Are you asking candidates the right interview questions?

Throughout the recruitment process you’re working out whether candidates will fit into the company culture and approach problems in the correct manner. A diverse set of interview questions will help you achieve just that.

In general, interview questions can be broken down into three separate categories: fact-based, behavioural/competency and situational/hypothetical. Each of these interview questions help gather information on the candidate in different ways. Utilising the correct combination will help you get to the core of your interviewee, allowing you to feel more assured by your choice of hire at the end of the process.

Fact-based

These are fairly straight forward, fact-based queries that clarify aspects of the interviewee’s background and previous work experience. They are mainly used to ascertain basic knowledge surrounding the candidate.

Normally used at the start of an interview, these questions are a good way of easing the candidate into the interviewing situation. As these don’t provide a huge amount of detail about the candidate’s work ethic, attitude and skills on the job, it’s worth only using these sparingly – the majority of your insights will come through in the other two types of questions.

Examples of fact-based questions: How long have you been at company x? What is the size of the team you currently work in? What is your experience level with Adobe Photoshop? Do you speak any other languages?

Behavioural/competency

Traditionally, behavioural questions are the best way to gain true insight into the interviewee. As such, many interviewers use competency questions as the main basis of the interview process.

These queries ask a candidate to call upon previous experience, either in their professional or personal life, to explain how they deal with certain situations. These prove to be popular because they provide the interviewer with an insight into the candidate’s work ethic and skills. By using the answers to these questions, you should be able to extrapolate whether a candidate is the right fit for the company and the job vacancy on offer.

Examples of behavioural/competency questions: Describe a situation where you had to deal with a tight deadline. Tell me about a time you had to lead a team through a long-term project. Explain a time in your career where you have had to deal with multiple conflicting workloads.

Situational/hypothetical

On the surface, these may seem the same as the behavioural questions, but they allow you to gauge a candidate’s reaction in any given situation, even if they haven’t experienced it in their lives.

The main benefit of such interview questions is that it allows you to gear situations specific to the job vacancy. So while the candidate may not have experience in a certain aspect of the job, that may be unique to your business, you are still able to learn and understand how they will react should this situation arise.

Examples of situational/hypothetical questions: You already have a tight deadline for your current project, your manager gives you a new project brief they need done by the end of the day, how do you manage this? You promised to hit a deadline for a client in one month, a week in the client says they need to accelerate the project and need it by the end of the week, what do you do?

Combining these three types of interview questions is integral to the hiring process. Each provide a different function when it comes to learning about the interviewee, and as such you need to make use of each type of question.

With behavioural and situation questions, try to best to keep them open-ended, providing a situation where the candidate can reply with a one-word answer is not going to give you any insight into their attitude, work ethic or the core skills they can bring to your team. Ensure you have follow-up questions to ask off the back of their answers as well; they may have prepared the first answer, but the follow-up is going to give you an insight into the candidate.

Structure your interview around these three types of questions as they will give you the best chance of making the right choice on your next hire.

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