Simple Interviewing That Works

Powerful questions to get below the surface

1. Ask for specific "stories" of complete situations

"We all meet situations where people disagree on the correct way to proceed. Can you give me an instance from your own experience where it was up to you to deal with this kind of disagreement? Perhaps a time when you had to lead a team to find an answer everyone could rally behind?"

2. Build on answers with specific questions on "how?" and "why?"

a) "What exactly convinced you to chose this career path?"

b) When the candidate has answered:"Exactly why were you convinced?"

c) Finally: "Why has this proved to be the right path?"

If you must ask multiple questions, make sure each part builds extends the previous one in a single direction. It's better to stick to simple questions if you can. In interviewing, less is more.

3. Stick with actual happenings

General, non-specific answers let people talk about what they wished they had done, not what actually happened.

a) "Please tell me about a specific situation where you were able to show your ability to cope with a tough deadline. How did you handle it?"

b) "What did it teach you?"

Abstractions are easy to handle...and fake. Talk is cheap. Stick to verifiable actions, not intentions.

4. Put an unexpected "spin" on a question

a) "Has it become easier or harder to plan a marketing campaign over the time you've been doing that kind of work?"

b) "Why is this?"

Look for evidence of how the person reasons and learns from experience. How long he or she has worked in a specific field can be learned from their file. What matters is what those years have taught them. That's what they'll carry into their next job.

5. Ask for comparisons

"How does leading your present team compare with the first group you ever had to lead?"

Comparisons bring out how someone thinks and uses past experience.

6. Mix statements with questions

"I find it tough to convince people to change when they're comfortable with the status quo. It puzzles me how to do this well."

Make an interesting statement, pause and wait for a comment. We do this all the time in informal conversations. It's a natural invitation to the other person to add their ideas. Too many questions, one after another, sound like an interrogation.

7. Avoid hypothetical questions

"If you were promoted, what would be your first action?"

Hypothetical questions invite hypothetical answers. They're worthless.

I once sat in on an interview when the interviewer combined a hypothetical question with an attempt at pop psychology -- and got more than he bargained for!

"If I were to ask you," he said, "What would you say was the most vivid memory you retain from childhood?"

The candidate paused, then said: 'Sitting naked in the bath with my sister."

The interviewer nearly fell off his chair.

"What did you learn?" I asked him afterwards.

"Heaven knows!" he said.

I'd learned the candidate was cleverer than the interviewer and had a wicked sense of humor.

8. Never ask leading (or rhetorical) questions

Leading questions assume an answer. Rhetorical questions are statements dressed up as questions.

"When did you stop abusing your spouse?" is the classic example of a leading question. Try to answer it and you agree with the assumption that you're abusive. Translated into working life, you get questions like: "When did you first discover you need help with creating budgets?"

An example of a rhetorical question is: "Of course, I'm sure you'll agree that labor relations are best handled with firmness, wouldn't you?"

9. Take your time

Complex question need to be split into natural parts and asked in a logical sequence. Lead the candidate where you want him or her to go. Don't overwhelm the person with a mass of questions asked all together.

10. Avoid questions that invite simple answers

"How much do you want this job?" ("Very much.")

"Do you have experience in financial controls?" ("Yes.")

That kind of closed question stops progress and leads nowhere.

Follow these simple steps and your interviews will be more productive and easier on you and the candidate.

Adrian W. Savage writes for people who want help with the daily dilemmas they face at work. He has contributed more than 25 articles to leading British and American publications and has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Chicago Tribune.

Through his web site,, Adrian publishes "E-Mentor", a monthly e-zine for people interested in making their working lives happier and more effective.

Hello Work World, Im Un-Retiring

For many years, you looked forward to that day when you would bid the world... Read More

Youre Fired!

One-day you're minding your own business and your boss comes in and says "You're Fired",... Read More

Job Search Campaign Tip: An Activity Diary

Looking for a job involves a wide range of responsibilities: preparing a resume, looking at... Read More

How to Get Hired by Being Obvious

If you want a drink of water, do you hire a focus group or pick... Read More

Dont Quit Your Day Job! Convincing Your Boss To Let You Telecommute (Part 2 of 2)

Ok, so you've determined that you have the right skills and qualities to do your... Read More

Why Your CV/Resume is Not Generating The Interview Offers You Want

If your current CV or resume is not generating the interview offers you want, it... Read More

You Can Identify a Problem Solver

As an executive recruiter, I interview a lot of people. And while most candidates find... Read More

Goal Setting - Road Map To Achieving Your Career Goals

Goal Setting & ResearchYou can only set informed career goals if you acquire plenty of... Read More

Writing A Great Resume, Part 2

TIP: Update your resume often. Be sure to add details of any training course, new... Read More

Dissatisfied with Your Job? Take Your Power Back!

Apparently, there are all sorts of reasons to be dissatisfied with your job...Statistically, studies have... Read More

How to Become a Successful Freelance Translator

After completing their translation training programmes at higher professional education or university level, many students... Read More

Seven Deadly Types of Job Recruiters

Collect them all!Over the course of six months in my pursuit of a new job,... Read More

Career Job Satisfaction - Get Off the Treadmill - Exit Your Rat Race!

Get Off the Treadmill - Exit Your Rat Race!We can all get in a rut... Read More

Mid-Life Crisis: Its Not Just for Men Anymore!

A recent story in Career Journal begins:"The "midlife crisis" has long been thought of as... Read More

Should You Seek Temporary Or Contractual Employment While Searching?

According to US Department of Labor statistics, the average time to find employment is roughly... Read More

Nine Ways to Tell Youre Ready for a Promotion

So you noticed the new job board posting on your way back from lunch. They... Read More

How To Find A Telecommute Job

The answer may be easier than you think, but there's a catch.The truth is that... Read More

Your Self-Image in the Workplace

When communication breaks down in your office or factory and workers lack motivation, what are... Read More

The Six Figure Job Search

Before we start discussing how to search for a six figure salary job, let's set... Read More

Do More than Expected to Get Ahead

One of the best things you can do to increase your career advancement opportunities where... Read More

Job Search: Time Management

There is an old adage that "Looking for a job is harder than working." How... Read More

Reactions to Job Loss; Getting Past the Emotions

Without doubt, job loss through downsizing or redundancy, is a major event for everyone when... Read More

The Perfect Resume

The perfect resume presents hiring managers with a four-fold vision of who you... Read More

Networking Masterclass - Part 1 - Practicing Empathy

Practicing Empathy A vital part of your networking skills is your ability to build rapport... Read More

Recovering From a Career Crisis

If you have ever experienced any of the following, you have had a career crisis:?... Read More

Business Careers: Keys to Moving on from Retrenchment

You may be astonished to realize that retrenchment may occur more than once during the... Read More

Start Working Before You Get Hired

What if there were a way to *prove* to any sane employer that you alone... Read More

How to Think Like a Headhunter to Find Your Dream Job!

In this ever changing world, we need to think out of the box to get... Read More

Any Job is an Honorable Job

Seeing your job as an honorable job, adds more meaning and peace to your life.... Read More

5 Characteristics of a Dynamic Loan Processor

Not everyone is cut out to be a mortgage processor. Find out if you or... Read More

Theres No Need to Pad Your Resume

It seems like a good idea, harmless in fact. Your friends assure you that everybody... Read More

What Me? Lie On My Resume? Who Will Know?

The temptation to lie on a resume is great! How can it hurt if I... Read More

Medical Billing Businesses Are Growing Fast And Providing A Needed Service For Doctors

You've seen the commercials and web sites about starting medical billing businesses in your home.... Read More

Telecommuting Resumes

Your resume needs to outline your skills and experience, as most know. What some may... Read More

Switching Careers - 7 Key Steps

Are you thinking about switching careers? If you are, you're not alone. Most Americans switch... Read More

Have You Been Fired? Laid Off? No? You Will Be!

It's true. Things have changed. You need to know the 3 Keys to Taking Control... Read More

50 Things To Do To Your Boss That Are Fun For You, But Not For Them

1. You're eavesdropping and you hear your boss has reservations at his favorite restaurant. You... Read More

How To Answer Your Call In Mid-Life

Hank Bochenski's story proves it is never too late to walk away from a life... Read More

Dont Get Caught In The Security Trap

The day you begin to think of your job in terms of the security versus... Read More

The Surefire Way To Getting A Pay Raise

If you are working for someone else, it is important to remember this fact: No... Read More

Driver Team Solo Positions: The Nitty Gritty On Truck Driving Jobs

Trucks and truck drivers are a constant presence on US highways and interstates. A person... Read More

Counter-Offers: Do They Merit Consideration?

You are one of the fortunate few who have not been downsized. However, your current... Read More

Unemployment Survival: Creating a Sense of Security

In a time of economic downturn, international turmoil, company restructuring and corporate mergers run amok,... Read More

Signs of a Healthy Work Environment

There's no denying that a healthy work environment is a top concern for most employees.... Read More

Job Interviews -- The Real Reasons Why You Need to Follow Up

Effective follow-up after a job interview is often a key reason why someone gets a... Read More

Finding Your Ideal Career

In the current climate, many people are looking away from the traditional job market towards... Read More

What Every Employee Should Know About How to Overcome Boredom

Do you find yourself easily becoming bored or tired at work for no apparent reason?... Read More

Formal Business Attire is Making a Comeback

The dot com boom of 1990s brought with it a laissez-faire attitude to dress code.... Read More

Fuzzy Headed Job Goals Lead to a Fuzzy Headed Life!

May I clarify in this article what I believe to be "fuzzy headed" life and... Read More

Should You Lie On Your Resume?

Warning: Lying on your resume could cost you your job and your freedom.Picture this. You're... Read More