The best interview questions all share four common characteristics.
- Easy To Answer
- Have Only One Answer
- Have Specific Planned Purpose
- Job related
Here is a discussion of each questions characteristic:
Easy To Answer
Every question you ask in an interview should be easy to answer. Don’t ask hard questions. Don’t ask multi-part questions. Don’t make the candidate have to think to answer your question. This may sound strange but if you followed the discussion in the employment interview questions article, you learned that the best interview questions get specific candidate data. They are telling you what they did. A person should not have to think hard to tell you what they did.
The more behavioral your questions, the easier they are to answer. Remember, your goal in the interview is to gather data about what the person has done in the same or similar situations to those they will face on your job. That means when creating questions, be certain they are all easy to answer.
Have Only One Answer
Every question you ask in your interview should have only one answer. This doesn’t mean one-word. It means the person should not have choices when answering your questions.
If you ask, “Tell me about working with customers.” The person can give hundreds of different answers. However, if you ask, ” Who was the last customer you worked with?” This question has only one answer. Create your questions with a single answer in mind. You may not know what the answer is but you certainly should know what piece of data you need.
Here are some examples single-answer questions:
“How many people worked on that project?”
“How did you overcome the price objection on the ABC sale?”
“How did you solve the programming error on the XYZ program?”
“How did you tell your team about the new policy?”
Each question has only one answer. Keeping your questions focused and specific helps get the data you need. See the page on sample interview questions for more examples.
Planned Specific Purpose
The best interview questions have planned specific purpose. In each case you need a specific piece of data and the question is geared toward that piece of data. Once again the enemy is general, generic questions. Design interview questions to get one piece of data and they will be candidate-specific.
Here are some good examples of specific questions:
“What was your role in the implementation project?”
“How long did you work on that report?”
“Who else worked on the project with you?”
“What financial software did you use to manage your accounting?”
These questions are specific and have only one answer. Once again, see the page of sample interview questions for more examples.
Focus all your interview questions on job related issues. It is best to stay out of people’s personal lives. There are legal reasons for this but more importantly the best data comes from work related activities. Once again, you want to see how the person has behaved in the same or similar situations to those they will face on your job. You won’t get much insight into this asking questions about personal issues.
Make sure all your questions meet these four characteristics as you build your list of interview questions. For more information about creating questions, see the creating interview questions article.