An interview is a two-way process. The production of a skills and ability list I described in Article Two in this series will assist you, and any colleagues involved in the process, to develop a format and set of questions that can be asked of each candidate. By doing so you are being fair to the candidates and will also be able to make direct comparisons.
If you are armed with a list of skills and qualities for the job you can split these into two categories - necessary and desirable. Necessary should include all the qualities without which the job could not be done. Desirable can include other qualities and skills that may go towards making the candidate better able to perform the job above the basic minimum expectations.
The list will help you to devise questions to ask the candidate. Carefully worded enquiries not only allows for illuminating answers, but permits more probing through additional questions.
Rudyard Kipling came up with a great piece of advice on the subject of probing questions.
He wrote ‘ I keep six honest serving men they taught me all I knew their names are what and why and how and who’. These are the types of questions that encourage the interviewee to provide the extra information you need to establish who is the best candidate.
On the other hand, closed questions hinder the free flow of an interview and should only be used to quickly establish required data. For example you might ask, ‘Were you involved in the ordering of supplies?’ Such questions will normally be answered yes or no. A good candidate might prefer to elaborate a little and supply additional information to aid their chances. For example, ‘No, but I was responsible for that task in a previous job’. However, if you only got a yes or a no, then you have not allowed the candidate the room to tell you more about themselves. A simple yes or no may let you tick a box in your list of qualities, and that may be all you want, but it tells you nothing about the candidate.
One popular method of questioning used by some managers during an interview is to ask the candidate about a hypothetical situation. This technique takes some of the pressure off the candidate, as they are being asked to talk about a situation that is not essentially real, nor personal to them. However, what they usually don't realise is that they can reveal far more about themselves through their answer than if they were to be asked to talk directly about their own experiences. The danger of the hypothetical question is that the candidate may end up tying themselves in knots!
To make the hypothetical questions that you use fair to the candidate you should make the question as clear as possible, removing all ambiguity. You should also keep the scenario to a situation that should be within the candidate's ability to talk about.
Some managers use a technique of negative questioning. This is where the candidate may, for example, be asked to reflect on some aspect of their previous job that they didn't like, or to ask if there was anyone that they could not get along with.
Although such questions usually focus on negative aspects of work and life, some small advantage is that they allow the candidate to show that he or she is self-reflecting. In doing so they can indicate they acknowledge they have weaknesses whilst creating an opportunity to correct such behaviour.
For example you might ask, ‘What is your greatest weakness'? The answer that is offered can tell you much about the provider. A good candidate will remain calm and give an honest answer.
A clever candidate will often turn a negative into a positive by saying something along the lines of, ‘I know there are times when I can come across as being somewhat impatient with other people. My manager in my present job sees this as a virtue as, for him, it indicates an eagerness on my part to get tasks done quickly. '
Thoughtful candidates are likely to anticipate many of the questions you ask. They will have done their research by reading through the likes of company literature. This will provide a demonstration of their interest in the position offered. Having done their homework, they will come over as confident and prepared.
In the next article in this series I will offer other ways in which you can assess the suitability of a candidate.
Business meetings speaker John Bell is recognised throughout the world as an authority management. He has been speaking professionally for over 25 years. John works full-time as an author and a conference, seminar and convention presenter. In addition to motivating delegates, he teaches people how to harness the power of positive thought to succeed in both their personal and professional lives.
John is also extremely popular as an after dinner-speaker and has a unique style of delivery in that he often allows the audience to chose the topics of his talks. Only the most experienced of speakers, at the top of their profession, would have the courage, confidence and capability to adopt such a style.
He is the author of over 25 books including How to Hypnotise, How to Acquire a Remarkable Memory, and, for those involved in sales, the best seller How to Negotiate. John holds a Master's degree in Education.
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