Interviewing job candidates is a tough task that can be compared to navigating an imaginary minefield. 

Understandably, interviewers often ask themselves questions like: 

  • What types of interview questions will get honest replies? 
  • Which are best to avoid because they won’t help me make a sound hiring decision? 
  • What questions will help me reveal the most relevant information for this position? 
  • How many rounds of interviews are enough? 
  • Is one question format better than another? 

There are many opinions about which questions – and, accordingly, which answers – are the right ones. This author even chimed in with a focus on interview questions to avoid in a previous blog. Prevailing opinions in this arena are constantly evolving.

To help, we’ve assembled a list of recommendations that are reflective of recent thinking on the subject. 

  1. Don’t ask questions that, whether purposely or inadvertently, make the candidate feel uncomfortable. Interviews shouldn’t feel like an interrogation. Stay away from personal inquiries that are not relevant to the job. If the idea behind hard-hitting questions is to find out how a prospective employee handles stress, there are better, less off-putting ways to gain this knowledge. During the interview, a stressed, uncomfortable candidate is far less likely to convey information that will help determine whether they are suited for the job than a relaxed and talkative candidate.

    Instead, ask open-ended questions that allow prospects to explain how they would handle real-world problems, actual issues that came up in past jobs, issues that came up in past jobs or challenges that are likely to be a feature of the job for which they are interviewing. Keep this portion of the interview conversational, especially with questions that require the candidate to think hypothetically. Allow the candidate to verbally “sketch out” their solution to a problem with detail. This may provide a wealth of information about how they would do the job while demonstrating whether they have the skills advertised on their resume.


  2. Don’t ignore the value of optimizing your interview process. Using an impromptu approach, or a one-size-fits-all method where a formulaic process is used for all positions, you may get poor results with costly consequences.


    Instead, determine in advance your process for interviewing candidates for a specific job, and evaluate it regularly to find opportunities for improvement. Decide on the structure for both your entire interview process, which may include a screening interview by phone or video conference, panel interview, cultural-fit assessment, comprehensive interview, meeting with potential future colleagues—and then decide the structure for each specific interview, aiming to communicate and collect only the information both you and your prospective employee need at each stage to make a mutual decision.


  3. Don’t let the conversation turn to personal small talk. Asking where a candidate likes to vacation, what their hobbies are, or what kind of music they like falls into the realm of being intrusive. This can create an uncomfortable atmosphere and affect the usefulness of the interview.


    Instead, keep the conversation interesting while maintaining focus on topics related to the job’s responsibilities and the types of skills and temperament required for success. Draw the candidate out and find out what makes them passionate about their work. The interview is an opportunity to go beyond the standard questions and resume bullets to find out what sort of person and employee you are considering for a job.


  4. Don’t talk too much or too quickly. It’s easy to get wrapped up talking about the company and the details of the job, only leaving time for the candidate to give short answers to critical questions. This can inadvertently enable candidates to “sell” how they will shine in the role offered, and not allow space for the interviewer to find potential concerns.


    Instead, ask a question and then be quiet. This allows the candidate to showcase who they are and how they’ll fit into the position and company culture, which is the purpose of the session after all. While we don’t recommend talking too much during the allotted interview time, it is important to listen for understanding and take careful notes, especially if there is a crowded interview schedule. After all, if the interviewer is getting high volumes of valuable information from each candidate, it is worthwhile to listen, take notes, and retain as much of it as possible for evaluation later. 

Good Interviews Improve the Odds of Good Results 

Good interviews are carefully structured, conversational events that, when well-planned, put candidates at ease and lead them to reveal as much valuable information about their suitability for a job as possible. 

Establishing a structure ahead of time and sticking to it, allowing space for candidates to express themselves and ensuring that candidates are relaxed and comfortable as possible are useful steps toward achieving this goal.