Last updated on November 30th, 2018 at 06:18 pm

job interview, one job candidate, two interviewers, all female, all wearing black clother. They sit in a small room together. How can we tell a good (great) interview questions from a bad one?

A good questions should meet the following criteria:

  • It should help you to tell the talkers from the people who really know their job–who really know what they are talking about.
  • It should help you to make a decision about the candidate you interview. It should bring you closer to hiring them, or closer to sending them home. In no way should it create confusion, or other questions on your side.
  • You should be able to use the questions with each and every job candidate you interview on a given day. Only if everyone gets the same questions (or at least similar questions) will you be able to compare the job applicants, and to pick the best one from the pack.
  • Most candidate should not be prepared for the question in advance, it should be a question they have to answer instinctively. The most typical interview questions are fine, but you should always complement them with questions that will surprise the job applicants.

 

Are interviews in the world professional?

Speaking from my experience, most interviews aren’t conducted in a professional manner, and it doesn’t matter which country we speak about.

Questions repeat from one interview to another, and the HR managers have often no idea why they ask a particular question, and not another one.

You should pay attention to your interview template. Waste neither your time, nor time of the job candidates who came to interview for a job with you. Each question should make sense. Each answer should tell you something about the job candidate, in terms of their motivation, attitude, skills, or abilities that are relevant for the job.

 

Behavioral questions and case studies – a good choice

A couple of older HR managers is leading an interview with a young job applicant. We can see their faces, but not the face of the applicant. Behavioral (or situational) questions, and short case studies, should belong to every single interview template.

Prepare a few scenarios that relate to the job. Give the applicants some information, some entry data, and let them to think and show you how they work, and how address the given exercise.

Want some examples of short case studies? Here is one that we used when looking for a new a recruitment manager in our company (it happened a few years ago, but the case study is still valid and makes sense)

Case study: Recruit 100 nurses in six months
Description: Your task is to recruit 100 nurses from Great Britain to work in Norway. The nurses need to learn Norwegian language and start the job within six month. The conditions for them in Norway are excellent – twice as much money than in Britain, one week on and one week off (back home), great benefits, newest equipment, and the company covers their travel expenses.

Describe how you would proceed in the project, while trying to the goal in six months. Define the main milestones, the challenges, and opportunities the project presents for you. You have fifteen minutes to prepare your answer.

 

Why is such a case study a great tool for interviewing job candidates?

  • The candidates have probably never solved a similar task before–so you can be sure they won’t be prepared for the question in advance, and they will have to employ their intelligence and their experience while preparing their answer.
  • The way they answer the question will help you to evaluate both their readiness for the job, and their communication skills–you will see whether they can talk about the work, present their findings in a meaningful way, whether they aren’t afraid of verbal presentation.
  • What is more, you will even understand their methodology of work, and also their speed. How long does it take them to handle the task? Do they make notes? Do they look nervous while preparing the answer? Do they work systematically? You can observe all of this while they prepare their answer…

 

Some companies use a different type of case studies, one that is even more tricky for job applicants. For example:

You have two mobile phones (same brand and type, same durability). There is a building with eleven floors. Your task is to find out the highest floor from which the mobile phone can fall to the ground without falling to pieces. Tell us how you would proceed to find out the answer.

 

Case studies take job applicants out of their comfort zone. They make them think, they make them sweat. They make them try their best, and they will help you to see their true face, and their real level of skill.

You should use at least one case study in every interview you conduct. Inspire yourself with our case studies, or simply construct your own exercise, based on the job description and information you have about the job.

 

An illustration of an interview. A woman is writing something on a piece of paper, and we can see the keys on the table. A man in blue jacket is pointing to something on a paper.Conclusion

A question is great only when you can interpret the answer of each job candidate, and tell a good answer from a bad one.

Try to use a variety in your interview template.

Mix some screening and behavioral questions, add a few short case studies and technical questions. As a cherry on the cake, you can add an IQ test, or a personality test, or even a role play (excellent for sales and customer service recruitment).

More types of questions will allow you to create a complete picture of the job applicants, of both their hard and soft skills, motivation and attitude.

And once you have such a picture, it will be much easier to make the final decision…

 

You may find interesting:

  • How to conduct an interview – A simple three step guide on conducting an interview, suitable mostly for small business. Step by step, you will learn how to interview job candidates like a pro!
  • Interviewing techniques – Four basic techniques to interview job candidates. Pick the one that suits your situation and recruitment needs.
  • Interview questions by type – Not sure whether you should conduct a group interview? And is it better to use situational, behavioral, or competency based questions? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a Skype interview? You will find the answers in the articles that belong to this section.
Matthew Chulaw

Matthew Chulaw

Matthew has been working in international recruitment since 2008. He helps job seekers from all walks of life to pursue their career goals, and to prepare for their interviews. He is the founder of InterviewPenguin.com website.
Matthew Chulaw

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