Interview questions and structured interviewing
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5 Keys to Successful Hiring

Tonja Wheatley

Productive employees are a company’s most valuable resource. As a hiring manager, your ability to interview, assess and hire the best person for a position is a crucial skill. A successful hiring manager will boost company productivity and elevate their position within the company. There are several keys to increasing your success rate.

1. Know what you are looking for
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any place will do,” said Alice in Wonderland.
Have a job description for each position to be filled. Job descriptions should be specific, concise and clearly understood. It should clearly describe the job responsibilities, including the skills and traits necessary to best fill the position. If current job descriptions are in a “permanent” file, consider developing a new one or revising the current description. It is only effective if it is being used to define candidates during recruiting and hiring.

2. Do your research
The basis for future performance is a thorough study of what has been done in the past.

Gain a thorough understanding of the position you are hiring for. What has worked in the past and what are opportunities for improvement? If the previous person was promoted, what can they or their manager tell you about necessary skills for the position? If the last person in the position was not a good fit, find out what mistakes NOT to repeat.

Know what the future needs and plans are for the hiring department. Take advantage of the valuable resources available in your department and company. You may want to consider a standard survey that is completed prior to any major hiring effort. The time you spend researching will be worth its weight in gold!

3. Read “between the lines” of resumes and applications
Be aware of the following Red Flags:

Embellished job descriptions/titles
Gaps in employment
Lack of career/job growth
Lack of attention to detail
Lack of accomplishments, track record
Put together a list of “screening” questions to dig beneath the surface of applications and resumes. Screening questions might include; Give me a detailed description of your job duties, How many people did you have reporting to you? What was your “official job title?

4. Hone questioning skills
Anthony Robbins said “Successful people ask better questions and as a result, they get better answers.”


Ask open-ended/job related questions
Focus on specific skill/trait
Use follow up questions to dig beneath the surface
Control the interview with re-directing questions

Ask unnecessary questions
Ask leading questions
Ask personal questions
Use interrogating tone
Differentiate between Skill and Trait related questions. Skill related questions are general questions that help you to understand developed or learned abilities necessary for the job. Skills are measurable and should be the focus of the initial interview. Traits are natural abilities that would help a candidate to succeed in a job. They are measured by a person’s pattern of behavior. Traits should be the focus of the “in-depth” follow-up interview.

Skill questions might center on areas such as knowledge of computer programs, industry, technical or product. Trait related questions would include areas such as organization, initiative, creativity, integrity and decision-making. Hiring a person with the traits to excel in a job can be the difference between a good hire and a great hire.

5. Assess and select candidates based on skill and traits
We all have our own personal biases and preferences. As hiring managers, we must ensure that assessments are based on job related skills and traits. If you just have a “bad feeling” about a candidate, push yourself to label the job related skill or trait that is lacking.

Beware of the common biases:

Gut Feel
Good Guy/Bad Guy
Halo Effect
Race, Sex, Age, Religion, Color, Nationality
Style of Dress
School Attended
Geographic Bias
Market/Previous Company
Common Hobbies

Most importantly, always assess candidates based on the job requirements and not compared to each other. The “best” of the worst, is usually not your best hire. Continue to learn from your mistakes and improve your process. Your efforts will be rewarded with increased productivity and lower turnover.


Finding Candidates

Interviewing Basics

Interviewing Best Practices

Laws & Documentation

Line Manager / Recruiting Partnership


Pre-Planning & Retention

Reading the Candidate

Recruiting Basics

Recruiting Best Practices

Useful Links