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Interview Questions–Do You Have a Clue About Which to Use and When?

July 25, 2011

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Interview Questions–Techniques and Strategies

The whole point of the interview in the hiring process is to learn if your candidate matches your job description. How much information you receive and how useful that acquired information will be in making an employee-related decision depends, largely, on the effectiveness of your questioning techniques. Ineffectively worded questions can have as great an impact as effective questions.

An effective interview will include five types of questioning techniques:

• Competency-based Questions
• Open-Ended Questions
• Hypothetical Questions
• Probing Questions
• Closed Ended Questions

Competency-based questions should take about 70% of the interview. A competency is a skill, trait, quality, or characteristic that contributes to a person’s ability to effectively perform the duties and responsibilities of a job. Competency questions delve into the candidate’s tangible or technical skills, their knowledge, behavior, and interpersonal skills.

Tangible skills demonstrate what candidates have done in past jobs, if they are staying technologically current, if they can balance multiple projects and if they have the specific skills need to accomplish the duties of the job. The question should relate a specific situation that will occur in the new job to a similar situation that occurred at their previous job. For example, “At our company we have inventory/sales report deadlines four times a month, when you were at ABC Company, what kind of deadlines did you have and how did you handle them?”

The candidate’s knowledge includes what they know and how they think. Create questions about situations that demonstrate project-management skills, problem solving abilities, decision-making skills, focusing ability, time management and resource management. For example: “When you were at ABC Company, how many projects/clients did you manage per week/month and how did you schedule your time?”

When the candidate talks about specific situations that occurred in the past, you can observe their behavior (how they acted under certain conditions) and their interpersonal skills (how an applicant interacts with others). Did they demonstrate active listening skills, self control, and respect for other’s views and feedback? Can they interact effectively with others and do they have conflict management skills?

Competency-based questions draw from the candidates past experiences and behaviors and relate them to specific requirements, responsibilities, or parameters of a given job-related situations. When you are very specific i.e., using the previous company’s name, mentioning a specific type of situation, and using the name of the supervisor/manager/owner of the previous company, the candidate is more likely to be truthful because they assume that you personally know the manager/owner and you will be calling him/her to verify the story during the reference check.

Although 70% of your interview questions should be competency-based, the other 4 types of questions are important and should be used appropriately during the interview to maintain control, verify information, and put the candidate at ease.

Check back here to learn more about when and how to use the other four questioning techniques – open-ended, closed-ended, probing, and hypothetical, as well as, the questioning techniques to avoid.

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