How to Write Job Interview Questions

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Lewis Moore

6

min read

|

9 Jul 2024

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You’ve probably spent hours searching for the perfect candidates to interview, so the last thing you need is to ask the wrong questions. The key to a successful interview is having the right questions up your sleeve. You need to be able to assess a candidate's skills, experience, and fit for your team. But where do you start? Let’s break down how to write job interview questions that will help you make informed decisions.

1. Understanding the Basics of Job Interview Questions

1.1 What makes a good interview question?

A good interview question is clear, direct, and relevant to the job role. It goes beyond the generic and digs into specifics that reveal a candidate's experience, skills, and thinking process. The best questions are those that can't be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no'. Instead, they encourage the candidate to elaborate on their experiences and qualifications.

Effective interview questions include:

  • Competency-based questions: These ask about specific skills and behaviours needed for the job.

  • Experience-based questions: These require candidates to discuss their past job performances.

  • Situational questions: These gauge how a candidate would handle future job-related scenarios.

Pro-tip: Tailor your questions to the job's key competencies for a more focused interview.

1.2 Types of interview questions: Open vs Closed

Open questions invite candidates to share detailed responses, giving you insights into their thought processes, experiences, and abilities. These questions often start with "How," "What," "Tell me about..." Closed questions, however, typically result in short, specific answers, such as "Yes" or "No." They can be useful for verifying information but don't provide much depth.

Open-ended questions:

  • "How did you handle a major project disruption in your past job?"

  • "What motivates you in your professional life?"

Closed-ended questions:

  • "Have you worked in a team before?"

  • "Do you have experience with Excel?"

Pro-tip: Use a mix of open and closed questions to balance getting detailed narratives with quick confirmations.

1.3 The role of job interview questions in assessing a candidate

Interview questions are essential tools for assessing whether a candidate is the right fit for your company. They allow you to evaluate technical skills, cultural fit, and problem-solving abilities. Effective questions can reveal a candidate's strengths and weaknesses, helping you to determine if they align with the role's requirements and your team's dynamics.

Key roles of interview questions:

  • Evaluate skills and experience: Ensure the candidate possesses the relevant capabilities.

  • Gauge problem-solving and critical thinking: Understand their approach to challenges.

Focus on questions that uncover specific examples of past behaviour to predict future performance. By mastering these basics, you'll not only ask better questions but also gain deeper insights into each candidate's suitability for the role.

2. Crafting Effective Job Interview Questions

2.1 How to align questions with job requirements

Creating interview questions that align with job requirements is crucial to finding the best candidate. Start by reviewing the job description in detail. Identify key skills and competencies required for the role. For example, if a role demands strong project management skills, focus on a candidate's experience managing timelines, budgets, and cross-functional teams. Cross-reference the job description with industry standards to ensure comprehensive coverage of essential skills.

Next, prioritise the most critical aspects of the role. Form questions that target these areas specifically. For instance, for a technical role, you might ask about specific programming languages or problem-solving techniques the candidate has used. Write questions that allow candidates to demonstrate practical skills and relevant experiences that directly correlate with job duties. This will enable you to objectively evaluate how well they meet the job criteria.

Check out our guide on creating a job leveling matrix to help guide the questions you need to ask.

2.2 Tips for writing clear and concise questions

Clear and concise questions are vital for obtaining relevant and accurate information from candidates. Start with a keyword or two that specifies the focus of the question, such as "Describe your approach to..." or "How do you handle...". Avoid using ambiguous terms or language that may confuse the candidate. Be direct, ensuring each question tackles only one aspect or competency at a time.

Additionally, keeping questions straightforward ensures that candidates can respond thoroughly without veering off-topic. Avoid long-winded questions that include multiple sub-questions, as they can overwhelm candidates and lead to incomplete answers. Instead, prepare follow-up questions if clarification is needed.

Pro-tip: Test your questions with colleagues to check for clarity and simplicity, ensuring they elicit the intended responses.

2.3 Avoiding common pitfalls in question wording

One common pitfall in question wording is leading questions. Leading questions suggest a particular answer and can bias the responses. For example, instead of asking, "Do you think teamwork is important?", ask, "Can you provide an example of how you have contributed to a team project?". This encourages candidates to provide detailed, authentic answers based on their experiences.

Another mistake is using overly technical jargon or acronyms that may not be understood by all candidates. This can disadvantage otherwise qualified candidates. Keep language simple and neutral, ensuring it is inclusive and accessible to all candidates. Be mindful of asking questions that are too personal, this can be a source of unconscious bias. This can cause a candidate to be unfairly assessed on things that are unrelated to the job.

Pro-tip: Regularly review and update your interview questions to remove any potential biases and ensure they remain relevant to the role and industry standards.

3. Implementing the Interview Questions

3.1 Preparing interviewers to ask questions

Effective preparation is key to successful interviews. First, ensure that your interviewers understand the job requirements and the skills needed for the role. You can provide job descriptions and key competencies required for the role. A good practice is to hold a briefing session for your interview panel. Cover the objectives of the interview and discuss the desired outcomes. Examining past interviews for successful hires can be helpful, providing valuable insights into what questions worked well.

Create an interview plan that includes a mix of questions—basic, behavioural, situational, and career development. This plan ensures consistency and fairness across all interviews. Lastly, encourage interviewers to document the answers thoroughly. Evidenced helps you do this by recording, transcribing and allowing you to bookmark key moments in the interview, making it easy to rewatch and assess candidates after the interview.

Pro-tip: Use role-playing exercises during interviewer training to simulate real-life interview scenarios. This can improve their questioning techniques and help them handle different candidate responses more effectively.

3.2 Creating a comfortable interview environment

Make sure everyone is prepared and punctual. Being on time sets a professional tone and shows respect for the candidate's time. Begin the interview with a friendly introduction and a brief overview of what to expect. This can help alleviate any initial anxiety. Maintain good body language, such as making eye contact and nodding, to show engagement and encourage a two-way dialogue.

Pro-tip: Ensure your interview process is accessible for candidates with disabilities. Adjustments like this show that your company values inclusivity and can make a significant difference in the candidate's comfort level and overall performance. Ensuring a fair assessment process for every candidate.

3.3 Gathering and analysing candidate responses

Collecting and analysing responses is paramount. Encourage interviewers to take detailed notes (or use Evidenced) during the interview. This can include key points made by the candidate and any follow-up questions asked. By recording these details, you can make more informed decisions.

Post-interview, gather your interview panel to discuss and compare notes. Use objective criteria to evaluate responses, ensuring that personal biases do not cloud judgement. Create a scoring system for key competencies and align your panel’s feedback with the job requirements. Review responses in the context of the role and how well the candidate’s skills and experiences match up.

4. Examples of Interview Questions

4.1 Basic interview questions

Basic interview questions aim to explore a candidate’s background, skills, and motivations. These questions help you understand who the candidate is and how they present themselves. Common examples include “Tell me about yourself,” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” and “What made you apply for this role?” These questions offer insights into a candidate's personality and enthusiasm for the role. Keep them simple to ease into the conversation before digging into more detailed topics.

Important basic questions can also involve career history, such as “Why did you leave your last job?” or “What are your career goals?” This helps assess job stability and long-term ambitions. Consider using a mix of conventional and unconventional questions to get a holistic view of the candidate’s character and professional background.

Pro-tip: Make sure to listen actively to the answers to these questions; they can often reveal more than you expect about the candidate's suitability for the role.

4.2 Behavioural interview questions

Behavioural interview questions focus on past experiences to predict future job performance. These questions often start with “Tell me about a time when…” and require candidates to provide specific examples of how they handled situations in previous roles. Examples include “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult team member,” or “Describe a project you successfully managed from start to finish.” These questions can help gauge problem-solving abilities and emotional intelligence.

Key behavioural questions might also look into decision-making processes with questions like “Tell me about a time when you had to make a quick decision under pressure.” Such questions assess a candidate’s ability to think on their feet. They can also reveal a candidate's leadership style and teamwork skills, offering a deeper understanding of their compatibility with your company's work environment.

Pro-tip: Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) when crafting behavioural questions to help candidates provide structured, insightful answers.

4.3 Situational questions

Situational questions are designed to present hypothetical scenarios that relate to typical challenges in the job role. Examples include “What would you do if you were faced with an angry customer?” or “How would you handle a tight deadline with limited resources?” These questions allow you to see how candidates think creatively and proactively. They help you assess problem-solving capabilities and decision-making skills in hypothetical but realistic situations.

Effective situational questions may include “What would you do if you were assigned a task outside your expertise?” or “If your team is not meeting its targets, how would you approach the issue?” These questions offer insight into a candidate’s ability to handle the unexpected and their approach to teamwork and leadership. Look for answers that display clear, logical thinking and a solution-oriented mindset.

Pro-tip: Situational questions can be customised to align closely with the specific demands and challenges of the job role you're hiring for.

4.4 Career development questions

Career development questions help gauge a candidate’s ambitions and their desire for growth within your company. Examples include “What’s important to you for your career progression?” and “What are your learning goals for the next year?” These questions can reveal how a candidate envisions their future and whether your company’s trajectory aligns with their personal goals. They also help identify candidates eager for personal and professional development.

Important career development questions may cover training preferences with questions like “What kind of professional development opportunities are you looking for?” or leadership aspirations with “Do you have any interest in management roles?” Responses can help you understand if a candidate is likely to be motivated and engaged in the long term, contributing to a lower turnover rate.

Pro-tip: Tailor career development questions to your company’s growth opportunities to gauge a candidate’s fit and their long-term potential within your organisation.

Writing effective job interview questions is crucial for identifying the best candidates who not only fit the role but also align with your company's culture and long-term goals. Understanding the various types of questions—basic, behavioural, situational, and career development—enables you to gather comprehensive insights about each candidate. These examples and tips aim to make your interview process more effective and informative, paving the way for better hiring decisions.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to write interview questions examples?

List the key responsibilities of the role and draft questions that help you evaluate a candidate’s experience, and problem-solving skills. Examples include:

  • "Tell me about yourself."

  • "Describe a challenging project."

  • "How do you handle tight deadlines?"

What is the star method when interviewing?

The STAR method is a technique for answering behavioural questions clearly and concisely:

  • Situation: Describe the context.

  • Task: Explain your responsibility.

  • Action: Detail what you did.

  • Result: Share the outcome.

How do you structure a job interview question?

  • Align questions with job requirements.

  • Use open-ended questions for deeper insights.

  • Mix basic, behavioural, situational, and career development questions for a comprehensive evaluation.