April 10, 2021
Hiring 17 April 2017
How to Reframe your Interview Questions
Gisel Malek
Ask the right questions

We surveyed nearly 200 candidates about what part of the interview process concerns them the most; there was an overwhelming response of “questions” in some form. They aren’t sure if they will be able to answer the questions or what the questions might entail. This is not exactly surprising, but it is definitely something to think about and consider as a recruiter. 

We want to help you know better how to properly run an interview so you get what you want, without causing your candidates’ to fall short of their potential. 

Here are 3 tips to better frame your questions:

1. Use inviting language like “describe” instead of “explain.”

Asking for a description of something, whether it be “a time when” they encountered a certain situation or asking them to describe their favorite movie, is a positive way to get your candidate to open up about a certain topic. Nobody wants to “explain” themselves since explanations are associated with defensive behavior. 

“Tell Me” is another great phrase to use as it accomplishes the same goal. Basically, the idea is to use inviting language that makes them feel comfortable and at ease instead of words that makes them feel even more uneasy than they are. 

2. Focus on what they could have improved upon, not what they didn’t accomplish

Many times recruiters will ask candidates to tell them about an instance where they failed at something in order to determine how they managed to resolve their situation. Candidates are uncomfortable talking about failure - after all, they are trying to impress you! Focusing on a time they could have improved implies that they actually did complete the task; you are now giving them a chance to perfect it. You will get much more open and honest answers if the candidate is not afraid to admit failure. 

3. Refrain from beginning questions with “who, what, when, where, how, and why.” 

Keep the questions open-ended. The interview process is supposed to be a conversation to get to know the person in front of you the best you possibly can in the amount of time that you have. Beginning the process with these questions already puts candidates in the uncomfortable situation of simply getting the question answered, making the answers stiff and without substance. Very few candidates really elaborate beyond the answering of the question. These questions do not allow for a seamless and easy flow of conversation. Anything you want to know, you can word in a way that is both more inviting and insightful. 

The point of any in-person interview is to get a better understanding of who your candidate is not to intimidate them and find weak links. At least that’s not the way it ought to be! Just because a candidate appears “weak” in an interview, it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be a great addition to your team or that they don’t have the necessary skills to succeed in a given role. If you can learn to have a better conversation with the person on the other side, you will get more answers to your questions and better assess if there is a mutual fit between them and your company’s culture. 

Hopefully, these tips will help you know how to have a better interview.  Evaluate your candidates by watching them work on projects designed by the department heads that are hiring for their perspective decisions, or even you!

Evaluate your candidates by watching them work on projects designed by the department heads that are hiring for their perspective decisions, or even you!

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