Asking the Right Questions

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So, what are the right questions, and how do you ask them? There are no hard and fast rules, but help is available in getting started, including books of questions that can be used verbatim or adapted to your needs.

June 01, 2003

 

 


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So, what are the right questions, and how do you ask them? There are no hard and fast rules, but help is available in getting started, including books of questions that can be used verbatim or adapted to your needs. (See "Resources")

Once you've identified what you're looking for, try to think of a few questions that will tell you if the candidate has it. Because behavioral questions force a candidate to relate a real-life event from the past, there is a great chance that in the telling of the narrative, several key questions will get answered - or at least answered enough to generate a follow-up question.

For instance, community manager Mickey May of Choice Homes in Arlington, Texas, might ask this of a sales associate: "Tell me about the most difficult scenario you had to deal with in your previous position. What did you do, and what was the outcome?"

 

At the very least, May might be able to evaluate the candidate's problem-solving skills and ability to work under pressure, but depending on the answer, he might learn quite a bit more. If the candidate says, "They'd never do warranty. I was told people would be contacted within two or three days of a warrantee claim, but often it was several weeks before the customer heard back or got resolution." Then, May can get in a question evaluating the candidate's integrity before or after the candidate explains the outcome. "How did that make you feel?"

Either logical answer - "frustrated because I didn't keep my word to the customer" or "frustrated because I had to deal with screaming people all day when it wasn't my fault" - tells volumes.

Martin Freedland has another favorite questioning technique. When he feels there is enough trust, he says something like, "Tell me about all your success, starting from just after graduation." He is liable to learn a great deal about this person and have plenty of fodder to ask more pointed, probing questions. It also might identify one or two people who are very close to the candidate, which is crucial in Freedland's system.

He goes out and does a half-hour interview with a candidate's spouse or other people who know the candidate well and whose lives might be affected by the person's decisions. (See more on questions in "The Interview Process")

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