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Three Interview Questions That Reveal Everything

October 25, 2012

unknownI recently read an article written by Jeff Haden providing advice on the best way to interview prospective candidates – more specifically he presents three interview questions that can be used to obtain all of the information you will need on a given candidate. Since about 25% of my time is spent training human resources professionals and hiring managers on behavior based interviewing techniques I am typically skeptical when I see popular press articles written on the subject.Fifty years of research in Industrial Psychology have given us some pretty clear guidelines on the best approaches to interviewing job candidates and not much has changed over the past 20 years. Although Jeff’s article is not based on psychological research he presents a good framework for what is generally considered the “background review” or “job history review”. His suggested three questions that tap into important competencies to consider in the hiring process along with measuring the candidates job fit (also commonly referred to as organizational fit or motivational fit). Job fit is generally regarded as the single biggest predictor of turnover, absenteeism, and overall employee satisfaction – so it is something that is very important to consider in the hiring process.

Haden suggests that the interviewer should start with asking the candidate to quickly review their work history. As the candidate reviews their previous jobs the interviewer should resist the urge to probe and instead have the candidate answer three questions about each job. Those questions are:

  1. How did you find out about the job

  2. What did you like about the job before you started

  3. Why did you leave?

According to Haden these questions allow you to get glimpses of the candidate’s teamwork and responsibility (among other competencies). Also they allow you to uncover potential red flags from the candidate. I tend to agree and overall this is a great structured way to begin an interview. However, I also think there are two points that are important to mention.

  1. Although a background review is very important it should not be the only aspect to an interview. Research has shown that asking structured past-behavior questions will improve the reliability and validity of your interview.

  2. I do have an issue with Haden’s comments about candidates who have not been asked to follow a previous boss to a new job. Haden suggests that if a candidate has never been asked or pulled into a company there is something wrong. While that may be true,  it is extremely hard to draw those conclusions without asking follow-up probing questions.

All in all, Haden provides some good interviewing tips. If you can extend on these questions with additional structure you will certainly be using an interviewing process that could be considered a best practice.

Interviewer Tips

Paul Glatzhofer Paul Glatzhofer is the VP of Talent Solutions based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI Services LLC. He works primarily with organizations that are implementing global assessment and development systems at the leadership level. Paul’s work includes leadership development, leadership skills training, coaching, leadership and executive selection, turnover and ROI analysis, and ongoing feedback development.