Ask Your Job Candidates the Right Questions

By Rita Bowden

For effective interviewing of potential hires, it is important to understand the types of interview questions and their researched effectiveness.

In studies, it has been found that behavioral and competency interview questions yield a predictive validity for job success of 55%. Behavioral and competency interview questions are gaining greater acceptance as interviewers are trained and experience good results with hires. Credential, experience and opinion types of questions have a predictive validity for on the job success of just 10%, but are commonly used in interviews and may still help the hiring manager gain additional information about the applicant.

The following types of interview questions are RECOMMENDED:

1. Behavioral: This type of question measures past behaviors as a predictor of future results.
What steps did you take to accomplish a task?
Can you give a specific example of how you did something?

2. Competency: The purpose of this type of question is to align the applicant’s past behaviors with specific competencies required for the position.
Can you give me a specific example of your leadership skills?
Explain a way in which you sought a creative solution to a problem.

The following types of interview questions should be used INFREQUENTLY:

1. Credential Verification: This is also known as resume verification.
What was your degree?
How long were you with XYZ Company?

2. Experience Verification: This type of questions subjectively evaluates features of the applicant’s background.
What were your responsibilities in that position?
What did you learn in that class?

3. Opinion: This type of question subjectively analyzes what the applicant thinks or how they would react in a situation.
What are your strengths and weaknesses at work?
What would you do in this type of situation?

The following types of interview questions are NOT RECOMMENDED as they are not job-related and have a very low predictive validity:

1. Brainteaser: The purpose of the question is to evaluate the candidate’s mental calculation skills or creative ability to formulate an equation.
What is 1000 divided by 73?

2. Case: The purpose is to evaluate the candidate’s problem-solving abilities and how they would analyze and work through a potential case.
How many gas stations are there in Europe?
What is your estimate of the global online retail market for books?

3. Dumb: The purpose is to get past pre-programmed answers to find out if the candidate is capable of original thought.
What kind of animal would you like to be?
What color best describes you?

Rita Bowden is a recruiting manager in Human Resources at Texas A&M University. This article is an excerpt from the university’s Organizational Effectiveness Sample Interview Question Guide.

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