Interviewer's Guide Before the Interview
How would I create questions to evaluate interpersonal skills?
This depends on what work habits you include in your definition of interpersonal skills. Do you mean: teamwork; motivation; leadership; problem solving; empathy; adaptability; verbal communication; etc.? It would take about 10 pages of type to respond to your question without more information. There are 35 of these work habits included in the appendix of "High Impact Hiring." Please get a copy of the book and look at the list of work habits there. Then select 10 or 12 questions from the 175 samples included in the book.
What type of questions will tell me if a person is detail-oriented?
Try these questions:
Have the jobs you held in the past required little attention, moderate attention, or a great deal of attention to detail? Give me an example of a situation that illustrates this requirement.
Do prefer to work with the "big picture" or the "details" of a situation? Give me an example of an experience that illustrates your preference.
Tell me about a situation where attention to detail was either important or unimportant in accomplishing an assigned task.
Describe a situation where you had the option to leave the details to others or you could take care of them yourself.
Tell me about a difficult experience you had in working with details.
What type of questions will tell me if a person is self motivated?
Here are just a few examples: "Tell me about a time when you went out of your way to complete an assignment?" "Give me an example of a time when a project really excited you?" "Describe a time when you were unmotivated to get a job done?" "Tell me about a time when you did more than was expected of you." "Tell me about a time when you were given an assignment that was distasteful or unpleasant." Get the idea?
What's your opinion of having an applicant go through a timed writing/problem-solving exercise and asking questions based on the written product?
I have no problem with this approach as long as you can demonstrate that the exercise is job-related and you're clear about what knowledge or information you are looking for. If you plan to make this a part of your interview, be sure to administer this exercise to ALL candidates. I also encourage you to get work samples from a job candidate anytime you can. In addition, there are a number of standardized tests that you can include as part of your interview process.
How should I use a telephone interview?
Use the telephone interview to:
1. Fill in missing information on the candidate's resume;
2. Question the candidate to determine his/her level of interest;
3. Get a feeling for the candidate's communication skills;
4. Ask some questions to get a sense of the candidate's technical qualifications;
5. Decide whether to invite the candidate for a personal interview.
I was just hired as a supervisor and will be interviewing soon. How can I come up with the right questions to ask?
You can start by reviewing (or writing) the job description. Identify the key duties and responsibilities. Then decide what skills are needed to perform these key duties and responsibilities. Finally, draft some open ended interview questions that will make it necessary for the candidate to explain how they have actually applied these skills in the past.
How many questions should I ask in an interview?
Twelve to 20 experience based questions is about all you can ask in an interview that lasts from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. However the number of questions you ask is based on the number of distinct skills that you are looking for. For each interviewer on your team, you should prepare at least two questions per skill that the interviewer is responsible for assessing. For example, if my team was made up of three interviewers and we were all gathering data about the same six skills, I would need to develop 36 questions (3 interviewers x 6 skills x 2 questions/skill).
Also, Don't give any two interviewers the same questions to ask. The idea is to get as much data from a candidate as you can without giving the candidate and opportunity to rehearse. If more than one interviewer asks the same question, you can see how this might compromise the quality of the data you get.
Would you recommend a structured interview?
Absolutely! I'm a strong believer in structured interviews, that is, interviews where the questions have been developed based on a well done job-skills analysis. This is the best way to insure that your interviews will be complete, consistent, and fair. Also, you will find it much easier to evaluate each candidate's qualifications based on their responses to your questions. My book "High Impact Hiring: How to Interview and Select Outstanding Employees," will give you all the tools you need to create high quality structured interviews that get results.
What is the value, if any, of questions like; "If you were an animal in the zoo, what animal would you be?
Zero value. These questions only satisfy an interviewer's need for ego gratification. The biggest problem with a question like this is that it has no "face validity." The candidate has no idea how to answer such a question and these questions smack of amateur psychology. My advice: stick to open-ended questions that require a candidate to describe specific job related events that reflect on their skills.
I am currently conducting a seminar on interviewing/recruiting. I need some examples of probing thoughtfully and any other suggestions on that topic.
I'm assuming by "probing thoughtfully," you are asking about techniques to get more detailed information about a candidate's response to an interview question. The process I recommend requires that you first ask the candidate to describe a specific job related experience (we call this a "behavior based question"). Here's an example: "Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a disagreeable person." In order to get complete information you'll need to ask the candidate to tell you such details as: who was involved, where did the event take place, when did it take place, what led up to this situation, what actions were taken by all parties, what was the final outcome.
In your book "High Impact Hiring" you recommend using a behavior based interview. Why?
A behavior based interview is the most practical for people who do not conduct interviews as a profession. This type of interview helps you focus on "what" a person can do (i.e. the skills they have) vs. "why" they do it. Behavior based interviews take advantage of the fact that people are creatures of habit and repeat patterns of behavior over and over. So, if we can get job candidates to recall specific job-related events, we can use this information to predict how a person will perform in a similar situation in the future.
Interviewer's Guide During the Interview:
What non-verbal signs do you look for while interviewing?
I'm not too concerned about nonverbal signs unless I see a definite conflict between what a person is saying and what their body language is telling me. If I see a large contrast, it's a signal for me to get more detail about the experience the candidate is describing to me. I also might ask the candidate for a reference in order for me to verify the facts I am being presented with. I do pay attention to body posture, tone of voice, and verbal pace. I like to mirror my candidates posture, tone, and pace in order to more effectively communicate with her/him.
The environment I work in is constantly changing (policy, leadership, etc.). I'm trying to find a question that would help determine a candidate's tolerance of change. Can you help?
Try some of these questions.
"Tell me about a time when you experienced a sudden or dramatic change in your workplace that had a significant impact on you."
"Summarize your experience working in a rapidly changing environment."
"Describe a situation you faced where it was difficult to cope with a change that was thrust upon you."
We have high turnover due to high level of "nasty" customers we have to handle. What type of questions would be good in determining what candidates are good at handling these people?
Before you begin to deal with the issue of "questions," you should ask yourself (and anyone who has in-depth knowledge of this position) -- "What personal characteristics (we call these Work Habits) are required of the jobholder in order to be successful?"
Your list might look something like this:
* Slow to Anger
With the Work Habits identified, you now can develop a series of open-ended questions that will enable you to evaluate the match between a candidate's qualifications and the requirements of the job. Here are a few sample questions:
1. Tell me about a time a customer was rude or obnoxious on the telephone.
2. Describe a situation where you were close to losing your temper with an unhappy customer.
3. Now tell me about a time when a customer "pushed you over-the-edge" and you lost your temper.
4. Describe a situation where you where you found it necessary to refuse an unreasonable customer request.
5. Tell me about a time when you where successful in dealing with a very "nasty" customer.
6. Describe a situation where you went out of your way to accommodate a demanding customer.
7. Tell me about a time when you were able to become a friend to a customer who needed to feel that you cared about their problem.
Get the idea? Remember, these questions will get you information about a candidate's Work Habits, but not much information about their Technical Skills. You'll need to develop a list of these skills and create some questions that focus on the technical requirements of the job in order to build a more complete interview.
You recommend in your book (High Impact Hiring) informing the candidate they can look at the notes after the interview. I was wondering if you could just give me a few pointers on what notes to take?
All you need to include in your notes are description of the experiences that the candidate describes to you. I just list enough information in order to recall the experience when it comes time to evaluate the candidate's skills. For each example the candidate gives me, I like to know who was involved, where the event took place, when it took place, and what led up to this situation. I also want to know what steps the candidate took and what actions other's took in order to clearly understand the candidate's role. Finally, I ask about the outcome.
It's not necessary to include descriptions of the candidate's actions during the interview. That's not very helpful in evaluating their skills. Also, don't record evaluation or judgments in your notes. The time to judge comes after the interview is over.
One final point. Be sure to let the candidate know you will be taking notes so that you can remember the important details that the candidate shares with you during the interview.
How should I start the interview? Should I ask a question to help the person relax?
Start with a warm welcome to the candidate. Invite them to be seated and offer a refreshment. It's okay to ask questions like: "How was your trip? or Did you have any difficulty finding us?" Avoid questions or comments that relate to family or marital status, religion, or national origin. Continue with a brief self introduction explaining how you fit into the organization and describe your role in the interview. Briefly review the key duties and responsibilities for the job. Review the agenda for the interview and the schedule for the day. This should take no more than five minutes and now, you're ready to begin finding out about the candidate's qualifications.
How do you stop an applicant from giving run-on, rambling answers that don't answer the question?
Many applicants give rambling answers because they don't have a clue as to the level of detail you are looking for. A second reason may be that your questions are not focused on gaining information about a single skill but on a constellation of skills. A third possibility is that you are not asking behavior-based questions that require the candidate to describe in detail a single work experience. Finally, you need to tactfully interrupt a rambling candidate in order to maintain control of the interview. You might say something like, "That's interesting, but let's get back to the main point," or "You seem to be confused about what I'm asking. Let me clarify..."
How can I tell if a applicant is lying in the job interview?
There is a tried and true way to determine if an applicant is lying. Ask the applicant to describe a work experience they have had that is related to a specific job related skill you are attempting to evaluate. As the candidate responds, probe for detailed information. Be sure to take notes as the candidate responds. Then say, "Who can I talk to in order to verify the information you have just given me?" Be sure to contact this person as part of your reference checking process.
Interview's Guide After the Interview:
What questions are you allowed to ask the candidates' references as well as what information references are allowed to give?
"References" are often reluctant to give you information because they fear that they may be subjected to a lawsuit or other legal action. Fortunately, in most states, the reference provider is protected by law unless this person gives false or slanderous information.
Ask references to verify information you have received about the candidate's qualifications during the interview. I would also ask open-ended questions such as: "Tell me about this person's most valuable contribution. Summarize this person's performance in the technical aspects of the job. How well did this person's work habits help or hinder her/him? In what areas would this person benefit from additional training or coaching?"
Finally, ask: "Who else should I contact regarding this person's past performance?"
This is a brief description of the process you should follow. See "High Impact Hiring" for a more complete treatment of this subject.
How do I tell an applicant that they didn't get the job?
Before you contact the candidates that have not been selected, be sure that your selected candidate has been presented with and accepted your offer in writing. Following this, it's up to you to decide whether to contact the others by telephone. In any case, you should follow-up with a letter. It's not necessary to explain why the person was not hired unless you feel compelled to do so. In any case, your follow-up letter should remind the candidate that your company may be interested in talking with them should an appropriate opening become available.
Here's a sample script for a telephone contact.