How to Develop the Best Interview Questions

You may not understand the importance of good interview questions until you realize that you hired someone that is not a good fit for your company.

One mistake like that and you’re ready to make sure that your interview questions are perfect for the next hire.

Or maybe you want to avoid making that mistake in the first place!

Whether you resonate with the former or the latter, having top-notch interview questions is key to the success of your hiring.

If you aren’t sure how to go about developing those all-star interview questions, fear not–we have created this how-to guide to teach you.

The Easy Parts of Developing the Best Interview Questions

Let’s start with the positives and chat about the easy parts of creating interview questions. This serves as the ideal place to get the ball rolling for developing questions for your potential candidates.

Assess the job opening.

Take the time to consider the details of the job. What are the needs of this position? What are the functions of this job? What are the goals?

One way to take a look at this assessment is to list what the tasks of the job are and what qualifications candidates need to have in order to be successful in the job.

For example, if you are hiring an HR manager, you need someone who has experience managing and someone who has experience in HR. You also need someone who is highly organized and has strong people skills. The tasks of this job include managing company staff, onboarding new employees, determining salaries, developing training, and more.

From here, it should be easy to come up with questions that specifically relate to how the candidates will perform these tasks, how qualified they are to do so, and what experience they have in doing so.

Consider the employee you want.

You want to find a candidate who meets all your needs and possibly even exceeds them, if possible. This goes beyond just their qualifications and may include things such as their personality, their work style, and more.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about the employee you want:

  • Does this person need to work well in teams, individually, or possibly both?
  • Does this person need to be a quick learner or does the position allow them to have time to slowly onboard and train?
  • What organizational strategies are a must for this person?
  • What is the work environment that this person must excel in? Is it fast-paced? Is it more relaxed?
  • What type of personality does this person need to have? Do they need to be collaborative and outgoing? Or can they be quieter and reserved?

Again, coming up with interview questions that prompt candidates to speak to how closely they may fit the type of employee you want to hire should be pretty straightforward from here.

Decide where to conduct the interview.

Okay, this one isn’t really about the questions themselves, but making sure you have a comfortable interview environment will help prepare you to ask the right questions–and encourage candidates to answer those questions confidently.

Just 10 years ago, job interviews were either conducted in person or over the phone. Fast-forward to today, and surveys show that 86% of companies are conducting their interviews virtually.

This means that you need to jump on the bandwagon if you haven’t already.

Part of the reason that virtual interviews have become so popular is not only due to COVID-19 but also because it is much more simple and time-effective to meet via video. Some interviews may be better to do in person, but for at least the initial round of interviews, you want to head to your computer.

To help you conduct successful virtual interviews, consider investing in an interviewing platform such as Spark Hire. This platform is used by more than 6,000 of the world’s top companies including IKEA, Volkswagen, and the United States Postal Service.

Spark Hire is the fastest growing video interviewing platform, and for good reasons. It helps all kinds of companies, big or small, make successful hires faster.

The Difficult Parts of Developing the Best Interview Questions

As much as it may seem easy to just Google “interview questions” and head into an interview with those in hand, you will not get the results you want with that information.

Your interview questions need to be specific to your company needs, and the specific position that you’re hiring for. This requires time and energy to come up with intentional questions that get to the bottom of whether the person you are interviewing is a fit for the job.

Know the company’s wants and needs. Before you can develop interview questions, you need to understand what exactly it is that you want from your employees. That doesn’t just pertain to this job specifically, but all the employees at your company. Once you know what the company wants in its culture, you can begin to formulate interview questions.

To help you get started in determining the company wants and needs, here are some questions for you to answer:

  • What is the company mission?
  • What are the company values?
  • Why does the team need this new hire?
  • What will this person bring to the team?
  • Where does the company need additional support?

Create questions that require a thoughtful response. Interview questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” aren’t worth asking. We are all about those questions that elicit a long and thoughtful response from the interviewee. This shows their knowledge and whether they are the right fit for you, depending on their response.

Make sure every question has a specific purpose. Don’t just fill the interview with questions for the sake of asking questions. Take the time to make sure that every question you ask is intentional, and is asked for a reason.

Whether that reason is to get specific information about the candidate, to learn more about the candidate’s personality, or to get a feel for their thought process, every question needs to have a very specific purpose.

Keep it structured. In order to evaluate each potential candidate fairly, you need to keep your interviews structured. The questions may vary a little bit, but you want each interviewee to have generally the same question experience so that you can best judge the responses.

This also helps you get more of the information you need from the candidates, as opposed to going off on a tangent about a topic with one candidate that cuts the other necessary questions short.

This is also important because it makes you less likely to run into any issues when it comes to laws and regulations around who you choose to hire.

Now that we’ve covered some of the easy parts and the hard parts, let’s get to the details of the process of developing interview questions.

Step 1: Ask the Basics

The best place to start in creating your interview questions is with the basics. This establishes some basic knowledge of the interviewee and helps to break the ice. If you feel a bit nervous about the interview, multiply that by, well, a lot and that is how the interviewee is feeling.

One way to help the interview get started may be to take advantage of Spark Hire’s one-way video interview. This allows candidates to self-record video answers to your interview questions, and the basics are the perfect opportunity to do this.

In addition to saving you time, here are some of the other benefits of using one-way video interviews for at least the basic questions, possibly even more:

  • Creates better interview flow
  • Gets rid of the need for long phone interviews
  • Helps you give and get quicker feedback
  • Allows you to personalize the interview with branding features
  • Ensures that your interviews are consistent (as mentioned above)
  • Makes the interview process convenient for both you and the interviewee

To give the candidates the best shot at interviewing well, you want to get going with some general questions.

Here are some to start with.

“Tell me about yourself.”

This short question does not allow them to answer with a simple “yes” or “no” response, but rather requires them to share some personal information that may pertain to the job, but also may not. This is an opportunity for you to get a look into their personality.

“What are your strengths?”

This question shows where the candidate may really shine in the job, and allows them to highlight their self-confidence, expertise, and skills.

“What are your weaknesses?”

This question lets you know where the candidate may struggle a bit, and you can determine whether that is a deal-breaker for hiring him/her or whether it’s something that won’t get in the way. You may also consider how this person’s weakness can be improved with the help of some training and/or tools.

“Why do you want this job?”

Everyone wants a job because they need a job, but this question gives the candidate a chance to get creative and share what this job means to them beyond a paycheck.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

This classic question lets you get a peek at whether this candidate is interested in being a part of your company for the long haul or whether they’re using it as a stepping stone for something else. Neither one is wrong – it just depends on your company and the position you’re seeking to fill.

Step 2: Ask About Interests

The basic question above about why they want this job gets the ball rolling for diving deeper into interests in the job specifically as well as the field of work generally speaking.

Here are some interest-related questions to ask.

“What makes you passionate about this field?”

This helps you to gauge whether they are truly passionate about this line of work, or whether it is purely to pay the bills. The need for a genuine interest is imperative to the success of this candidate in your company.

“Why do you want to work for this company?”

The candidate’s response to this question helps you determine whether they would fit in with the culture of the company. It also shows the motivations in applying for the job, as well as whether they plan to stay in the role for a bit or hop to something else as soon as possible.

Step 3: Ask Qualifying Questions

Now the ice should be broken and both you and the interviewee should feel more comfortable with each other. This means it’s time to get into the details of the job and their potential for taking on this role.

“What was your ____ program like at [college/university]?”

Get into the candidate’s education and how it helped prepare them for this job by asking this question. Even if their degree is not perfectly aligned with the role, this is still worth asking.

For example, if the open position is an HR manager and the candidate was a part of the English program at his/her college, this question should be asked to find out what skills he/she took from that program and can use in this job.

“Tell me about your ____ internship. What was the experience like and what were your takeaways?”

Similar to the above question, this asks for more details on what learned skills he/she can bring to the table that will help him/her succeed in the position.

“Tell me about your current job. How do you feel you have grown in this position?”

You have seen the candidate’s resume which highlights some of the roles in his/her current job, but asking this question helps to clarify those things on the resume, and also gives the interviewee a chance to expand upon them. This question is also used to ensure that the person was truthful on their resume.

Step 4: Ask Character Questions

Having the right education, the right experience, and the right skills are all important things to consider in the hiring process.

However, what is equally as important is what kind of worker the person is. You can determine this by asking circumstantial questions that give you insight into the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

“Tell me about a time you dealt with a conflict in your job.”

Learn more about the candidate’s personality by asking this question. How you behaved in the past often indicates how you would react to a similar situation in the future, and you want to decide whether the interviewee’s response is something that you agree with.

“Describe a time that you failed. Explain the situation and the outcome.”

We are all human and we all make mistakes. What really speaks to the type of person we are, however, is how we deal with those mistakes – what we do to make them right, and what we learn as a result of them. This question will give you all that information about the candidate.

Step 5: Ask Goal-Based Questions

Knowing the future career plans of your candidates helps you decide whether they are the best fit for this job and vice versa.

“What made you look for a new job?”

This lets you know what the candidate did not like about their previous job and the ways in which it wasn’t fulfilling their goals. This information can aid you in determining whether your company and this role are right for helping them reach those goals and whether this person is right for helping your company reach its goals.

“Do you plan to pursue additional education? If so, what field would you choose?”

Learn more about the candidate’s future goals to see if they align with your business objectives. If they plan to further their education, is there a place for them in the company? How can you benefit from their additional education if they’re interested? And if not, is that a problem?

“Does this position align with your professional goals? How?”

Get a deeper look at their professional goals and see if they align with this position.

Step 5: Ask Closing Questions

Regardless of how the interview goes, closing questions are an opportunity to make sure things end on a good note.

Here are some ways that you can close the interview.

“Is there anything else you think we should know about you?”

Allow the interviewee to share other information that he/she thinks may influence your decision to hire them.

“Do you have any questions for me?”

A candidate that has no questions for you is a red flag. Even if the question is simple, they must ask something to show they are engaged in the conversation and that they are interested in the job and want to know more.

Step 6: Review Your Questions

You’ve done it! You’ve created your interview questions.

But before you put them into action, it is important to take a step back and analyze each question you intend on asking.

When doing so, here are some things to think about.

Stay Conscious of Time

According to Reed Global, the average interview lasts between 45 minutes and one hour. Take this into account when determining how many questions you can ask.

Be Interested

You may have a long line of candidates to interview for the position, but it is only fair that you are interested and engaged in each interviewee. This ensures a fair and balanced interview opportunity for all.

Have a Plan B

As much as you want to stick to the plan to make all the interviews as consistent and fair as possible, you may not be able to do that. The interviewee may be late or may expand upon a question more deeply than you had expected.

Prepare for changes in the schedule that allow you to drop questions that aren’t as crucial, if necessary.

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