Ask Human Resources: Quality Interview Questions Improve Hiring Outcomes

By Jodi Schafer, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

QUESTION:

I find the interview process is such a challenge.  I hire the people I think will do the best job based upon an interview, but I never really know how she or he will actually perform.  Everyone I interview tells me that they work hard, are organized and are dedicated.  Yet, after I hire them they rarely live up to their claims.  What can I do to make my interview questions more productive?

ANSWER:

The goal of an interview is to determine if a person has the ability to do the job AND if this person will be a good fit for your practice.   There are several things you can do to make an interview more successful, but a lot of it hinges on the questions you ask.  It is important to include a mix of fact-based questions, behavioral questions and scenario questions.  I’ll give you an example of each of these to get you started.  A fact-based question typically has to do with something a person has listed on their resume.  So, you might say, “Tell me about your most recent position and why you are no longer employed there,” or “What was your process for collecting payments and following up on outstanding balances?”  Fact-based questions are specific and provide information that is verifiable.

Behavioral and scenario questions are different.  They provide insight into how a person thinks by asking “What would you do if…” or “What have you done when…”.  The answers to these questions are more difficult to prove, but if you ask enough of them you can look for patterns in the answers.  A common scenario question might be, “If a patient called and was upset about a recent procedure that I (the doctor) had performed and I wasn’t available to take the call, what would you do/say to the patient?”  The candidate’s ability to provide exact language, show empathy and compassion, extract details that would be helpful for the return call, etc. are the difference between a good answer and a great answer.

Regardless of question type, be sure to prepare your interview questions in advance.  Design the questions to help you determine if the person can do the work AND has the right personality for the job.  Here are a few unorthodox questions to help you assess personality and the insight you can gain from their answers:

  • What do you do for fun?  This can give you a treasure trove of information.  Do they like to be alone or with others?  Is what they do active or sedentary?  Are they involved with team sports?   Do they like to be indoors or outdoors?  Do they like to go to the casino? There is no right or wrong answer, yet it opens up room for conversation and allows for a person’s true passion to shine through.
  • What do you like to read and what are you currently reading?   This will give insight as to their initiative.   People who read regularly, no matter what the material, generally are more intelligent.   If they tell you they don’t have time to read, you may want to ask how they are going to be able to stay current on the job.   There is rarely a job that does not require a person to have some up-to-date knowledge.
  •  Are you an active member of the local professional organization? Which one and how do you participate?  This question assesses professional drive.  Do they take a proactive approach to their own professional growth and development or do they view their role as just another job?

The interview process should be a two-way discussion; a conversation with someone you just met.  If you make them feel comfortable, they will open up to you more.  The more they talk, the more you learn about them and the better your chance of making a good hire.  The hiring process is essentially hit or miss.  You are making major decisions based upon limited information; yet, if you ask the right questions you can increase the size of the target - giving you a better chance of hitting it!