In a follow-up interview with Dina Harding, Executive + Technical Recruiter and Search Firm Owner at Maven Quest®, she delves into the how and why complexities of interview questioning. She also provides bonus best-practice insights that can help anyone involved in the hiring and interviewing process hone their Q&A chops.
To begin, four interview questions and their corresponding benefits follow:
1. Elaborate on how you make minor transitions moving from one project or work activity to another throughout the workday. In addition, how do you deal with larger changes at work?
“How well we adjust, move forward and produce strong results while moving through daily transitions matters a great deal,” asserts Harding, “especially when considering that time is money, and when contemplating that good habits lead to better results.”
A simple transition might include the speed of resuming work after a meeting or lunch. A more intense transition might include ease in navigating the waves of continually changing priorities and timelines within large group projects.
This question, appropriate and customizable for all candidate levels (entry-level to executive), can “address specific nuances of the position, the level of work within the organization and the team, department or organization itself,” explains Harding. Further, it can be “probed in a conversational style, after the candidate has first answered.”
This question reveals candidates’ ability focus, or lack thereof, as well as time and deadline management skills amid project transition. It also can reveal how they may treat other people (particularly while under stress) when making a transition from one activity to another.
Moreover, you may also discover whether “the person plans their work the night before, proactively takes action or ownership on a foreseeable problem or takes online courses in their spare time to better manage an area they see in themselves as needing improvement,” says Harding.
“So, remain open-minded before passing early judgments or ruling out a candidate based on answers to this question, and others like it,” she encourages.
2. Tell me how you function under adverse, stressful or difficult times at work. Why do you believe this is the best way to respond?
This question is multilayered and unearths both the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ in regard to handling stressful situations.
Harding expounds, “It is here that you learn how the candidate handles stressful situations and how he/she may be a ‘spin-master’ in overcoming either one of their own weaknesses, an obstacle in front of their work, a problem with colleagues or superiors or how they turned the negative situation into a positive learning experience.”
“You can also further probe by requesting specific past scenarios that happened, including the resulting outcome, at a previous employer,” says Harding.
3. Please describe at length how you are best kept happy, motivated, focused and intrigued at work?
The key to this question is the depth and breadth, as the interviewer seeks to pull threads of motivators through more elaborate and open-ended (vs. ‘yes and no’) questions.
“This question allows a hiring authority to determine up front if the candidate would thrive within the company culture, how they would fit in with the primary departmental colleagues with whom they would be interacting and reporting to, as well as if such dynamics would likely lead to the candidate staying long-term,” states Harding.
“Sometimes a ‘disrupter’ is needed to challenge the status quo, and to drive and implement big changes for an organization. So, the secondary follow-up questions to their response can help discover if they would be happy and motivated doing just that,” concludes Harding.
4. What makes you uniquely valuable in your work, and the best candidate to hire?
“This important question gives insight into how the candidate differentiates themselves from others in terms of the value of their contributions,” says Harding, “and it can also be verified when the reference checks are done,” she continues.
Harding’s interview process is underscored by her ability and desire to go deep with layered questions that not only spur immediate insights but cull a repository of follow-up questions that more fully equip the decision-making process. As such, she has shared additional best practices for interviewing:
Always take note of a candidate’s body language (in your mind, not out loud to the candidate)
“Your goal should be to learn as much as possible by layering questions together in a cohesive manner while at the same time gauging the candidate’s non-verbal responses, or body language, for indicators of untruthfulness, uneasiness or discomfort,” asserts Harding.
“Always probe further where there seemingly is either a pain-point, a glossed-over answer, circular speaking, evasiveness, avoidance tactic, a flip-like shift of the question back onto the interviewer, redirected subject to another topic altogether or an unusual distraction or request made,” she explains.
Ask “How & Why” follow-up questions
The essential purpose of ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions is to root out “what actually motivated or prompted the person to take certain actions to start,” explains Harding.
This insight can unearth a candidate’s resourcefulness, particularly important when working within tight budgets.
According to Harding, incorporating these interview best practices can propel the interviewer’s success in “unearthing details that relate cause and effect relationships,” in a person’s work past. In turn, this helps “predict how well the candidate may perform in the new position, if hired.”