Hiring People: Questions to Ask

Know What to Ask to Find the Right Person

Questions to ask in an interview

© iStockphoto/pkline

In your organization, are the right people in the right jobs? Or have you experienced a string of disappointments (such as poor attendance, attitude problems and personality conflicts) because you failed to find that right fit?

If so, you'll recognize the missed opportunities and declining business productivity that these cause, as well as the lasting damage to customers, reputation and profitability.

But it doesn't have to be that way. If you take the time to plan your hiring process carefully, you will see a huge payoff in the end. The people you hire are your most valuable resources, and choosing who to hire doesn't need to be a gamble if you approach it strategically.

A key part of the hiring process is developing good questions to ask in the interview. Know what you want to ask candidates beforehand. If you don't, you run the risk of the interview turning into an informal conversation, and you'll end up hiring someone because you like him or her, not because he or she is the best person for the job.

To take the gamble out of the hiring process, employers are turning in droves to behavioral, or competency-based, interviews. A competency-based selection process focuses on the key competencies needed for each job.

The thinking behind this type of interview is that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. In a behavioral interview, you ask candidates questions designed to uncover how well they have previously demonstrated the competencies you're looking for. By getting candidates to talk about what they did in a specific situation, you get a glimpse of how they will likely react in a similar situation in your company. What's more, with careful questioning you can start to understand the values and motivations of the person you're interviewing, and from this decide whether they have the positive attitude that you want in your organization.

This article helps you structure questions to do this, and gives some good examples.

There is no "correct" set of competencies, and each business needs to analyze their operations, culture and strategy to determine the qualities they value the most. One company might focus on communication and stress management, while another may emphasize creativity and service orientation.

Discovering that combination is key to hiring the right people for the job. One way of doing this is to understand the qualities of existing top performers in the job. Another is to talk to managers and team members about the qualities they appreciate in people who do the job well.

Question Structure

An interview is an opportunity to find concrete evidence that candidates can do what they say, and that what they do results in a positive outcome. Anyone can say they drive a forklift, but how often they have driven one into a wall is much more important. You need to understand the following associations before and during an interview:

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