How to Create Great Interview Questions

Job interviews are a critical part of your hiring process. You finally get to meet top candidates face-to-face, and they get their first in-person look at your company. But with a limited amount of time for each interview, your conversation has to be efficient as well as productive. If you ask the usual questions, you’ll get the usual answers. There’s too much at stake for that. You need more.

You have to ask great questions – designed to give you deeper insight about candidates than you can glean from their application and other earlier submissions. Focusing on the following three categories will help you create great interview questions, to reveal the truly exceptional among your top candidates.


  1. Behavior-based questions

By now you know they’re qualified. It’s time to find out if they’re the right fit. Will they be able to put their skills and experience and creativity to work effectively to help your company thrive? Successfully collaborating with co-workers and interacting positively with vendors, customers or others is often a matter of personal style.

Ask about specific instances in which the candidate has contributed as part of a team, or what they have learned about group dynamics from their own experience. Ask how they have (or plan to) lead and motivate others.

And since things sometimes go wrong, ask about instances in which they’ve defused or resolved a conflict. Also ask about a time when they failed miserably. It happens to everyone, and how your candidate handled their Big Failure can be very revealing.


  1. Random questions

There’s one more behavioral insight you need about each candidate: how do they handle surprises? After all, unpredictability is the norm in many business situations. Asking unexpected questions will show whether candidates can think on their feet without getting flustered.

Starting the interview with a “softball” question is often a good way to break the ice. And interjecting a few “lighter” random questions can help relieve tension throughout your interview session. (It can also help humanize your company, a trait top candidates are looking for.)


  1. Future-focused questions

Naturally you want to know about your candidate’s past successes and how they interact with people. But hiring is about the future, so future-focused questions are a must.

Include some questions that show your company is forward-thinking, because the best candidates are looking for growth opportunities. If you appear interested only in the near term (or the past), you won’t land the talent you want and need. Also include some questions that demonstrate just how forward-thinking the candidate is. If they can’t help drive innovation and change within your organization, they’ll hold you back.

Can they identify and solve problems? Are they innovative thinkers? Adaptable? Committed to continuous learning? Here are some examples of great interview questions that can elicit this kind of information:

  • As a new employee, how will you go about identifying key problems, issues and opportunities?
  • How do you think the position you’re applying for will change in the next two or three years due to advancing technology or marketplace changes?
  • What do you see as the top three trends in our industry? How can a company like ours best adapt to those changes?
  • How do you stay up to date with the latest information about our industry and your specialty?

You can also prepare a short description or bullet points about some actual problems or opportunities the candidate is likely to face in his or her new job. Ask them to explain how they will go about addressing each one.

In the end, great interview questions are based not on the past but on real-life situations that pertain to the specific position to be filled and your company.

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