Honesty isn’t always the best policy
When recruiting, we all expect the candidate to come prepared to answer questions. They should know about the company and about the role. They should be able to talk about themselves, highlight their strengths and tell us how perfect they are for the job. They should know that when we ask them about their weaknesses, we don’t really mean it. What we actually mean is “take something that could be thought of as a weakness and then tell us how you’ve changed it around to actually be a strength after all”. Having said that, I know of one candidate whose response to that particular question was “women and fast cars”.
So, preparing for interview is expected of the candidate. What about the interviewer? Is it acceptable to “just wing it?”. I would argue that the interviewer should be more prepared than the candidate. After all, the interviewer has the responsibility of choosing the right person and how can they do that effectively if all they’ve done is glanced through the person’s CV and maybe underlined or highlighted a few points?
Good interview questions
Good interview questions should be relevant to the candidate and to the role. They should be based on the criteria needed for the role and apply to the candidate in front of you. People often say that if you ask a question to one candidate, you should ask the same question to all the others. As a perfect example of why this is just silly, I asked on Twitter earlier if anyone could share bad interview questions they’d been asked. Paul Reid of Resolve Business Solutions told me that he’d been asked in interview if he was pregnant or expecting to be in the short term. Apparently a previous candidate had been asked this so it was felt that they should ask him too. Enough said.
Good interview questions allow the candidate the opportunity to talk about their experience and skills, demonstrating how they meet your criteria. If you want to find out about behaviours and attitude, ask questions to elicit that information. For example, you might want someone who can work well within a small team. You could ask them to tell you their views on working on a team, both good and bad. You could ask them to describe a role where they’d worked within a small team or to tell you about a time they experienced conflict within a team and what was done to resolve the issue.
Encouraging the candidate to give examples will give you the chance to listen to how they express themselves, how well they interpret your question and what elements of their story they focus on or emphasise. You might be looking for someone who can manage their own workload with minimum supervision. Asking the candidate about their working relationship with their boss or what their boss would say about them can receive some surprising results.
If you could be an animal…
In short, you need to know what you’re looking for in order to ask the right questions. Unless you’re interviewing for a position in a zoo or as a vet, I’d suggest that the question in the title of this post is one to avoid. Just saying.
If you’d like some help on interview questions and techniques, get in touch today