Ever heard this question before? Did you ever look for such questions yourself? Searching for a “list” of interview questions is like searching for the end of a rainbow. You think you “see” where it ends, but no matter how far you travel, you can never get there. Unlike rainbows, however, there are plenty of people willing to take your money and “develop” this list for you ? at a very fancy price, too. But before you fork over your annual budget, read on. Questions Without Answers Let’s look deeper into why this question keeps surfacing. It is a short “hop” from being unsure of interview accuracy to seeking what seems to be an obvious solution: a list of “better” questions. The hope is that “better” interview questions should yield more qualified employees. Unfortunately, this line of thought seldom works. Here is why. Blatantly Illegal Questions May be I should amend my comments. If you eliminate questions that ask applicants their age, ethnicity, sexual preferences, childbearing intentions, or child raising problems, then you can probably dodge a lot of potential lawsuits (in the US, at least). But just eliminating litigious questions is a “no-brainer,” because these questions clearly have nothing to do with discovering an applicant’s skills to perform the job. You might, however, consider adding them to every hiring manger’s indoctrination package ? you could call them, “How to Avoid Foolish Mistakes that Could Get Us Sued, Perpetuate Hiring of Unqualified Applicants and Get Yourself Fired in the Process.” (Just a thought.) Then if anyone in your organization refuses to follow the guidelines, he or she should be immediately taken out of the hiring loop. By the way (sorry, I cannot let this one pass without comment because it illustrates very BAD placement practices) a few weeks ago a major soft drink company settled a class action suit brought by a group of African American employees who claimed discrimination in hiring and promotion. Since I had the pleasure of working with this organization a few years past, I knew, firsthand, that their HR leader did not know ? or care to learn ? anything about the DOL Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures**. (See http://www.dol.gov/dol/esa/public/regs/cfr/41cfr/toc_Chapt60/60_3_toc.htm). It did not make any difference to their HR department that the Guidelines had been around for over 20 years, or that it described the process that every U.S. employer with more than 15 employees should follow when hiring, placing, promoting, training, etc. to avoid being sued for adverse impact in selection and placement. But I’m not finished with the story. Not only was this guy blatantly incompetent, he quit his position and joined the lawsuit! What a country! An incompetent manager doesn’t follow the law, gets his organization sued, quits to joins the suit, and gets paid for his incompetence! National Enquirer story anyone? (Watch out, after he blows through his settlement money, this guy could be applying for a job at your company!) Anyway, back to the main story. Comprehensiveness Now that we have beat the legal issue to death, some could argue that having a list of broad-based generic interview questions cannot be all “bad.” Well, that’s not entirely correct, either. Good interview questions only work when you have a CLEAR idea of job-relevant answers. (Keep in mind the objective of the interview process seldom changes ? to determine whether the applicant has the right skills for the job). Just having more, or different, interview questions does not mean an interviewer will make fewer mistakes, applicant answers will be more job-relevant, or that self-reports will be more accurate. The only change the interviewer will experience is that he or she will just feel more confident about being right half of the time. The Whole Accuracy Issue Interviews are not social conversations or opportunities to get to know someone. That is what public relations people are for. Hiring and recruiting people are charged with the responsibility for finding candidates and measuring accurately their skills for jobs. There is plenty of research to show that the only types of interview techniques that offer any reliable degree of accuracy are situational interviewing (e.g., “what would you do in this situation?”) and behavioral interviewing (e.g., “what have you done in the past?”). Furthermore, the 10% accuracy gained from both interview techniques is achieved ONLY when interviewers are fully trained to use competency-based questions and evaluate competency-based answers based on job analysis data. To understand what I mean, permit me to use a ridiculous example. Imagine you are interviewing an applicant to be an astronaut. You ask, “What would you do if a meteorite struck the power stabilizers, leaving you drifting in space?” In this type of question, the “best” you could get is an answer that suggested the applicant would calmly follow a process consisting of problem analysis, weighing alternatives, and implementing a solution. So far, so good ? a nice theoretical response that suggests the applicant knows the book answer. But are you really certain that when a real meteorite strikes, the applicant won’t run around the capsule screaming, “We’re gonna die! We’re all gonna die!”? Behavioral interviews, on the other hand, examine past job experience, looking for evidence of a competency that can be directly related to the future job. Its weaknesses are poor interviewer probing techniques, applicant “distortions,” and “translating” applicant responses into job requirements. As I mentioned earlier, either method produces about the same degree of predictive accuracy; but you can usually trust a bad response to an interview question more than you can trust a good response. Job Relatedness
Q: How will I ever know what questions to ask?
A: Your questions should always be directly related to job requirements.
Q: How do I discover job requirements?
A: Ask jobholders what they do, managers what’s important, and senior managers about future changes. That is, do a job analysis.
Q. What do I do know?
A: Convert job analysis data into competencies that can be accurately measured using an interview process.
Q. So, my questions for every job will be different?
A: Surprisingly, no. Most of your questions will be identical, but they will have VERY different answers, though.
Q. No way!
A: Way! Think of this example. You need a sales job filled. You might ask every applicant about his or her most difficult sale, but you will want to hear different responses for selling used cars, main-frame computers, or training programs. Same question, very different answers.
Q. How do I discover the “best” answers to my interview questions?
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How mature is your hiring process? Answer these 5 questions and find out.
A. You need to review your list of questions with hiring managers.
Q. Great, now I have job competencies, questions and answers. What’s next?
A: Learn either behavioral or situational interview technology, cold
Q. No Sweat!
A: Yes, sweat! Learning behavioral interview technology requires “unlearning” everyday communication style. It takes a good interviewer months to master.
Q. That’s a lot of work!
A: What’s your point?
** For those of you not familiar with the “Guidelines,” they have been around for over 22 years and describe the process that every U.S. employer should follow when hiring, placing, promoting, training, etc. Don’t worry if you are located outside the States; the Guidelines also define “best practices” in any country or job. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>