Interviewees Are Getting Smarter; Make your Questions Smarter too

smart owlJob candidates are getting smarter- well not literally smarter, (we’ll leave the intellectual component to the scientists), but what I mean is that they are getting more practiced at, and therefore more proficient at the art and science of interviewing. With the “job for life” gone and candidates being more transient in a climate that is increasingly favoring contingency working, job-seekers are interviewing more frequently than ever, giving them plenty of time to practice their skills. They are interviewing better and becoming better prepared for the interviewer’s question. This is making it harder for recruiters to penetrate the candidate and get down to the truth about their ability.

Candidates will have become used to the typical behavioral questions that are used to the point of exhaustion in today’s candidate market place, which is why I think it is important that interviewers make sure to vary the types of questions that they use in each interview in order to ensure that questions are not predictable in style, and remain a challenge for even the most well prepared candidates.

And below, I have set out 8 types of interview question below which you can use in varying amounts to make your interview style less predictable.

  1. Verifying Credentials; this is very effective police interview style of questions where you ask the interviewees to confirm facts about their credentials such as, “what grade they achieved?”, or “when did they finish at Y?”, or “how long did they stay  at X?”. The questions are not intellectually difficult, its simply corroborating facts and can expose untruths or previously obscured gaps in information. Clearly, this type of question is important where grades and credentials are key to doing the job well/safely.
  2. Verifying experience; this is similar to above in it being a direct, quick fire, fact checking kind of questioning where you can verify specific areas of experience, such as “What were you exact responsibilities in this role?” or “In which roles have you performed this task and how long did you perform it for?” Once again, these questions are useful for probing skills and experience, which are mission critical.
  3. Attitude questions; in this type of questioning you might ask them what might they do or how might they respond in a certain situation or scenario. You can use this to understand how the interviewee might respond in a range of adverse scenarios that you might face in the business to see their attitude to it – and to see how they might cope in your environment. This is very useful if the candidate is a graduate or career-changer with little experience of your business or a sector switcher who may need to adapt to the culture.
  4. Curve ball questions; these are the strange kind of curve ball questions such as, “what car best describes you and why?” or “what country are you most like” or , “if you could be a superhero what would you be like and what would you do/change”? These kind of questions can help you to get past pre-programmed and rehearsed candidate responses to understand their motivations and capacity for creative and original thinking. This is a good question for penetrating defenses and especially useful if you are a company that values original thinking.
  5. Arithmetic and Mathematical questions, such as “What is 3,000 divided by 17” or, “how many golf balls can you fit into an a Rolls Royce”. Here you are not just looking to assess their mental mathematical calculation skills, or how creative they can be in devising a formula or rationale for their answer, but also how well they can think on their feet under mild pressure. Once again, if being able to think numerically on their feet and under pressure is of value, then this is a good question to ask
  6. Problem solving case studies; this could be to answer problem solving questions such as, “how many potential customers for ‘eco’ car cleaning products are their in Europe”? Or “What is your estimated size of the global retail market for laptops?” These questions are good if you want to assess the candidates problem solving skills and ability to come to a reasoned solution. This is vital if you value the ability for employees to work autonomously.
  7. Behavioral Questions; we of course all know about this type of questioning, e.g, “Can you describe an example of when did this successfully”, or “What methods did you adopt to complete this task” This enables you to assess likely future behavior based upon past behavior. This is great way for you to assess if the candidate can demonstrate the relevant behaviors required for the role.
  8. Competency Question; typical questions might be, “can you provide an example of your project management skills”, or “can you explain how you used creative skills to solve a problem”. Once again, this is just another varied style of questioning to help you assess the interviewee’s competencies.

As I have said, in order to have the most probing and effective interview in a climate where candidates are becoming more resistant to your probing, make sure you used a varied set of questions to reduce predictability and create a more challenging interview for the candidate – hopefully leading to a more effective and probing interview.

in Interview Techniques]
Kazim Ladimeji
Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.