As part of my research on the subjects of recruiting and hiring I follow numerous blogs and websites. I have dozens of Google Alerts for various keyword related to interviewing and hiring. This helps me keep up on the subject and also protect you, my loyal readers, from destructive advice.
A post crossed my desk that revived a subject from many years ago regarding the “One-Question” interview. The contention is that it is possible to conduct an effective interview only asking one question. Without spending much time on the analysis, common sense tells us that this is most likely not true. But let’s take a closer look and see what’s wrong and how to fix it.
Here goes: “Please think about your most significant accomplishment. Now, could you tell me all about it?”
First, this is a Yes-No question. The correct answer is either yes or no. Yes or no question are of little value because you don’t get effective behavioral data as a result.
Second, the question has handed control of the interview to the candidate. Controlling the interview simply means controlling the agenda. By asking this open-ended question, the interviewer is now going to get what the candidate wants to tell them as opposed to getting the specific data they need to predict success.
Third, the question raises the anxiety level of the candidate. The person needs to “figure out” what you are looking for. Increasing the anxiety level in an interview never adds value.
Finally and most importantly, the answer does not help predict success. It is necessary to interpret the answer and try to map it to the job.
Here is a much better approach. First, determine the behavior necessary for success on your job. Find specific situations in the person’s past where they had the opportunity to demonstrate the sought after behavior. Ask specific questions designed to get them to “TELL YOU HOW THEY BEHAVED”.
Here is an example. Look for situations where the candidate needed to solve problems and overcome obstacles to complete a project or task. The reason for this line of questioning is you know the person will need to solve problems and overcome obstacles to be successful on your job. Look at the person’s background and ask about a specific project or task e.g.; “What was the biggest problem you faced when installing the new software package? How did you solve the problem? What resources did you use? Who helped you with the solution?”
The sequence of 4-5 effective, behavioral question results in information that helps to predict success.
Of course no single question leads to an effective interview. You goal is to gather as much data as necessary to predict success and make a quality hiring decision. The more data, the better the hiring decision.
As always, I welcome your your comments.