Recently I posted this image on our social media account.
My husband was surprised to hear that people actually have “pre-rehearsed” canned answers that they give during job interviews. Given that he is not in the HR/recruitment field, he was questioning why people would even think about giving inauthentic answers? I explained that it often makes people feel more in control and gives them some reassurance, so they feel like they are performing better during the interview.
He then asked: “Shouldn’t normal questions elicit normal answers?” I explained that sometimes we need to ask a different question to get the real answers from a candidate. My conversation with him made me think of my very first article that I wrote in the Globe and Mail back in August 2011; “How do you get beyond banal interview questions?”
Well, some interview questions really do stand the test of time! To this day, my “best go to” question is:
“What would you have changed if you were the manager in your last position?”
This question undercovers a lot of very helpful information such as: Why the job candidate wants to or wanted to leave, what type of manager they like or don’t like, the environment and culture they prefer, etc.
Please feel free to check out that news article below for more of my favourite interview questions, all designed to solicit genuine, authentic answers that uncover real insights from a job candidate.
How do I get beyond banal interview questions?
Q: I am relatively new to the hiring process. What should I ask candidates, other than the usual questions about strengths, weaknesses, lessons learnt and what-kind-of-tree-would-you-be questions?
A: Generally speaking, no matter what position you are hiring for, there are two key things you want to determine with your interview questions: first, does this candidate have the skills to do this job (preferably, hitting the ground running) and second is this candidate the right fit for the company’s culture.
To assess a candidate’s skills, ask questions directly related to the job he or she is applying for, and probe for specific examples. “Tell me about a time when you did x (insert information specifically related to the job)?” Then ask the candidate to go into detail.
If a candidate is over-selling him or herself, stretching the truth or fibbing, he or she will give you general answers instead of specifics. A candidate may not have an answer for every question you ask, but if small, specific details are missing from the majority of his or her responses, that might be a red flag for you.
To see if someone is a good fit for your company, you may want to focus questions on the candidate’s past experience – for example, what they liked, and what they would change if they could go back to alter the past. This will give you insight into the candidate’s personality, learning style, and whether he or she has what your team needs. Here are a few examples:
“Tell me about the best manager you’ve had. Why did you like that manager so much?” If a candidate says his or her favourite manager was very supportive and provided a lot of guidance, it’s a cue to you that this person works best with a directive manager. If you or your team prefer people to take charge and run with things on their own, this candidate may not be the best choice.
“Tell me about a time when you didn’t meet a deadline, and how did you handle it?” This question probes how organized a candidate is, and whether he or she reverts to excuses, or takes charge and looks for solutions when facing a problem.
To learn how independent and pro-active your candidate is you may ask him or her to tell you about a time when he or she created a process that was considered risky. This will help you to see if the candidate is willing to take on challenges and improve things within your company.
Delve into the context of a candidate’s past experiences and you’ll learn a lot more about who they are as a person, and how they will perform for you in the future.
The article above by Julie Labrie was originally published in The Globe And Mail.
Get essential hiring advice from Julie Labrie, recruitment expert and career advisor at The Globe and Mail, and president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions in Toronto. Send your questions to: [email protected].
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