Sunday 07th June 10:01

Recruitment and Selection: Interview Questions

selection01_142With the interview at the heart of the selection process, it is the questions you ask that determine how successful the interview is likely to be. Poor questions, asked carelessly - the no-go questions - are likely to lead to poor answers and hence poor information about the candidate. They may also create mistrust and even be illegal. However, when questions are fair, carefully thought out and sensibly put - the go questions - they can provide you with all the information you need to make well-judged decisions about people. Here are 5 kinds of questions you should always ask.

1. Starters

Starter questions are questions you use to start off discussion about each requirement of the person specification. For example, if a job needs someone who can write good reports, a starter question might be:

"How would you go about writing a report on a case of shoplifting?"

Starter questions mean that you treat everyone equally, since everyone should get the same questions on each of the job criteria. They also mean that you cover each key aspect of the job.

2. Probers

A standard sequence of questions in recruitment interviews is the probing sequence, consisting of a closed or open question, followed by a probing question and ending with a summarising question. Here's an example:

• "You were in the Navy until last year?" (closed)
• "What did you think of your apprenticeship there?" (open)
• "Exactly how was it harder than a civilian apprenticeship?" (probing)
• "So, on the whole you think you were better trained in the Navy?" (summarising)

3. Linkers

Linkers are linking questions aimed at keeping the flow of the interview going and avoiding too many interrogative questions.

Three examples of "linkers" are:

• reflective questions, which echo what someone has just said:
"I decided to join the Navy."
"The Navy?"
• explainers in which you explain the reason for your question:
"I'm really interested in what you thought about college. What was maths like?"
• job linkers which link your question to the job:
"The job has a lot of nights away. How much do you like working on the move?"

4. Behavioural Questions

Behavioural questions - which are also known as "patterned behaviour descriptions" - are based on the premise that the best indicator of future performance is past performance.

Behavioural questions make three types of enquiry:

• key incidents from the past:
"What was your most successful project?"
"What was the least successful?"
• examples of behaviour from the past:
"Tell me about a time when you had a really tight deadline. What did you do?"
• hypothetical situations:
"What would you do if you had a tight deadline that you knew you couldn't meet?"

5. Fact and Feeling

Fact and feeling questions used in sequence are not only a good combination of contrasts; they also double the amount of information you get from an interviewee.

"What did you do at XYZ company?" (Fact question). "How do you feel about the time you spent there?" (Feeling question).

Fact questions are limiting in the amount of information you get; since you only get facts. Feeling questions, on the other hand, produce more revealing insights into a person's motivations and attitudes:

"I was deputy manager for two years and manager for three." It was a very valuable experience but I didn't feel their culture was right for me. It was very bureaucratic and backward-looking. I like to get things done."

The aim of a selection interview isn't to test candidates (you can do that using a test), or to browbeat them, or to frighten them (heaven forbid). The aim is to get the information you need to compare their competencies against your job requirements. The right kind of questions, asked courteously and appropriately, will do that for you.

More Resources on Interview Questions

Here is an excellent online course from DDI (Development Dimensions International) that will show you how to use behavioural questions to get competence-based information from your candidates.

This website is dedicated to questions you should and shouldn't ask at interview.

Here is a collection of all ManageTrainLearn resources on Recruitment and Selection.