The truth is, there isn’t one. In my experience, there is no one best question to end all questions. I get asked this question daily; or see people asking for the answer on social media and writing articles about it. Well here’s the actual secret to being a great interviewer – be human.
In recent history, interviewers had been conditioned to ask the same questions over and over, such as “what is your biggest weakness” and you end up with a practiced answer. Candidates that prepare for these mundane questions can do well because they know how to respond and those that don’t, won’t. So you’ll begin to see how this becomes ineffective when trying to qualify your candidates. The next trend for interviewers was to put their candidates on the spot – “sell me this pen,” they’d say, waiting for, what was in their mind the perfect answer. Now if you’ve seen Wolf of Wall Street, well again, not effective and kind of boring (sorry to offend).
Another trend I’ve seen has been “what’s your favourite movie”, and if you can’t prove that the difference between how “Star Wars” or “Dirty Dancing” will make someone a fit for you, it’s frankly a waste of everyone’s time. Google began to stretch these types of questions to “how many golf balls fit in a school bus” or “how many piano tuners are there in the entire world”, and again, Google admitted these were bad, real bad, and removed them from their hiring practice. These are arbitrary questions and yes, we understand the rationale behind these questions – to see how people think, but there’s no science behind it. This is one of the many problems with today’s interviewers, they are so focused on asking one question that will determine the fate of a potential hire, and judge candidates based on that one question but they have no data behind what the answers indicate.
Do interviewers do it this way because they forget what it’s like to be interviewed, to be on the other side of the desk? Remember that some people are an incredible fit for your business, but don’t have good interview skills and vice versa, some are not a good fit but ace the interview, only to get hired on false pretences.
So what is the answer if these questions don’t work? What works for my team and I is getting to know someone; be a human and stop “interviewing”. From now on, start walking into your interviews the way you would want to be interviewed – on time, friendly and prepared. Determine what questions get you answers that you can equally compare across all applicants, are rationally connected to performance in the job and have real conversations. And the most important part of the humanized interview? Be interviewed yourself; spend a majority of the time allowing the interviewee to ask you questions. Everyone needs to make sure it’s a good fit, not just the company. Searching for a job is no longer a one sided process, so be transparent about the role and your company – no surprises.
Here’s a hint to get started on revising your interview process today: when you get back on the other side of that boardroom table, find out what’s missing from your candidate’s previous role and explore that need further. If you can’t offer them what’s missing, explain why; if you can, explain that too. Determining fit happens by having a conversation, one human to another, and that’s what will help you ask and be asked the right interview questions (plural).
Adam Gellert, Founder