Interview Questions

mac-glassesI have always thought that as a Manager, that I was good at interviewing and was able to craft what I considered to be better than good questions.  But recent experience has led me to question myself and re-evaluate my approach.  In part because a new Senior Human Resource Specialist practice is to include the purpose of the question in our interview notes. This has been helpful for this applied scientist who skipped first year psychology at university.  I just thought they were good questions but now she can tell me (us) why.

As I prepare for interviews this week for a key position (essentially an executive assistant), I find myself not completely satisfied with the bank of questions that we are using for the interview.  They are questions that the team, including that Sr. HR Specialist I just mentioned,  says are good questions.  Yet I awoke this morning knowing something is missing (this is the Centre for Research & Innovation after all; and so …why not use some innovative questions?).

Another colleague (English Major) and I often talk about the use of words.  We both know that the words we use (which one we chose to use and how they are arranged within a dialogue) can 1) get us where we want to go/be, 2) are neutral (no meaningful response or intercourse – using a more original use of the term,  or 3) get us into trouble – i.e. take the person with whom we are in dialogue with into a place we either didn’t want them to go (sidetracked) or into misunderstanding that can be can be recovered from (with varying amount of effort and time) or relationally catastrophic (into a place of irreparable damage or harm).

Having said all that I will now fess up what started this muse.  I am somewhat competitive (my colleagues are laughing out loud right now).

Earlier this week our New Media Lead provided the interview team with a recent post via Linkedin from Lou Adler about the ‘one interview question’ that really counts.  While it was definitely a great question and as I suspected, while he offered it as you only need one question – it was actually the opening question to a dialogue that emerges with subsequent probing and leading (in a good way) questions.

happy interviewMy one good question?

I often thought it was – What is your dream job?  A few attempts to make that work in interviews led me to abandon it for what is now ‘obvious reasons’ to me (and so obvious to HR professionals and more experienced interviewers).

I have abandoned the attempt to find the ‘one good question’ for this latest attempt to find a series of questions that enables us probe into what makes the interviewee tick and or unlocks the essence of the person.  I also understand that these questions need to be asked by the person with the highest direct authority.

First – leaving:

I want to know why.  These questions are intended to obtain a sense of / insights into why the persons wants to leave / instigate a change from their current situation (what is their current situation?].

  • What is it about your current situation that leads you to look elsewhere?
  • Is there anything you are running/walking away from?; something that is missing and or unsatisfying about your current situation? If so, can you tell us about it/please tell us about it?

I understand that the second question(s) can be or can lead into highly personal matters but I am only curious about what that might be and what impact (positive or negative) that may have on our working relationship and or my organization (that’s all).

Second – seeking:

I want to know what this person is looking for; where s/he ‘wants to go’; and whether or not we are that place

  • What are you seeking? ….. in an employer; in an employment situation; a work environment; with colleagues; your supervisor?  [problem solving response].
  • Describe the work environment in which you could be your best contributing in a way that would be not just satisfying but in which you could thrive … could become the best you could be? [creativity response].
  • Finally, can you (please) tell us what it is that attracted you to this opportunity? What is it about this position in this department of this organization that makes you think you will find what you seek?

 Finally – details:

Yes we will continue to ask the other pertinent detail questions but I suspect I will be in a more robust position to interpret this person’s experience and skills relative to the position knowing what I now know about the individual.  Inconsistencies will emerge – that I can probe.  Sense of accomplishment can be squared with the person’s dreams and or situation.  The person’s skills can be aligned with my needs as a supervisor and the needs of the position (what we seek to accomplish).


Won’t know until I try.  I just know that I am not satisfied with my current situation.