When you’re choosing a new employee, a good interview may be far more reliable than a good reference. Consultant Kurt Einstein, who honed his interviewing skills as a CIA interrogator, says 99% of job references are “hocus-pocus.” Here are his tips on how to conduct a successful job interview:
Let the candidate talk first. Don’t start an interview by revealing the type of employee you’re seeking. That will program the candidate’s response. Anyone will put the “best foot forward to be accepted,” Einstein says. Rather than give and gather information intermittently, ask the job candidate first to describe his or her professional needs and qualifications.
Be precise about the job. Many poor job selections are made because candidates are not told responsibilities, details of the duties and standards of performance required in the job. Show the prospective employee a copy of the Job Description for the positions he or she is being interviewed for.
Ask open-ended questions. Avoid questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”. They tell you little about the candidate. Don’t ask, “Did you like your last job?” Instead ask, “What did you like about your last job?” and “What didn’t you like about your last job?”. These answers can help you to determine if the applicant will like or dislike your environment.
Ask about likes and dislikes. Don’t ask a candidate to tell you about his or her strengths and weakness. “It’s an inducement to lie,” says Einstein. Instead, ask what he enjoys. “What a candidate likes to do relates to his strengths. What he doesn’t like relates to his weakness.”
Watch for lies. “People don’t lie loud,” says Einstein. A candidate who is lying will respond to a question with a lowered voice. Be wary if you get a delayed response to a question that should be easy to answer. And, if you want to know if your candidate handled the tasks that the resume claims, ask the candidate to explain “from A to Z” how each task was accomplished. “People who don’t know what they’re talking about can’t go into detail.”
Einstein says there’s not a completely truthful interview. Ask: “Can you lie?” If the answer is “Yes,” your candidate is telling the truth. Next question: “In what circumstances could you lie?”.
Here are some suggested interview questions adapted from Hiring the Right Person for the Right Job by Dobrish, Wolf and Zevnik. Use those that you feel apply and will help you. Remember, hiring the right person is the first step in reducing employee turnover. See another PAP that contains specific and very helpful interview questions specifically for customer service positions.
What are some of your most significant accomplishments?
What do you think is the main force behind your success?
What did you particularly like about your last job?
What did you like least about it?
Were there any unusual difficulties you had to overcome?
What responsibilities or results did not come up to your expectations?
What would you say was the main thing you learned at your last job?
Describe how you went about making important types of decisions or recommendations in the position.
What types of decisions are easiest for you? Which ones are difficult?
What’s the biggest business mistake you can recall?
In what respects do you feel you have improved your decision-making?
How do you think your subordinates would describe you as a delegator?
What pattern of organization do you follow? How has it changed over the years?
What has been the most upsetting surprise you have suffered when something was getting out of control?
Why do you think you are an effective supervisor? What do you think are your weakest points?
In what respects do you feel you have improved in recent years?
What have you done about your own skill development in recent years?
Describe your relationship with your last three supervisors.
Describe one or two innovations you are particularly proud of?
How do you feel about your career progress to date?
What would you say are your main assets, strengths and limitations?
What are your hopes for the future?