“Hiring people is an art, not a science, and resumes can’t tell you whether someone will fit into a company’s culture.” — Howard Schulz
While it can be said that recruitment is an art, one of the most stressful situations faced by HR is coming up with the ‘right set of questions’ for hiring the right candidate. Recruiters often focus more on the standard set of interview questions to assess a potential candidate, ignoring the seemingly simpler ones.
Often the most basic questions can reveal a lot about the employee and how they think. For instance, a seemingly unimportant question like ‘’Why do you want to work for this company?’’ can disclose facts whether the candidate has analyzed the company, done his/her homework, and has come prepared with knowledge about the company.
You Should Be Asking These Questions — No Matter How Underrated They Are!
One should understand that the recruiter is marketing the ‘job’ and the ‘company’ to the probable candidate during an interview, as much as the candidate is marketing ‘himself’ to the company.
Hence, it is imperative to first set the context by being clear about the expectations of the company from the candidate regarding the expected scope of knowledge, qualifications and skill sets.
First, Set The Stage…
Following are some basic tips that will help you cover the ground in these aspects!
1. Get the mood right:
Basic questions such as, ‘what is your favorite movie and why?’ etc. will help the candidate open up and feel comfortable.
2. Focus on the narrative:
Questions such as ‘why or what did you learn’ etc. could help you dive into the candidate’s motivation, passion, and behavioral skills. As most candidates rehearse their answers beforehand, posing such questions will enable the recruiter to know if they can give specific answers or whether vagueness and a lack of focus are the soft spots that might raise red flags in the future.
3. Be specific:
Focused questions such as the candidate’s contributions to the last project he/she worked on etc. will help to extract key details about his/her key areas of interest.
Moving On To The Questions…
Once the stage is set, it is essential to pose specific, fundamental questions that are often underrated. These are vital questions that can make or break the interview, as they tend to ‘tell’ a lot about the candidate.
The basic questions should cover various areas of competencies as follows:
1. Behavioral Questions:
There is an adage – ‘The best predictor of future performance is past behavior.’
Hence, behavioral questions that dwell into the behavioral aspects, for instance, questions seeking information about past experiences, will give an idea as to how the candidate will behave in the future.
Further, when past experiences are probed, it lets the candidate do most of the talking. In the process, he must be able to defend as to why he is the right fit for the company.
Remember the courtroom scene from the Albert Brooks movie, ‘Defending your life’? It shows how the candidate has to prove he is worthy to get across the heavenly gates. Behavioral questions will give you an insight in almost the exact same manner!
Behavioral questions help to get the conversation started, and most importantly, work to reveal certain hidden aspects of a person’s attitude cum aptitude. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Basic questions probing the commitment of a candidate can and do reveal a lot. For instance, a question such as ‘What aspects of the role offered interests you and what are the areas you dislike?’.
The answer will reflect whether the candidate enjoys performing the same role repeatedly, and knows the job he is applying for. An ideal candidate is one who is positive, does not complain and instead, lists all the tasks he likes doing but may show more interest in individual bits of responsibilities in particular.
Take the role of customer service as an example. A candidate may love meeting and interacting with people, may dislike the paperwork involved, but knows precisely how to balance both.
Dirk Spencer, a recruiting specialist, finds answers in a fundamental question, namely, ‘Who advocated or helped you land your current position?’.
The answer provides better insights whether the credit for the candidate’s previous job would be attributed to the candidate himself or to another person. It also tells whether the candidate got the last job through his own merit, thereby showcasing his achievement behavior. Besides, it helps the recruiter get referrals, which can be used for learning more about the candidate.
A probable question to gauge dependability can be, “Do tell me about the time you had difficulty in keeping up your commitment, and how did you handle it?”.
The answer will help the recruiter in understanding whether the candidate is dependable or not, especially when it comes to working under high-pressure situations.
4. Judgmental skills:
Effective decision-making depends on sound judgmental skills. The following simple question can help a recruiter know if the candidate has good judgmental skills which in turn will help in taking proper decisions in various situations.
Q: Can you tell us a situation where a difficult decision had to be taken and how did you manage it?
A: The answer would reflect the capacity of the person to make informed decisions during trying situations.
Adaptability of the candidate refers to the flexibility to work either individually or as a team. The more adaptive the candidate, the better it is for the company to brainstorm and implement new ideas. This competency of the candidate can be observed by asking certain simple practical questions as follows:
Q: Tell me about the instances where you had an annoying co-worker as your teammate and how did you manage to cope up.
A: The answer will reflect the candidate’s adaptive nature and teamwork skills. A proper candidate will sound more positive while a wrong candidate may badmouth about his colleagues or supervisor.
6. Overall personality test:
These type of questions help assess the overall personality of the individual. A sample question may be as follows:
Q: What is the most significant achievement, personally and professionally, that you are proud of?
It can be structured to draw maximum attention towards the professional aspect, while the rest can focus on personal details.
Questions such as ‘What do you look out for in a great work environment, and what do you do for fun?’ can cover both these above-mentioned aspects comfortably.
7. Test of genuine behavior:
Questions testing the frankness of the candidate can bring out into the open a lot of things. For instance, a question such as, ‘What are the mistakes you made in your last job, how did you overcome them, and what did you learn from them?’ will clearly explain the candidate’s capacity to acknowledge mistakes as well as the ability to solve problems, fix issues and make decisions.
8. Test of confidence:
Q: ‘What would your previous employer say about your work skills, job commitment, and attention to details?’
A: Seemingly innocuous, this answer will reveal the candidate’s job skills, and the confidence he has in them. It also helps in validating the answers against those with the previous employer.
9. Ability to manage and modify a situation:
Situational analysis help to find if a candidate can control an existing situation in a better way.
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people, so they can tell us what to do.” — Steve Jobs
A hypothetical or real-time situation can be given to the candidate and questions on how he would react or handle the situation can be asked. Typically, most regular candidates would pause for a moment, while suitable candidates will handle such situations by thinking out of the box.
For anyone who has watched the movie, ‘The Internship’, there cannot be a better example of situational analysis than this. In the movie, the opportunity to work with Google depended on the film’s protagonists answering the hypothetical question “If you are shrunk to the size of nickels and dropped to the bottom of a blender, what would you do?”
The candidates, Vince Vaughn, and Owen Wilson respond to the question by answering that they would lay the blender flat and enjoy the breeze. When further probed with the question ‘’What do you do when ‘Once this blender is on, it’s on forever’’?
Owen Wilson brings in practical experience citing even the best model blenders run for a maximum of 12 hours, and hence they would come out of that situation soon. Further, they also give a list of possibilities where they can be useful as nickel sized men.
Now, this is really out of the box thinking!
Finding the right person starts with understanding what you’re looking for. One must go beyond a gut feeling and depend more on personal interactions peppered with basic questions, as they provide subtle hints that identify a candidate’s true potential.
After all, “You can’t teach employees to smile. They have to smile before you hire them.” — Arte Nathan