference or pregnancy status. You might be concerned that a potential candidate, who is a parent, might not be able to get to work on time because of parental obligations.  In that situation, you cannot ask, “Do you have children?” What you can ask is, “Are you able to be at the office by 8:00am every day?”  After all, that is really what we want to know.

Does it all sound too confusing or overwhelming? That’s ok.  We can help. We will be hosting a webinar on Creating Great Interview Questions on Thursday, May 13, 2021. You can learn more about the webinar and register here. You can also contact a member of our experienced and knowledgeable team for answers to you questions on interviews, recruiting and retention.