Your Favorite Pet Questions


Your favorite interview questions might feel like a set of secret weapons, but they may not be as good as you think. It’s easy to fall into a groove just because you’ve been doing something a certain way for a long time. Or perhaps because you are optimizing for something other than actionable hiring information (e.g. your own enjoyment, or how richly you can interrogate the answer to your question in real time…).

Take your interview guide—assuming you have a structured set of questions—and pass it through the following set of questions below. If it doesn’t perform well, it may be worth reflecting on whether or not you are getting the predictive, relevant data that you want for your hiring decisions.

  1. Are most of your questions about the candidate’s past performance? It’s fine to have dedicated problem-solving interviews to test analytical horsepower, but you otherwise want to largely focus on the candidate’s prior accomplishments and mistakes. Questions about “how they would” approach a given scenario are cheap talk with a low burden of proof.
  2. Are the majority of your questions (and follow-up questions) eliciting relevant information, or do you find that you’re often burning time on side-stories?
  3. Are your questions open-ended? (You can also check to see if you are following this advice for your follow-up questions as well.)
  4. More subtly, are you telegraphing the right answer in how you phrase your question? Can a savvy candidate figure out what you want to hear (rather than what is actually true)?
  5. Do some of your questions solicit real negative information (i.e. weaknesses, mistakes, etc.)? Note: This is different than asking how someone overcame a “challenge.” Getting the real scoop on someone’s risk areas is crucial in avoiding a hiring mistake.
  6. Do some of your questions solicit third-party perspectives (e.g. someone’s boss, investor, or key client)? Without this, you are not unlocking all of the information you could have gained access to.

If you’ve got a favorite interview question that you feel gets you great data, by all means keep using it. But this list is a good filtering test for calling out questions that may have outlived their usefulness.

UPCOMING WEBINAR! To celebrate the official launch of our Talgo On Demand offering, we’re hosting a free webinar on March 7th: “What Interview Questions Should I Ask?” You can register here. Please feel free to share this invite with anyone who you feel might benefit from our approach to interviewing and hiring. Thank you!

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