Ask better interview questions to find better job candidates

May 8, 2014

Tell me about yourself. Why should we hire you? What are your weaknesses? What are your strengths? Sound familiar? These are your typical and most common interview questions.

After years of using these types of questions, we decided to switch things up in 2014. The job market is competitive, candidates are selective, and we want to make sure we hire the best cultural fits. You may have heard the saying, “Hire slow, fire fast.” Well, we took it to heart and revamped our candidate selection process, which included a whole new method of interviewing. The lessons we learned prove that when you ask better interview questions, you’ll find better people.

We took a cue from one of our clients and chose the top 10 attributes or benchmarks required to be successful in the roles we needed to fill. We did this for the different roles by asking current employees their top 10 choices. Once we narrowed that feedback down to 10 benchmarks, we tailored the situational and behavioral questions according to each role we had open.  What were the most common attributes among all the positions? Communication skills (verbal, listening and written), organization skills and time management.

A question we may have asked before, like, “Can you adapt your communication skills to different situations?” became, “Describe a situation in which you were able to effectively read another person and guide your actions by your understanding of the person’s individual needs or values.” This question gets more detailed answers with specific examples, all the while addressing the candidate’s listening, observation and adaptability skills. Other benchmarks that came high on our list are team player, strategic thinking, accountability and continual learning and education.

What do we do with benchmarks when the interview is complete? We rate the benchmark based on the answers on a scale of 1 to 5. Add up all 10 benchmarks, calculate the average and you get a number. If this number adds up to our minimum rating, then the candidate moves on to the next level of the interview process.

Our first run through of the new interview process was a huge success. Candidates said that our questions were more insightful and thoughtful compared to other organizations’. The interview team also loves having assigned benchmarks to focus and report on. There are no gray areas on whether to hire or not.  If a candidate simply does not meet our rating requirements, then he or she is disqualified from the applicant pool.  We have found that some of the questions we developed were difficult, so now we ask the easier questions first to make candidates feel more comfortable. And there is always humor to break the ice, so we threw a few wacky interview questions in the mix. Our favorite: “If you were a superhero who would you be and why?”

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