September 11, 2019

How To Modernize Interview Questions

by Chris Winterboer

Taking a cue from my earlier blog Bad Dad Jokes: Interview Questions Need Updating, the first step is recognizing bad interview questions and the second step is how to fix them. Here are the How To’s of modernizing your interview questions.

Do Not Gossip

This one may sound like a no-brainer but it can cover a wide range of topics. There is nothing more bothersome than hearing from a candidate after an interview when it is clear the questions were only to cipher information about their current employer. Something about an account, another employee that may have left under less-than-ideal circumstances, rumors about a merger or financial troubles or just general questions to get under someone’s skin. It happens way more often that anyone would care to admit, and it is big a problem.

Too Many People On The Agenda

Again, this could seem pretty simple but is often overlooked. Once of the worst ways this manifests itself is when a candidate comes in for 2-3 hours, meets with multiple team members in one-on-one sessions, and seemingly answers the same 2-3 questions over and over again. This is easily avoided if you talk with all team members before an interview occurs.

Make a “Top Ten” list of questions that need to be asked and assign them to specific individuals. Play to the strengths of your own employees while doing this.

  • Perhaps one person best personifies the culture of your organization. Have that person ask the candidate what traits are important in future colleagues.
  • Maybe another person is really good with details and organization. Have that person ask the candidate how they would structure their day should they be hired.
  • A third team member may be the clear leader in your office. Have that person ask the candidate how they like to be led and how they best respond to issues like critical thinking, constructive criticism, training and development, etc.

Leave HR Questions To The HR Representatives

It boggles my mind how often I hear from candidates that they are asked about personal matters (politics, religion, personal relationships), salary expectations, age, etc. As the world changes around us, we all need to be aware of how to address and embrace those differences. Salary is the biggest trap as many states have passed laws to protect pay equality. It is all about salary expectations– what they want to make to consider a move and what the market can bear.

It really isn’t too difficult to stay ahead of that curve and err on the side of caution in these matters. What is sometimes tougher is explaining to a team member who may have asked that very salary question the same way for 20 years to adjust their thinking. Better safe than sorry from our experience.

Listen To The Candidates Suggestions, Thoughts, & Insight

By stopping and listening occasionally, you might be surprised what you learn along the way. Be intentional about some of your questions and write down the answers for discussion internally. Ask questions like:

  • “What would your perfect working environment be?”
  • “What is important for you to achieve professional growth?”
  • “What do you see other companies doing that are attracting new employees?”

As the world and hiring market changes every day, the wise employers adjust, adapt, and attempt to make their company the most attractive place to work. It could even be something simple like considering a new PTO policy or dress code. Maybe some of your competitors are offering VTO days and making a difference in the communities they live in. Maybe people will accept lower salaries if they can wear jeans to work every day and have more holidays off than most other employers. Suddenly, these questions inspire positive change and make it easier to recruit good people in the first place.


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