Monday, September 06, 2010

3D Juggling 485: Change the question

Jane writes: "What are the most useful questions that you can ask when interviewing somebody for a role in your organisation?  Recruitment interviewing - for paid staff or volunteers - is a huge responsibility. The chances are that a fair chunk of money has been invested in the recruitment process, including this day of interviewing, and you're under pressure to select the right person.

We ran a Career Makeover Masterclass a few weeks ago and were thinking about what it was like to be the job applicant at an interview. Someone commented that years ago she found that interviewers would ask hypothetical questions. Questions that started with ‘What would you do if ...?’ and ‘How would you ...?’ Now, she said, they were more likely to ask her to talk about things she had actually done rather than how she might do them. This makes lots of sense.

What do you really need to find out when you're interviewing somebody for a role in your organisation? Is it about what they would like you to think they would do, or what they can do? Your organisation may provide you with extensive guidelines around recruitment, and there is a risk that you may end up asking each candidate the same carefully prepared questions.

Instead of focusing on the questions, try focusing on the competencies that you need the role holder to demonstrate. Then ask each candidate questions that provide them with an invitation to tell you about situations they have been in where they would have needed to demonstrate these competencies.  Then ask them what they did. For example, if you need them to be able to communicate confidently and effectively with a wide range of stakeholders, ask them to give you an example of when they have had to do this. Then be prepared to ask follow-up questions, such as ‘What resistance did you meet?’, ‘How did you deal with that?’ and ‘What happened?’

By asking a candidate to talk about something that they've actually done you begin to gather evidence about their competence, how they apply their skills and knowledge. This also gives you clues about their behaviour, how they work with others and the impact this has. If they are unaware about the impact of their behaviour this is also likely to be apparent. Hearing about one significant thing a candidate has done can provide you with lots of evidence.  You may only need to have a few ‘prepared’ questions to get them started, allowing yourself time to ask follow-up questions that help the candidate to tell you what you really need to know.

The candidate should do most of the talking at an interview; your role is to ask a few incisive questions to ensure that what they say is relevant and useful.

What do you really need to find out? How could you change your questions?"

Love this? If you need some help in your organisation to change your approach to recruitment interviewing, come out for a cup of coffee with us to talk about how we can help you.  We'll pay!

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