Interviewing Tips – Good Questions = Good Employees

Part of being a successful business owner is surrounding yourself with talented people. However, finding these “nuggets” from the masses of people requires some skill in interviewing. By asking the right questions during the interview process, you will be able to determine the make up of each candidate and whether they will be the “right” one for your organization.

Preparing an outline for the interview is the key to asking the right questions to draw out the information you will need to pinpoint whom the successful candidates will be. Here are some tips:

Define the job description

Determine the necessary skills and personality traits to perform the position

Formulate questions to draw out the answers from the candidate

Define the job description

It’s your business and if you are going to be hiring someone to be part of your team, you want the new hire not to be just a new face, but a team member whose contributions will raise the overall effectiveness of your organization. The job description needs to be accurate and detailed. You certainly don’t want to hire someone who doesn’t like customer service and the position requires that they have to handle customer complaints every other day.

Jot down the most important areas of the position along with the mundane areas of the job. Remember as a business owner, you probably always just do what it takes because you don’t have a choice about whether you would enjoy it or not. Employees have choices and will leave if they are thrust into a job situation they are not equipped to handle or they can’t stand to do.

Determine the necessary skills and personality traits to perform the position

The next step in the process is to write down what skills and personality traits you think the candidate will need to be able to become a valuable asset to your company. If the job requires the ability to know different accounting software or knowledge of spreadsheets, program telephone systems, knowledge of graphics software, etc…write this all down and rank them from most important to the least important.

If the work you perform for your clients is time intensive and requires someone capable of handling a high stress environment, you will want to find out if the candidate can perform well under these conditions. If you are team oriented and foster a creative environment where everyone pitches in ideas and also tosses in constructive criticism, your new hire may need to be able to roll with the punches. If the position requires the new hire to handle many different details for multiple projects, the ability to multi-task and be organized are traits that you would probably require.

Formulate questions to draw out the answers from the candidate

List under each skill or personality trait the questions that will best draw out the answers you need to hear to determine the potential level of performance for each candidate. The key is to try to learn as much about the candidate as possible before they take the position and you find out that they are not right and have to go through the ugly process of replacing them.

Your questions should lead the applicants to give you descriptive answers about themselves, past work experiences and their thought processes.

Formulate your questions so that a yes or no answer can’t be used. If you make the mistake of asking a yes or no question and you get a single word answer from the applicant, you can always ask, “Can you give me an example?” Here is a scenario for clarification: You ask, “Have you handled customer complaint in your last position?” The applicant answers, “Yes.” You don’t have any idea of how they handle customers.

Since you have determined that the position may require the candidate to interact with upset or unhappy customers, you may ask a question such as, “Can you give me an example of what steps you took to calm down an unhappy or upset customer and how you resolved the problem?” This type of question requires the candidate to expose their thought processes to you.

If your company will require the new hire to work in a team environment, you may want to ask something like: “Tell me about a past situation where you needed to interact with other team members. What did you do to contribute to the success of the project?” Again, the question is designed to give you some insight to the core of the applicant’s personality and thinking.

Always have a number of smaller follow up questions to try to draw out the candidate even more. Some examples might be: “How did you feel about that?” “What did you learn from this experience?”, “What could you have improved upon for the next time?”, etc.

Interviewing to find the right person is not an easy task to do, however by using the right questions, you will be able to better determine the best possible candidate for the job. Check the book “Knock ‘EM Dead – Hiring The Best”. This book by Martin Yate was written to help businesses interview job seeking candidates better. It lists many difficult and probing questions that candidates may face while being interviewed. Check it for ideas to format your interviews.





(originally published 5/28/2000)

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