A Quality Formula for Interviewing Candidates-Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

Doug Staneart  |  May 16, 2021
last updated

Job Interview Tips: Navigating the Hiring Process for the Ideal Candidate

Formula for Interviewing Job CandidatesOver my career, I’ve experienced the highs of exceptional hiring choices and the lows of regrettable mistakes. Through trial and error, I’ve developed a job interview process that enhances the chances of identifying and retaining top talent. These job interview tips, born from real-life experiences, aim to guide you in assembling a dynamic team for your organization.

This guide is structured into three comprehensive parts (technically four). The first part is designed to help you spot the ideal candidate. Following that, you’ll find a set of behavioral interview questions essential for any job interview. A brief section is also dedicated to interview questions that are best avoided. The final part provides insights on utilizing the gathered information to make well-informed hiring decisions.

Beginning with the first part:

Identifying a Good Fit: Matching Candidates with the Job and Company Culture

Job Interview Tips for the EmployerBefore diving into the interview process, it’s crucial to define what constitutes a good fit for both the role and the company culture. In the past, rapid growth led my company to make hasty hiring decisions based simply on candidate availability. While some of these choices fortuitously worked out, others resulted in problematic hires and difficult terminations.

Typically, interviewers assess a candidate’s resume or LinkedIn profile, focusing on education, work history, and references. While these factors are important, they don’t necessarily indicate if a candidate will be a great fit for the specific role or align with your team’s values and company’s culture.

Thus, prior to conducting interviews, it’s beneficial to outline the specific skills and career goals essential for the position. Additionally, consider the values and behavioral qualities you desire in a potential employee.

Identify the Skills Needed for the Job Before Interviewing Any Candidates.

A couple of years ago, I hired a new website developer. In the job description, I inserted a list of skills needed for the position in the order of importance. For instance, I listed “Search Engine Optimization” as the first skill needed. I listed that one first for a reason. The candidate had to have a vast knowledge of the subject to be successful in the position.

The candidate could have developed that skill working for a huge company. Or, she might have developed it working on the weekends as a second job. Guess what? I didn’t really care how she developed the skill! I also didn’t really care what school she attended (or even her grades.) I was most concerned that she could prove to me that she was an expert in that area.

So, the first of our job interview tips is this: to make a list of the relevant skills needed to be a success in the position. Once you complete the list, go back and order the items based on their importance. That way, once you start to interview candidates, you have a checklist to refer to (by the way, this also makes it easier to come up with better talking points than the typical job interview questions).

Identify the Personality Traits Needed for the Job Before Interviewing Any Candidates

Another important thing to identify in the ideal candidate is the person’s personality temperament. Psychologists have identified four major personalities temperaments. In fact, the theory goes all the way back to Hippocrates in Ancient Greece. Basically, each of us possess natural talents. We all also have natural weaknesses.

About five years ago, I opened up a new warehouse for our company. I created a nice job posting and started interviewing candidates. One of these candidates was an energetic, fun, and inspirational woman. Instantly, I knew that she was a good fit for our company. However, the job she was applying for was not a good fit for her strengths. We needed someone that was thorough and detail-oriented. We also needed someone who could mathematically anticipate inventory needs, etc.

A couple of weeks later, I called her up and asked her to reinterview for a different position. She became one of our top account managers within two years. Now, she is one of our top instructors worldwide. I sometimes joke with her saying, “What do you think your world would be like if I had actually offered you that warehouse manager job?” She always grits her teeth and thanks me.

Great Teams Contain Individuals Who Complement Each Other’s Strengths and Make-Up for Their Weaknesses.

Finally, you want to identify what strengths you already have on your team and what weaknesses you need to shore up. The personality temperaments can help here as well. For instance, I’m a hard-charging “Type A” personality. The first three people I ever hired were the exact opposite of me. Where I am crass and blunt, the people I hired were friendly and personable. They made up for my deficiencies, and I made up for theirs.

We had some pretty good growth during that time. However, the company plateaued at $300,000 per year. I realized later what the problem was. I had hired a team of people who waited for me to give them direction. They were fantastic at implementing ideas, by the way. However, if I didn’t lead them, not much got done. Just by luck, the next few people that I hired were creative idea people. Then, we added some analytical detail-oriented folks. Immediately, growth exploded. We had created a team that complemented the strengths and weaknesses of each other.

Today, I consciously hire based on the strengths and weaknesses of the personalities I already have on the team. The process works incredibly well.

Questions to Ask to Help You Better Judge Potential Candidates

Now that you have your hiring criteria, what questions need to be asked at the interview? Well, in addition to determining the skills needed and the personality needed, you also want to discover one additional thing: does the candidate mesh well with your company culture? This wouldn’t be a good job interview tips post without this question.

Here are a few tips to help you start off on the right track.

In a moment, I’ll give you a sample list of interview questions. First, though, let’s talk about the values part. This suggestion is one of those tips that has absolutely revolutionized how we hire.

Ask Questions to Determine the Values that You Want in a Team Member

Just before Covid hit in 2020, my executives and I set an audacious goal to quadruple the size of the company. (I know. The timing was awful.) We knew that the most important thing to help us get that goal was to hire new candidates. We also knew that the company revenue had plateaued a few years ago. I realized that to get to the next plateau, we most likely would need to make some changes in personnel.

One of our team members had a brilliant idea. We have a list of our corporate core values that we live by. Why not score our team members based on each of these core values? To experiment, I and the other two executives scored each other. Not surprisingly, each of us scored pretty high in each of the areas.

Next, we each scored every single one of our team members. Interestingly, the team members who scored very high in our values were also the ones who appeared to be the most productive for the company as well. The ones who scored lower were more mediocre by comparison.

This was one of our best job interview tips we came up with. The technique worked so well for our current team, that we made it a part of the hiring process. So, in addition to asking questions to determine the skills of the candidate, we now ask questions to help us determine their values as well.

For instance, core value number one at our company is responsiveness. We send out an email asking candidates to go to our calendar and set up a meeting. We automatically exclude candidates who take more than a day to respond.

Here Is a Set of Sample Interview Questions to Help You Determine Skills, Personality, and Their Values

For your next interview, try out these open-ended questions. I recommend doing an in-person interview whenever possible, as it’s important to see the interview skills of your candidate.

Obviously, these are just a few sample questions. You will likely want to pick questions that more immediately relate to the position you are filling. These questions are open-ended and are a great way to get interview responses beyond “yes” or “no.” Candidates eager to make a great first impression will use this opportunity to respond with strong answers and follow-up questions.

Questions to Avoid When You Interview Candidates for a Job

The bigger your company is, the more of a target you are for litigation. So, if you have a Human Resources department, they are your friend during the interview process (this goes for all the job interview tips in this post, by the way). Once you create your list of questions, send the list to HR. They will alter your questions to keep you from violating employment laws and/or make your questions more effective for the interview. If you do not have an HR department, here is a list of questions to avoid.

This is not a comprehensive list. However, staying away from these topics can keep help you avoid accidentally offending a candidate and keep you out of hot water.

Comparing the Candidates after the Interview So You Make the Right Hiring Decision

Okay, so now you have a bunch of data to comb through about each candidate. What the heck do we do with it? You want to organize the data into a format where you can logically compare the candidates. Here are a couple of suggestions.

Create a Scoring System to Judge Each Candidate’s Skills and Values

The Last Job Interview Tip-Score Each Candidate in the Three AreasThis is one of the best job interview tips I can give you. When you’re on the brink of making a job offer, organizing your candidates is crucial. Begin by listing them in a spreadsheet, which serves as an effective tool for the interview process. Your next step involves categorizing your hiring criteria into three lists: required job skills, desired personality traits for a good fit, and your company’s core values.

For each candidate, apply a scoring system, perhaps using a scale of one to five or a High School letter grade, across these three areas. This approach is particularly useful in video interviews and in-person interviews, where you can observe body language and communication skills, crucial indicators of a candidate’s potential employer compatibility.

Score candidates twice in each category—first for their current level, then for their potential growth. For example, a recent college graduate applying for a new job may initially score lower in job skills compared to a seasoned professional. However, if they demonstrate a positive attitude, eagerness to learn, and alignment with your company culture, their potential score might be higher, indicating significant long-term value.

This method is especially beneficial in face interviews or telephone interviews, where you can ask specific questions or behavioral questions to gauge a candidate’s responses under stressful situations. By the end of the interview, you’ll have a comprehensive view of each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

Ultimately, this scoring system aids in swiftly narrowing down your choices. If you’re left with candidates who score highly, you’re likely looking at a best candidate scenario. This method not only simplifies the interview process but also ensures you make a good impression on potential employees, reflecting your company’s commitment to a thorough and fair evaluation process.

author Doug Staneart
posted on
last updated
Doug Staneart is president of The Leader's Institute ®. He is based in the Dallas, Texas Region. He is a specialist in corporate team building activities and custom presentation skills seminars.
← A Simple 3-Step Process to Help You Persuade the Tough Audience Interpersonal Skills: Definition and Strong Interpersonal Skills List →