Need Answers? Ask the Right Question.

Need answers? Ask the right question.

Do you know we are hiring a president tomorrow? In our digital and social world, it’s hard to miss because the presidential election is everywhere. In case you’re wondering, this is not a political post.

However, if you’ve been following the election, you are most likely suffering from unanswered question fatigue — the fatigue you get when your questions disappear into the air, never to see the light of a truthful response. Have you noticed the way most politicians answer questions? Do any of them answer the questions or do they hide behind vague answers and try to make you feel good while avoiding any substance or facts that tell you what they really would think, say, or do? Here’s how most questions go:

Reporter: What is your plan for [insert any issue here: immigration, health care, social security, the economy, or jobs]?

Politician: America is in crisis and we have to do what’s best for the American people.

The question rarely matters because the answer is the same. Few politicians directly answer questions because they rely on scripts their handlers prepare. The politician’s goal is to win the election by gaining support and avoiding alienating voters.

I want to show you the power of having your questions answered in a way that provides trust and confidence in the person’s answer. That’s the purpose of questions when interviewing candidates for your jobs. You want to know who a candidate really is and how they will perform on the job. You want a true picture of your candidate. Like politicians, candidates have a goal — to persuade you to hire them. A candidate wants to tell you what they think you need to hear without alienating you or causing you to pass them over in favor of someone else.

Discovering the truth requires strategic thinking about the information you need to make an informed decision. In previous blog posts, we’ve covered why the perfect resume is only one part of understanding who your candidates really are. The other piece can only be discovered by asking Insightful Interview™ questions.

Crafting these questions is an art form that anyone can learn with a bit of time and effort. If you are using questions you found on the Internet, here are a few tips to give those questions a makeover that keeps them fresh and relevant to your business.

The Power Of Good Interview Questions

The Power Of Good Interview Questions

  1. Make sure the question is one you can legally ask in an interview. According to a 2015 CareerBuilder survey, one in five employers asks an illegal interview question.
  2. Make sure you understand what you want to learn from the candidate’s answer. Asking a question because you found it on a list of great questions to ask candidates fails to give you the information that you need to make a decision. Your questions need to have a purpose, and that purpose is to discover how the candidate will perform on the job.
  3. Define what a right answer looks like and what a wrong answer looks like. Interviewers often ask questions without knowing how to decide if the answer is a good one. Take some time to define what you want and what you don’t want.
  4. Watch facial expressions, tone of voice, word choice, and body language to make sure it matches the words. An answer to a question is more than the words spoken. Communication has many aspects and you want to factor in all of them.
  5. Look beyond the words to determine meaning. Words mean different things to different people. Use follow-up questions to make sure you understand what your candidate means. Assuming the candidate shares your definition can be a mistake.

This sounds hard, and yet with a little advance thought and some practice, anyone can master the art of asking Insightful Interview™ questions. Here’s an example to get you started:

Standard Interview Question: Tell me about your greatest achievement at work.

Standard Response: I had a big project due for an important client and [insert problems] and I worked as long as it took to get the job done. It was hard work and long hours and in the end the client was happy.

Sound familiar? Did you learn anything from the answer? Probably not. Your goal with this question was to find out what your candidate values and feels is important, and what motivates him or her. Unfortunately, their answer fails to provide that information.

Fixing this problem is easy and with a little practice and strategic thinking, you can become an Insightful Interview™ question pro. Here’s an alternative question to get you started:

Insightful Interview™ Question: Could you describe a situation when you were faced with a problem that required innovative thinking?

This is a more powerful question. It sends a signal to your candidate that you want depth and substance. It’s hard for a candidate to bluff their way through a question like this. They have to dig deep and think. Because of that, make sure you give them a moment or two. Most candidates rarely get a question this good, and they need time to process the question and then answer.

You can also go a little deeper and show the candidate that you are serious about knowing what their skills are. A good follow-up question might be, “Could you tell me about your thought process and why you consider it innovative?”

If you are experiencing question fatigue, click here for a free consultation with an expert who can guide you through the process of getting real answers from your candidates.

What are your favorite Insightful Interview™ questions? Please share them in the comments. In our insightful community, sharing is caring and your insights may be just what someone needs to move forward in their business.

3 thoughts on “Need Answers? Ask the Right Question.

  • I am not sure about #3. If you decide ahead of time you don’t allow “space” to receive an answer that might be unconventional, one you didn’t think of. It introduces bias. I think that you should prepare your questions but instead of #3, #4 will take care of that, whatever the answer is to the question, your gut/instinct will tell you if what was said is in sync with the culture of the organization.

    • That’s a good point about bias. What I was trying to convey was knowing there are certain behaviors that would not work for you. If you wanted to make sure someone was open to change, your right answer might be: Adjusts rapidly and effectively to changing conditions and work demands. Views change as an opportunity to learn new things and has a similar approach to stressful situations. Invests personal energy toward accepting and adapting to change rather than resisting or resenting it.

      Your wrong answer might be: Tends to react negatively to change. Feels more comfortable staying in the same routine even when others have moved on, or expresses regrets when things are not as they used to be.

      As you listen to the answer, you can look and listen for the words and body language that puts the answer in the right or wrong category. Does that clarify things?

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