How to Formulate an Interview Question

As a hiring manager, have you ever started the hiring process by thinking: what do I even need to ask this candidate? Although it seems simple, formulating the right questions for an interview is difficult! It’s not as easy as asking a candidate: can you do this job? The right questions will reveal your candidate’s ability to demonstrate the skills needed, and the ability to succeed in a particular role.

There is in fact a science-backed method we use at Hireguide to formulate our interview questions. It’s how our questions are populated on our platform. We even give “answer/explore tips” for each question, which reveal what you should be looking for in a response from a candidate.

Here’s an easy four-step process for formulating interview questions:

1. Determine the role you need to hire.

You’ll want to do a job analysis and write a job description for the role. (At Hireguide, we've done the work of the job analysis for you within our platform!)

2.Choose the skills you’re assessing for related to that role.

If you're new to skills-based hiring, read our blog post on Why and How to start Hiring for Skills in 6 Easy Steps!

3. Design an interview question that will evaluate proficiency in that skill.

We recommend creating behavioral or situational questions because these are the best in terms of format. We recommend asking two questions for each skill.

How to create Behavioral Questions

Behavioral questions ask a candidate how they solved a particular problem in the past: “tell me about a time when..” - these types of questions will give insight into how the candidate will behave in the future.

  1. For each skill think of one on-the-job problem related to that skill
  2. Turn those problems into questions by asking how the candidate reacted to a similar problem in their past 
  3. A good way to dig deeper is to ask follow-up questions that reveal more information: “What was the outcome of your actions?”

Here's an example:

  • Skill: Organization
  • Behavioral question: Tell me about a time when you were managing a bunch of different projects at the same time. How did you organize your time and stay on top of all of the projects?
  • Follow-up: What was the outcome of the method you chose?

How to create Situational Questions

Situational questions give the candidate a specific problem they could encounter in the position and ask them how they would respond: “Imagine a scenario where..” - these types of questions reveal a candidate’s intentions and give insight into how they will behave in the future as well.

  1. For each skill think of an on-the-job scenario, they would be likely to encounter in this role
  2. Turn those problems into questions by placing the candidate in those scenarios and asking what steps they would take to solve the problem
  3. You may also want to ask the candidate which of two particular solutions they would choose and ask them to explain why.

Here's an example:

  • Skill: Creativity
  • Situational question: In this role, you’ll have to develop different ideas for our social media channel. What steps would you take in coming up with a social media strategy?
  • Choice of solutions question: Imagine a scenario where you had to come up with a social media strategy for our next product launch. Which social media channel would you prioritize and why? Option 1: LinkedIn, Option 2: TikTok.

4. Determine your key insights and answer tips for the question.

Don’t stop planning at the question stage! Key insights and answer tips are crucial to helping you evaluate candidates - they tell you what you’re looking for in a candidate’s answer. Here's an example from one of Hireguide's Interview Templates.

If you’re interviewing an Administrative Assistant, a skill you might want to assess is prioritization. Perhaps you’ve asked a situational question: Imagine you are asked to contact vendors for an event and research suppliers for office supplies. You also have to answer calls, reply to emails and provide support to office visitors. How do you prioritize these tasks?

  • How would you evaluate your candidate’s answer? Use key insights and answer tips! Ask yourself: what key insight am I looking to be revealed in their answer? And, what parts of their response would tell me this?

A key insight for this question would be:

  • This question should reveal a candidate’s ability to prioritize competing demands and tasks on a daily basis.

Answer tips would be: 

  • The candidate distinguishes between important tasks and urgent tasks
  • The candidate considers the time and value of each task (deadlines, business impact, etc.)
  • The candidate shares examples of prioritizing from past experience
  • The candidate elaborates on an effective prioritizing system for administrative tasks

Formulating interview questions doesn’t have to be rocket science, but there is a science to it! Follow our four steps to be on your way to asking the right questions to your candidates:

  1. Choose the role you’re hiring for.
  2. Choose the skills you’re assessing for related to that role.
  3. Based on each skill, design an interview question that will evaluate the extent to which a candidate is proficient in that skill.
  4. Create your key insights and answer tips to help with your evaluation of the candidate's answers.

If you carry out these steps for every skill, you will create skilled-based questions and a system for evaluating answers. This will allow you to determine which candidates are the best to fill the position, based on their ability to perform the skills required. 

The most simple way to implement this method is by using Hireguide. We’ve done all the work for you by determining which skills are needed for thousands of roles and we’ve taken it a step further by pre-populating questions! On Hireguide, questions can be pre-populated based on the skills you choose, or you can get a full template of questions based on any role you choose. It’s the fastest way to plan and execute your interview. Ready to get started? Sign up for free access today.

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