Workforce.com

How Do We Ask the Right Interview Questions?

August 14, 2012

Dear Need for Speed:

Start with the résumés. You learn a lot about candidates—not only from what they tell you, but what they exclude—their effectiveness as a communicator and the overall presentation. The devil is in the details, so watch the details. Review each résumé for specific skills, experience and quantifiable attributes that align with the position you wish to fill. Check employment dates, being mindful of large gaps in employment—why might that be? Note also basic fundamentals such as grammar, spelling, font choices and the general layout. Lack of professionalism/attention to detail in a résumé is a sure warning sign that you can expect the same from their work.

Skill assessments are another good way to objectively qualify desirable candidates. If you have assessments, send them out before phone screenings and use them as proof of the skills required. Candidates who pass the résumé review and skill-assessment phase are worth a brief phone screening.

Keep these initial screenings to five minutes and ask the following four questions, but remember not to discuss the company or position before you qualify them through your process.

  • In one minute or less, walk me through your current responsibilities. (The objective is to assess whether a person really possesses the experience and skills required.)
  • Why are you looking? (You need to understand their motivation—why you, why now?
  • What are you looking for in your next position/employer? (If the answer does not gel with your company or the position, stop the interview and move on. Don't waste your time, or theirs, trying to change their mind or talk them into your company.)
  • What sets you apart from your competitors on this position? (The person ought to be able to clearly articulate the value she or she brings to your organization. Today, everyone must bring value to the table. If they can't answer or well on the phone, they'll never be able to do it once hired.)

During this screening call, you are looking to uncover a few basic fundamentals: Does the candidate speak and communicate effectively? Are you getting straight, honest and engaging dialogue? Do you sense a healthy self-esteem—solid confidence but paired with enough humility to work with your team, clients and vendors? Does the candidate have the skills that you're looking for? And perhaps most important—what does your gut tell you? Initial intuition is remarkably accurate. How many times have you talked yourself into hiring someone you were initially apprehensive about but who worked out well?

Provided the candidate's passes these initial checkpoints with flying colors, tell him or her about the position and extend the invitation for a formal interview. If not, let the candidate know right then and there that it doesn't sound like a good fit. You owe the person that much, and the finality makes it easier for you to move on to the next option.

SOURCE: Deborah Millhouse, CEO Inc., Charlotte, North Carolina

LEARN MORE: Southwest Airlines screens candidates for cultural fit.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.