How to Use Interview Questions to Find the Best Fit for the Job
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How to Use Interview Questions to Find the Best Fit for the Job

Your newly hired employee began work a month ago, and already you're questioning your decision. What happened to the person you interviewed? Did she send her evil twin to work? She's making mistakes, trying to cover them up, forgetting things and she has already missed three days of work.

In the interview she seemed bright and enthusiastic, well groomed and professional. Where did she go? Let me replay how that interview probably went so you can see what you really found out about her. I’d be willing to bet that you asked some of these questions:

  • Can you tell me about yourself?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What would you do if a customer complained?

You may have asked more questions, but my guess is that they would have been similarly worded. When you use these types of questions, you learn nothing about a person’s ability to do the job or their potential motivation for doing it. You simply get a series of opinions.

The Purpose of Interviews

Effective interviews determine if a person can and will do the job. While friendly, social questions create trust and openness, they won't produce evidence you can rely on. Interviewing is like a first date. You need to find out everything you can early on, since you likely won’t be able to change the person after marriage. Good performance started long before you hired her – she was either performed well in the past, or she didn’t. Gather real evidence to find out.

Past Behaviour Predicts Future Behaviour

For instance, if you were good with numbers last week, you will be good with numbers today, and again tomorrow. If you have never worked with numbers, how do I know you will be in the future? Similarly, if you can’t give me an example of a time when you actually handled a complaint, how do I know you can do it? I may get your opinion of what you would do, but without evidence how do I know you would really do it?

Get Real Evidence

To be able to tell if a candidate can and will do the job, ask questions that encourage them to recount personal experiences. For example:

  • Tell me about a time you were under pressure to meet a deadline.
  • Give me an example of a time you did not have enough information to make a decision and what you did.
  • When was the last time you had a conflict with a co-worker?

With these types of questions the first thing you will get is a real-life example. Now you can ask follow-up questions to dig into how the person performed in the past. The more recent the example, the more likely your candidate will repeat the behaviour. The more often the candidate performed the task, the more likely it is that the behaviour is strongly anchored.

I recently worked with a company to train them in interviewing techniques and afterward they told me that 30% of their employees would never have been hired. Thank goodness you won’t have to make the same mistake!

Poor hiring decisions are expensive – a direct hit to your bottom line. Turnover slows productivity and decreases morale. Interviewing will always be somewhat unpredictable because of the human element. However, if you put energy and effort into great questions and you know what you want, your chances of hiring the right person for your business will increase dramatically.

About Sieglinde Malmberg

Sieglinde Malmberg has combined education and experience into an internationally successful HR and speaking business. She is the owner of HR in Your Pocket, an outsourced human resources firm. Her new book “HR in Your Pocket: Getting Your ACT Together on the Human Side of Business” will be published in September, 2013. Visit: www.hrinyourpocket.com

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