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Hiring Manager’s Guide to Asking the Right Interview Questions

Interviewing is complicated. How do you get to the root of a candidate’s expertise in a few short meetings? Check out this guide to learn about the best questions to ask and how to evaluate their answers.

Hiring Manager’s Guide to Asking the Right Interview Questions

Good Interview Questions 101

Interviewing prospective candidates is a fine art. Hiring decisions are nuanced, considering a blend of experience, expertise, and the elusive qualities that can make or break a team. We delve into a suite of interview techniques that reveal a candidate's true colors, particularly their work ethic, reliability, and accountability -- the pillars of any successful professional.

The Probing Power of Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interview questions have a way of slicing through the polished façade and revealing a person’s true tendencies. By asking individuals to recount specific instances from their past, such as times when they exceeded expectations or owned up to mistakes, we uncover a treasure trove of information. Not merely based on how they claim to act but how they've actually operated in the past.

  • "Can you tell me about a time when you went above and beyond to meet a work deadline?"
  • "Describe a situation where you took responsibility for a mistake you made at work and how you addressed it."

References & Background Checks: The Authenticator's Tools

References and background checks are essential in the hiring process. Talking to a former supervisor can provide invaluable insights into a candidate's past performance, punctuality, and team dynamics. Furthermore, rigorous background checks can corroborate employment history and serve prompt notice if there is any red flags.

Testing the Waters with Work Samples and Simulations

A traditional interview and a resume aren't enough. That's where simulated tasks and work samples come in. Custom-tailored to mimic real job challenges, these exercises separate the talkers from the doers. Whether it’s managing a multifaceted project or handling customer interactions, these tests highlight a candidate's ability to perform under pressure and remain accountable. Read more about the best practices for conducting a take-home test. You need to be respectful of the job seeker’s time — it’s not their job to do free work.

Role-specific questions:

  • For a Project Manager Role: "You're overseeing a project with multiple stakeholders and tight deadlines. How would you prioritize tasks and allocate resources to ensure the project stays on track?"
  • For a Customer Service Role: "A customer calls in with a complex issue that requires escalation to a higher level of support. How would you handle this situation while maintaining the customer's satisfaction?"

Task-Based Questions

  • "Here's a sample project brief. Can you walk me through how you would approach this project, including your initial steps, timeline, and key deliverables?"
  • "Please review this mock dataset and provide an analysis of the trends and insights you observe. How would you present this information to stakeholders?"

Problem-solving Scenarios:

  • "Imagine you're faced with a technical issue on a deadline, and your usual troubleshooting methods are not working. How would you approach this situation to find a solution quickly?"
  • "You've been tasked with improving a process within the company to increase efficiency. Can you outline your approach to identifying areas for improvement and implementing changes?"

Uncovering Core Values

Personal values aren't just buzzwords to be thrown around; they underpin our every decision and action. By posing questions that dig into a candidate's work motivation, commitment to quality, and moral compass, we bring those said values to the surface.

  • "What motivates you to work hard and consistently?"
  • "How do you prioritize tasks and manage your time effectively?"
  • "Can you describe a situation where you had to make a tough decision at work, and how did you handle it?"

Peering into the Past with Work History Questions

Dive deeper into the candidate's work history by asking about their reasons for leaving previous positions, their career progression, and any gaps in employment. Look for patterns that may indicate a strong work ethic and accountability, such as long tenures at previous jobs or consistent career advancement.

  • "How did you progress in your career from your earliest roles to your most recent position?"
  • "Can you walk me through the reasons for leaving your previous positions?"
  • "How have you typically received feedback in your previous roles, and how did you use it to improve?"

Situational Judgment Tests:

Utilize situational judgment tests or scenarios relevant to the role to assess how candidates would handle various work-related situations. Look for responses that demonstrate accountability, problem-solving skills, and ethical decision-making.

  • "You're part of a project team, and there is a disagreement between team members about the best approach to a project task. How would you facilitate a constructive discussion to resolve the disagreement?"

It’s not always just about how well they can do the job. The goal is to vet how they will perform and how they will mesh with your team. As an interviewer, you’re trying to gauge:

  • How well do they understand the role
  • Their understanding of the company
  • Can they think on their feet and get the job done
  • Will they need a lot of hand-holding

You’ve likely interviewed dozens of candidates, they sometimes can blend together. How do you differentiate who is going to do the job well? When evaluating candidates' answers to these questions, it's important to look for several key factors that can indicate their suitability for the role and the organization:

  1. Communication and Storytelling: Assess how clearly the candidate articulates their response and whether they effectively communicate their thought process and rationale behind their actions.
  2. Problem-Solving Approach: Look for candidates who demonstrate a logical and methodical approach to problem-solving, including the ability to identify relevant information, weigh options, and develop actionable solutions.
  3. Decision-Making Skills: Evaluate the candidate's decision-making abilities by assessing whether they consider the potential consequences of their actions, make well-informed decisions based on available information, and demonstrate sound judgment.
  4. Adaptability and Flexibility: Assess how candidates respond to changing or challenging situations, including their willingness to adapt their approach, remain flexible in their thinking, and adjust their plans as needed.
  5. Teamwork and Collaboration: Look for candidates who demonstrate an understanding of the importance of collaboration and teamwork, including their ability to work effectively with others, resolve conflicts constructively, and foster a positive team dynamic.
  6. Ethical and Values Alignment: Evaluate whether candidates demonstrate an understanding of ethical considerations and adhere to company values and policies in their responses to ethical dilemmas and situations involving integrity.
  7. Customer Focus (if applicable): For roles involving customer interaction, assess candidates' focus on customer satisfaction and their ability to handle customer inquiries, complaints, or requests with empathy, professionalism, and a customer-centric approach.
  8. Leadership Potential (if applicable): For leadership roles or positions requiring leadership qualities, assess candidates' ability to take initiative, demonstrate leadership skills, and inspire and motivate others through their responses to leadership-related scenarios.
  9. Resilience and Confidence: Look for candidates who demonstrate resilience and confidence in their responses, including their ability to remain calm under pressure, navigate challenging situations with composure, and express confidence in their decisions and actions.
  10. Alignment with Company Culture: Evaluate candidates' responses to assess their fit with the organization's culture, values, and work environment, including whether their attitudes, behaviors, and approaches align with the company's mission and goals.

By considering these factors when evaluating candidates' answers, you can gain valuable insights into their suitability for the role and their potential to contribute positively to the organization.

Interviewing is an intricate task, but if you follow the tips in this guide you will be well on your way to welcoming a stellar new member to your team!

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