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Been There, Asked That - Rethinking Common Interview Questions

January 27, 2017

The hiring process has changed a lot over the years; telephone interviews, video interviews, and Internet applications are increasingly mainstream now, but were almost non-existent even twenty years ago. The traditional in-person interview remains popular, however, as the preferred method to evaluate candidates. For some companies, these interviews are now just one phase of a larger hiring process; for others, interviews may be the only step in recruitment. In either case, the face-to-face interview is given a lot of weight in the final hiring decision, so it bears close examination to ensure it’s used as effectively as possible. The best possible interview is the one that asks the best possible questions. Without the right questions, you can’t get the answers you need from candidates to make a reasoned, informed decision.

Yet how many interviews continue to deploy the same tired, clichéd questions that every candidate has a canned answer for? To get honest, unrehearsed (and thus more informative) answers from the interviewee, it’s important to ask questions in an unusual or unexpected way. You may not need to leave all the old standbys behind, or ask really strange questions like “What kind of tree would you be?” or “Explain the causes of the French Revolution,” but you can still improve on many of the classic questions without sacrificing the vital information they provide. Consider changing some of them up or adding in follow-up probes to gain a more complete picture of the candidate’s skills, abilities, and fit.

Face-to-face interviews can still provide plenty of useful information about a candidate, but their best value comes from asking the right questions. The Internet has made it increasingly easy for candidates to research and prepare for conventional interview questions, so it’s worth analysing your repertoire and seeing what changes could be made. There’s no need to rebuild the interview entirely, but consider making some repairs or adding some valuable follow-up questions. Think about what your questions are really trying to ask, and think about unexpected or unusual ways to address those topics. Clichéd questions yield clichéd answers; to really discover how your candidates fit your needs, try to surprise them. You might be surprised yourself by what you learn.

Look at some conventional interview questions and ways these can be expanded upon to gain the most insight in our Interview Question Guide. Download it for free!

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