In our last posting on “Best Hiring Practices,” we talked about the need to write a comprehensive job description detailing not only the skills an applicant must have, but also the behaviors. Now the next step is to prepare written interview questions. Why written? For that answer, and for a lot more on preparing for interviews, please read below.
Hey, wait a minute! Before we can interview anyone, we have to find them first. Aren’t we going to talk about how we generate a stream of qualified applicants? Well, no we’re not. The best ways to attract viable candidate varies tremendously depending on the job you’re trying to fill, the industry you’re in, and where in the country you’re located. So for purposes of our Best Hiring Practices discussions, we’ll assume you know how to find or attract the right candidates for your job.
A NOTE ON RECRUITERS. Some companies use professional recruiters to help find qualified applicants. Are recruiters expensive? Yes they are . . . but not nearly as expensive as a bad hire. So using a recruiter might be a very cost-effective move, particularly for a higher level position. And if you do use a recruiter, just remember that you do not abdicate responsibility for who you choose to hire. If the recruiter properly screens candidates for the skills and behaviors you have specified, he’s done his job. If a candidate doesn’t work out because you misread how he or she would fit into your culture, or because you omitted something from the job description, that’s on you, not the recruiter.
So let’s talk about interview questions. Why write them? Because interviews are simply another source of data about a candidate. You’ll get some data from resumes, some from references, and some from interviews. So you want to make sure the questions are structured to deliver the data you want. The answer to a poorly worded or vague question may give you improper or misleading information. Furthermore, putting your questions in writing insures that you don’t forget anything during the interview. Besides, preparing for an interview by writing out the questions you intend to ask is just good discipline . . . a productive interview is too important to just go in and “wing it.”
HR professionals tell us that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So do not ask hypothetical questions (“What would you do if . . . “) because the candidate can give whatever answer he or she believes you want to hear, and there’s no way to verify it. Instead, ask about things in the candidates own history. If the job description specifies five years of sales experience, you might ask the candidate for the most difficult customer he had to work with, and what she did to overcome those difficulties. Or if the job requires working in a team, you might say to the candidate, “Give me an example from your previous work when you’ve had to achieve goals working with others.”
So commit your interview questions to paper. Think carefully about the data you want to extract with your questions. Base the questions on the applicant’s past work experience. Do those three things, and you’re ready for the actual interview. No? Still not comfortable with structuring the interview questions effectively? Then call me. We should talk.