The Power of the Interview Question
Socrates once stated that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” You could also say: The unexamined position is not worth filling or the unexamined candidate is not worth hiring. According to Wikipedia (I am a millennial after all), the Socratic Method is “a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.” Interesting, the success in hiring hinges on asking the right series of questions - the first set geared toward beginning with the end in mind for the position, the next set geared toward matching an individual to the position.
The first set of questions are asked before the hiring process:
- What are the key responsibilities and duties of the position?
- What are the key outcomes that will define positional success in 3-5 years - those sets of accomplishments that will be driven by this role?
- What are the characteristics, experience and education needed by the individual to execute 1 and 2 above?
Each of these questions has a series of follow-on questions that are designed to “stimulate critical thinking and illuminate ideas.” Given all things are created twice - once in the mind and then in reality, successful hiring hinges on the clear definition of the position and person prior to entering the hiring process.
The second set of questions are asked during the hiring process:
- What are the critical dimensions that are required for the position? Examples would be attention to detail or manufacturing expertise. Designing a series of open ended questions that force the candidate to discuss their experience will allow you to understand if they really have a deep understanding or a shallow veneer of understanding.
- What are the non-negotiable skills, characteristics or experience that the successful applicant must have? Lean manufacturing experience? ISO9001 implementation experience? Turnaround business experience? Employee engagement experience? Again, designing open-ended questions will allow you to determine depth of knowledge and experience. One good method is to ask the candidate to grade their particular capability on a scale of 1-10 and provide evidence to support their score.
- Make sure you have situational questions in your interview guide. “Tell me about a time when” questions force the candidate to display specific examples from their past. Were they driving the process or in the room watching someone else drive the process?
- Cultural fit is often ignored during interviews. Open-ended question regarding alignment to the organization are important. Tell me about the best organization you were ever a part of and why was it the best? Describe the very best boss you ever worked for - why were they the very best? Describe the very best peer you ever worked with - why were they the best? Describe the very best subordinate - why were they the very best? What do you look for when you hire a subordinate? All these are designed to understand the cultural fit of the candidate.
I mentioned an interview guide. Some organizations make the mistake of running people through a series of 1-on-1 interviews - leaving it open to the various executives to develop their own set of questions and later compare notes to determine candidate fit for the company. We recommend panel interviews with an interview guide to provide consistency in process and a basis for candidate comparison. Following the panel interview (or during a much-needed break!), I recommend taking the candidate on a facility tour and making “additional introductions” to key staff. This provides an opportunity for others to quickly evaluate the candidate in a more casual manner. It also allows for key staff to feel a part of a critical hiring decision. Listen for the candidate’s well-thought-out questions about manufacturing processes, company culture and other observations on the floor.
Remember, the candidate is being “interviewed” from the minute they pull into your parking lot to the minute they depart. They are being evaluated during that entire timeframe and everyone’s observations are an accurate reflection of this person’s true self and capabilities.
Contact Abby Lechner for more information on the interview process, or to assist you in your recruiting, by calling 814-528-9408 or email her at Abigail.Lechner@DecisionAssociates.net