I do like job interviews, as they are a wonderful opportunity to directly exchange with applicants and learn from each other, in order to see whether and how person, role and company might fit together. If I succeed in taking this decision, of course depends from the conversation. And for the most part, I meanwhile only need one question.
This post is available in German, too: Die Eine Frage für Job-Interviews
Before a candidate and I meet for a personal conversation in our premises, we always have a phone screen. This as two major advantages: The candidate does not need to travel somewhere, and for my colleagues and I it means relatively low effort. The goal of the phone screen is one thing only: At the end, both parties should be able to decide whether they would like to meet for a personal conversation or not. This is the only objective. For both it is helpful to reach this goal as fast as possible.
Interview questions modern edition
Oh my, there are great question catalogues or even better types of questions. Behavioral based interview questions are widely used and work just great. These are questions that target on a person’s concrete behavior in real past situations. From these I learn how somebody acted, and how she reflects her actions and thoughts.
The big classics of behavior based questions cover dealing with mistakes, with success, with conflicts, with learning and with prioritization.
Besides these there is a whole world of brain teasers that you can use but only should if you precisely know why you are using them. Otherwise I discourage from the use of brain teasers.
Interview questions classic edition
The classic interview questions ask the candidate to tell something about their CV. Or you ask for strengths and weaknesses.
All not completely wrong, and especially for positions that require a certain storytelling I like the question for the CV. The answer shows me how far a candidate masters to reveal the story in her own vitae.
Same consideration is true here: If I know precisely why I ask a specific question, it certainly can work well..
The problem is that many interviews either go too long, or that in the end neither interviewer nor candidate have made much progress in the question whether job fits to applicant and vice versa.
If you are a leader, or work in HR, or have been applicant yourself: How often have you been on a job interview and asked yourself half an hour into the appointment: Where does this go, if anywhere?
Appreciation in interviews
Appreciation for me means also to be considerate about my conversation partner’s time, and this in turn means to aim as directly as possible to produce the conversation’s outcome.
So why should I require many hours of an applicant’s lifetime, only to finally conclude that the job and she do not (yet) fit on a very basic level?
Question for questions
I like interviews most if they turn out as a real conversation. If an interview unfolds in a more classic distribution then my most preferred part is the one where the candidate asks, or I ask the candidate to place her questions. With the questions I learn much more about the person than with anything else.
In a recent phase where I was searching for external service providers in addition to the permanent positions in my department I had many interviews and many phone screens. The classic construction of an interview took too long in my opinion, and so I finally found…
The One Question for Job Interviews
If the most interesting part in fact is the one where the candidate asks, then let’s put this part at the beginning of the conversation. Over time I found that this quickly enabled me to evaluate the match of position and candidate.
So this is how the question goes:
Beyond what you read in the job description, what do you need to know from me in order to assess whether this position is something for you?
The question has multiple parts and aspects.
- Beyond what: How far is the person thinking?
- you read in the job description: How intensely did the candidate work through the job description, or does she simply ask what’s already written?
- what do you need to know from me: Which other sources did the candidate use? Is this a conversation at eye level?
- in order to assess: How does the person analyze opinions and information? How does someone decide?
- whether this position is something for you: Is the person at eye level? Is she aware that this is an interview for both sides? What does she want, and why?
- , , , , ,: I tried easier versions of the question, but returned to the one-complicated-sentence version. The positions I recruit for need the ability to overview complex situations. How far is the candidate already able to do that, and what level of required coaching am I looking to?
The reactions I get on my request for questions, or what I do not get, is highly insightful. I learn almost everything I need to know.
Most conversations I could end directly after this exchange, which usually takes less than twenty minutes.
Occasionally candidates are surprised that I do not ask standard questions at the beginning, and that the interview is over so quickly. Sometimes candidates are also surprised that we come to a common decision about the next steps, even if it means we will not continue the application process.
This does not mean that after the opening question the interview is always over. This can be, but most often we continue, either on the phone or then as part of a live in-person interview. In the conversation following the one question I verify and falsify hypotheses, which I get based on the questions the candidate asks me. For example if someone asks for mostly administrative matters, I am curious on why this interest is. When someone asks for the typical day, I am interested in their imagination of exactly that.
Yet this is all afterthought. The linchpin of the conversation clearly is the one question. On 90% I can decide based on this very first question.
How do you interview candidates for your open positions?
Share your experiences and thoughts please.