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My 12 High-impact Interview Questions for Top Candidates
Posted By Dr. John Sullivan On April 1, 2013 @ 5:43 am In News and Features | 17 Comments
If you’re not getting exceptional hires, it may be because your traditional interview process is simply not designed to excite them. Instead of dwelling on the past, a superior alternative is to ask them to solve real problems, and to demonstrate that they are forward-looking and that they have solutions for the future. Top candidates routinely dislike standard interviews because they find them tedious and predictable. Most interviews are simply not designed to allow a top candidate to show off their capabilities, ideas, and innovativeness. As a result, if you are recruiting for a mission-critical job that requires an exceptional hire, you simply cannot afford to bore top candidates with standard interview questions.
Everyone who has done any reading about interview accuracy already knows that they are typically one of the weakest assessment devices for hiring. In fact my own research has uncovered no less than 50 different problems with standard interviews  and more than 50 different alternatives to standard interviews . One of the weaknesses is that the interview questions that are typically used focus on historical situations that occurred at another firm. But what you need to know is how this individual will perform now at your firm. That requires getting them to demonstrate how they will solve the problems that they will face in your job. Most typical questions have already been anticipated and practiced for by the interviewee to the point that their answers are not authentic. So if you’re going to interview top professionals, here are 12 questions to select from that I have found will quickly reveal which one of your exceptional applicants is the very best.
The 12 questions I have provided here are broken into four distinct categories. In this article, they are presented as interview questions, but they can also be provided in a questionnaire format, which can give candidates more time to think, while simultaneously saving some of a hiring manager’s valuable time.
I) Questions relating to identifying and solving real problems – these questions are known as content questions, and they are usually determined to be valid because they actually reflect the content of the job. In addition, they allow the candidate to show off their skills in problems solving. If you agree that the best hires are those who can first identify problems accurately and then are able to solve them, these questions can be effective. The following three questions work best if you pretest them on a current top performer to ensure that they can quickly understand the problem and that they can in a short period of time outline a solution to it.
II) Questions that show us that you are forward looking – If your firm operates in a fast-evolving environment, you will need employees who are forward looking and who anticipate and plan for the future. These questions can tell you if your candidate meets those requirements.
III) Questions related to a candidate’s ability to innovate, adapt and learn – Many times our best hires are those who are rapid continuous learners, those who are adaptable, and those who can innovate. If you want to assess these factors, consider asking these questions.
IV) Help us better understand you – Some interview questions that relate to individuals’ competencies or preferences can be improved by requiring the candidate to rank their answers from most important to least important. In order to ensure that you successfully “sell” a top candidate, the most valuable question covers the decision factors that they will use to accept this job. Other questions where ranked answers are superior in revealing their preferences involve their motivators, their strengths, and the best ways to manage them.
Hiring managers should be aware that thanks to social media, interview questions are now easily available to the public. That means that if you work for a major firm, candidates can now find the actual interview questions (and the best answers) that were previously asked by hiring managers in any job family at your firm on websites like Glassdoor. So if you rely on typical interview questions, you will likely get fully rehearsed answers. In contrast, the questions I have provided here are designed to make rehearsing more difficult. They work best on sophisticated professionals who know how to identify and solve problems. But don’t be surprised that if you ask these in-depth questions to an average candidate, they will respond with a blank look.
Obviously asking good questions is only the first part of the assessment equation; you must also prepare a range of answers from great to weak for each question, so that you know in advance when you hear a great answer. I have developed and used each of these questions professionally over several decades so I can vouch for their effectiveness. If you use them, you will find like I have that top performers and professionals prefer these types of questions over the mundane “tell-me-about-yourself” questions that they normally get. Whether you use my questions or develop your own, these types of questions are superior because they are focused on 1) real problems, 2) this job, and 3) your firm.
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URLs in this post:
 50 different problems with standard interviews: http://www.ere.net/2012/01/30/whats-wrong-with-interviews-the-top-50-most-common-interview-problems/
 50 different alternatives to standard interviews: http://www.ere.net/2012/04/09/leading-edge-candidate-screening-interviewing-and-assessment-practices/
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