Article by: Deidre Forster

the art of employee interviewing

It’s time to hire your next right hand man or woman.  An assistant like no other.  The yin to your yang. Reviewing resumes and calling references led you to today: Interview time.  First candidate is due in 15 minutes.  What are you going to ask them to determine if they are truly your next Watson or Girl Friday?

Hopefully you thought about that before now.  Job interviews aren’t just stressful for the applicants; the hiring official has a lot riding on the decision, too.  After all, it’s your decision. It’s your employee.  You want to make the best choice possible.

Time to rewind – at least a few days – and think up some insightful interview questions.  Everyone comes in prepared to answer the standard questions like: “What strengths do you bring to this job?” or “What is your work style?”  Yawn.  Why not shake things up a bit and rework the old standards for today’s modern business world? Make the questions relevant to the job, your company, your expectations.

Consider questions from the following categories:

Situations.  Situational questions allow interviewers to gauge a number of qualities without asking a lot of questions.  They are great for learning more about skills that can sometimes be hard to determine with simple short answer questions.  Is your business a high-pressure environment with multiple tight deadlines? If so, instead of “how do you handle pressure?” ask something like “Every Tuesday our primary client demands X by 10 a.m.  Sometimes our other client also needs a report by 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays.  It’s 9 a.m. on one of those days, and oh by the way, the Internet is down.  You’re in charge of the team responsible for both deadlines.  What’s your plan?”

There are any number of answers to that question, but how it’s answered helps you determine how the applicant would fit into your company as well as giving you insight into how well the applicant thinks on his or her feet and can handle pressure situations.  You can even use hypothetical situation questions.  Some of the most common situation questions, according to one HR site include:

  • List the steps that you would take to make an important decision on the job.
  • You disagree with the way your supervisor says to handle a problem. What would you do?
  • What did you do in your last job to contribute toward a teamwork environment?

Behavior. Although similar to situational questions, behavior-based questions may not be as centered on specific situations, like juggling multiple projects, they are more concerned with why the applicant juggles the multiple projects the way he or she does.  “Why did you choose to solve (insert situation here) in that manner?” is a good example of a behavior-type question.  Situational questions are good lead-ins for behavioral questions.  The two flow easily.  Take the first bullet above, a great behavioral follow up would be “Why did you choose to do X vs Y when you were making that decision.”

Philosophy. Use philosophical questions to determine your applicants’ moral backbone.  A person’s sense of right and wrong is an important part of the total applicant.  While many people (including a number of you reading this blog) have no problem pilfering a company pen, I would hope most of you reading this would not feel as comfortable using the company credit card to buy a birthday gift for your spouse. But where is the ethical line your company draws and how do you determine which side the applicant would be most at home?  Find out. It’s better to eliminate someone whose ethics may be a bit sketchy before you hire them.  You don’t want a Girl Friday who skims change from the coffee fund.

 

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