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Recruiting Asking the Right Questions


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Someone has weeded through hundreds of resumes to come up with a short list of candidates that potentially meet the requirements of the position. Now it's time to interview the candidates.

The interviewing process entails several internal and external components, yet there is one aspect of interviewing that is very important. . . asking the right questions of the candidates.

Most managers wing this part of the interviewing process. They depend on their gut to assess the candidate's appropriateness for the position. Their questions don't delve deeply into the candidate's ability. In this competitive talent landscape, you can't go by your gut. You need the tools to help you select the right candidate to build your business.

=>Behavior-Based Interviewing

Try behavior-based interviewing with your next candidate. What is this type of interviewing?

The idea behind behavior-based interviewing is past behavior is a strong indication of future performance. Many companies are now training their internal and external recruiters as well as managers on this type of interviewing tool.

If you structure your questions to elicit in detail how a candidate handled a specific situation in the past, you will gain significant information around their ability to handle the job requirements and how they make decisions. This is important information in your assessment of the candidate's success in this position.

So how do you do this thing called behavior-based interviewing. You have two tools that you use. . . . your job description and the candidate's resume.

The job description will provide you with what experience, knowledge, skills and behaviors are important in this role. For example, the characteristics you know are critical for the success in this role: self-motivation, team player and/or a strong influencer (great in sales positions). You tailor your questions to the candidates based on what is important to succeed in this position.

The second tool is the candidate's resume. Review the candidates experience and tailor some of your questions to understand their experience.

What information are you listening for in the candidate's response? What was the situation that he/she had to deal with, how did they handle the situation or what action did they take, and what was the outcome of the situation. You will also want to evaluate how they present themselves in answering the question.


-Create your list of questions and leave room for the candidate's answer. Don't write your notes on the candidate's resume. . . always have a separate sheet. Just attach to the resume.

-Share with the candidate that you take notes. You don't want to make them uncomfortable but at the same time, we do forget what candidates say.

-If others are also interviewing the candidate, ask them to create their list of questions. At selection time, you are better able to compare notes and make a solid decision on the best candidate for the job.

=>Added Thoughts:

A final word or two about the interviewing process:

-Be careful of the “halo" affect when interviewing the candidate. Your immediate response to the candidate is positive and thereafter your questions are not as detailed. Candidates can be strong in the interviewing process but may not be strong in the actual role. I've seen situations where a candidate was hired and we found out within the first three months that interviewing process wasn't as thorough. It's a learning experience, yet an expensive one.

-Treat every candidate the same. . . . ask the same questions, delve into their background diligently. In the reverse, may be your first impression of the candidate was not so positive. . . then you dismiss the candidate without knowing for sure if he/she were a good match.

-In the interviewing and selection process, there are legal issues to consider. You can't decide the appropriateness of a candidate based on their race, age, gender, religion, disability, marital status, national origin. Your selection decision is based on their ability to handle the essential functions of the role.

In the interviewing process, treat all the candidates the same.

Copyright (c) 2008 Pat Brill

Pat Brill is the author of the blog “Managing Employees" You can reach her at


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