Fri Oct 29 2021

3 Tips for Asking Better Questions in Interviews

Are too many candidates answering your questions with just a yes, a no, or some other unhelpful response? A one word response can be extremely frustrating for interviewers trying to establish the credibility or skills of candidates. However, the problem may not be the candidates but the questions interviewers are asking. Asking-open ended questions, recording the performance of your questions, and writing your questions down beforehand will help you get better results from your interviews.

1. Ask Open-ended Questions

Asking open-ended questions is one of the best ways to ensure you get good answers from candidates during interviews. Open-ended questions are generally questions that cannot be answered with a one-word response. If you do not know what an open-ended questions is, do not worry; folks often do not know how to ask open-ended questions or that this is even something you can consciously do.

Open-ended questions usually start with words like “why”, “what”, or “how”. Those question words invite a longer response than a yes or no. Think about the question “What did you do on your previous team?“. That question cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no” without sounding wrong or rude. That question also invites a longer response from a candidate than “Did you use this particular technology on your previous team?“. A question that starts with “did” asks for a “yes” or “no” response, which many candidates will give.

Good interviewers, of course, will volunteer more information when asked closed-ended questions. You, as the interviewer, though, can help candidates give more information by shaping your questions so that they do not have an option to answer with a “yes”, “no”, or some other simple, short answer.

2. Record and Analyze the Performance of Your Interview Questions

If you do not have an idea of how your interview questions perform you will have a very hard time trying to make the questions better. You can measure the performance of your interview questions by looking at the information you get from candidates when you ask that question.

For example, how many of the candidates responded with an unhelpful or unsatisfactory answer to the given question? If most of the candidates answer with just a “yes” or “no” and you really need a better response, then that question probably needs work.

Measuring the performance of your questions is also the only way you can know if the changes you make are better. If you change a question and you see better responses, you probably made the right changes and can see better results by making other questions like this question.

3. Write Your Questions Before the Interview

Writing down your questions beforehand gives you a chance to decide what are the most important things you need to ask job candidates. When you write out your questions, you can plan out the interview and how the interview should go. You can also get feedback from other team members, who often can suggest improvements to the questions you have.

You might already have to do this. This has been the standard procedure for me at one company for whom I did interviews, but it may not be every organization or team’s policy.

Writing down your questions also ensures that your interviews will all proceed along the same course. This consistency is very important for measuring and tracking how your questions perform in interviews.

Do be cautious about changing your questions after you have started interviewing for a role. Some companies recommend against changing your questions after you start a round of interviews because differences in interviews between candidates are believed to potentially expose you and the company to legal liabilities.

Better Questions Are Better For You And For Your Candidates

Interviewing is hard, especially when you are the candidate. Becoming a better interviewer not only helps you but also helps your candidates showcase their capabilities better during the interview process. Thoughtfully writing open-ended questions before you have your interview can help make a better interview experience for everyone.