Hiring Wisdom: How to Develop Some Great Interview Questions

Illustration by istockphoto.com
Illustration by istockphoto.com

This exercise was adapted from an ice breaker published on the Dr. Clue website.

Materials & Set Up: A classroom with seats and/or tables.

Process: Pose this question to the group:

“If you could ask just one question to discover a person’s suitability for [job title/position], what would your question be?”

Issue one situation for the whole group or allocate a different job/position to each team member or pair/team to work on.

Ask people to work individually or in small teams to devise their questions. Then have people work in paris or threes to test, reflect on, refine, and role play the questions.

Give a time limit for question preparation and a separate time limit for testing/role playing.

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Debrief:

  • Are there advantages in preparing questions in advance, rather than relying on instinct or invention at the time?
  • What else happens while we ask questions, aside from the words between us? (Explore body language and non-verbal communications.)
  • What sort of questions are least effective and should be avoided? (Try to identify characteristics of ineffective questions.)
  • What sort of questions are most effective? (Try to identify characteristics of effective questions.)
  • How do we feel when being asked effective/ineffective questions?
  • To what extent and how should questions be tailored for the particular listener and for the questioner’s needs?
  • What crucial questions do we ask (at work/in life) which we could prepare more carefully?

The Point: There are no absolute “right” or best questions. There are, however, many effective questions, depending on the situation and people’s needs. Likewise, there are certainly questions which do not work well and which should be avoided.

Questioning is powerful and helpful when prepared well, but wastes everyone’s time and creates problems when it is not.

This was originally published on Mel Kleiman’s Humetrics blog.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. He has been the president of Humetrics since 1976 and has over 30 years of practical experience, research, consulting and professional speaking work to his credit. Contact him at mkleiman@humetrics.com.

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1 Comment on “Hiring Wisdom: How to Develop Some Great Interview Questions

  1. I think it’s interesting how people make stuff up and pass it off as “expert opinion”… Of course there are “right” and best questions. Right questions determine whether the person is job-qualified or not. In other words, if your job needs critical thinking skills, you need to use behavioral interview questions that determine if the candidate is able to critically think. The same goes for planning, paying attention to details and so forth. Where do you learn how to use behavioral interviewing questions (e.g., the questions that work s)?. Universities and workshops. Where do you learn how to discover job information? From job analyses courses taught in those same universities. Who should you talk to? The people who actually do the job.

    As to qualifications to offer expert candidate assessment advice? …It’s clearly not years on the job.  

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