Want some help crafting the perfect list of questions for your next interview? Try to avoid these common pitfalls that can waste time without getting you any closer to the perfect candidate.
1. Closed-ended questions.
This one should be a no-brainer, but it’s important enough to reiterate all the same. Your focus at the interview should be about getting the candidate to dig deep, and give you more than you knew to ask specifically.
Don’t waste time with hypothetical scenarios. Most candidates, when you ask them what they would do in a given situation, are going to tell you what they think you want to hear. Ask instead about how they responded to things that have already happened and you’ll get a better picture.
One exception to this: I like to ask, “If I spoke with your current boss, what would he/she say was your greatest weakness/strength?” This question works like a truth-serum, and makes the prospect of such a conversation seem more likely, not less. The implied “threat” may get them to share details they might otherwise have kept to themselves.
3. Answering questions instead of asking them
Giving candidates time to ask you questions about the position is an essential part of any interview, but be careful not to let such questions take over completely. A savvy candidate can end up interviewing the interviewer; don’t be fooled by a candidate because you did all the talking. Candidates who can do this effectively can sometimes move themselves forward in the selection process without actually having produced much in the way of skill set or background.
4. Too generic.
The right question can help you tell the difference between a perfect fit on paper and a perfect fit for your organization. Cultural fit is one of the most important qualities for long term success in a new placement, and it’s notoriously difficult to assess through a resume alone. In an interview you have the opportunity to ask questions that specifically relate to your particular team dynamic. For instance, one tech startup I worked with recently used the question, “Superman or Batman? Defend your answer.” Questions that mimic the day to day chatter in your office may help you see how a candidate will interact with your existing team once the formality of the interview has worn off.
5. Too specific.
The interview is your opportunitity to see more than just what’s on the resume. Asking a candidate what skills or activities they’re comfortable with won’t give you any new insight. Consider asking what skills they’ve learned recently, or what they want to learn, which may give you some insight into their future growth.
Of course, there are also a few questions you just can’t ask at an interview, at least not without breaking the law. Questions about a person’s race, age, religion, or other protected status can give you information that shouldn’t even look like it’s part of your decision making process, even if you meant them innocently enough. Make sure you brush up on what you can and can’t ask if you have any questions.
Once you have your list of questions drafted, take the time to go over it with other members of your team and see if there is anything you missed. Consider going through a mock interview with a coworker or another member of your hiring team. Working through the questions out loud may help you see any potential problems. If a few minutes of extra preparation can help you find the best candidate available, it will save you far more time and money in the long run.