The Only Interview Questions You’ll Ever Really Need

About a year ago Forbes had an article, titled Top Executive Recruiters Agree There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions, that shared the “wisdom” of a handful of Executive Dinosaurs Recruiters on the only things that you should really have to ask a candidate.

These are the three questions:

  1. Can you do the job?
  2. Will you love the job?
  3. Can we tolerate working with you?

Why follow-up questions are so important

Simple enough – straight to the point – and you can assume that for the $75,000 you’re paying, this is probably the extent of their screening as well!

In my recruiting/HR career ,it’s probably the single most often asked question I get asked – from other talent pros, hiring managers, and random people who know I’m in HR – “What are your best interview questions?” Then you get to hear their questions, and how Google has some really great ones, and I even heard once about a company that asked people that if they were an animal which animal would they be?, and if you only pick one vegetable to eat the rest of your life, would it be carrots?

It goes on and on – until you want to vomit!

The actual interview questions have very little impact in the success of the interview. If you are interviewing anyone with some decent smarts, they are going to be able to ace your questions with little effort.

What is important in interviewing is what you allow the candidate to get away with. I find that most recruiters and hiring managers to be way (I mean WAY!) too easy when it comes to questioning candidates. See if this example sounds familiar:

 Interviewer: “John, looks like you left your last next to last company in May, but didn’t start your current position until July. Can you explain that gap?”

Candidate John: “Sure, you know I was doing a great job and I didn’t see myself moving up in that company, so I wanted to go find somewhere I could move up the ladder.”

The toughest job interview I ever had

Bam! At this point, most interviewers move on to the next questions when clearly, John deflected and someone needed to rip into some Gestapo interrogation tactics and find out what’s really going on. But they don’t, it would be conflict, he might think we are rude, so we’ll move on…

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Follow-up questions to original answers during an interview is a skill in itself. The only interview questions you really ever need are the questions a jealous girlfriend asks when you come home on a Saturday morning around 3 am. Shoot, just hire jealous girlfriends as your interviewers because they’ll get to the bottom of a candidate’s background.

The hardest interview I ever had was with a woman that was eventually my boss who was a former U.S. Army interrogator. It was exhausting, it was painful, it was awesome – and I actually lost my voice (after hour 7 – true story!). She was the ultimate jealous girlfriend; in fact, I think she trains jealous girlfriends in her spare time.

There wasn’t an answer I could give her that she was satisfied with. She just kept at it until I would slip and say something I really didn’t mean to, and once she smelled the blood, it was over. The result: she hired the best talent (excluding me) in the entire organization by far! Potentially bad hires did not make it past her interviewing technique.

So, don’t worry about having the “best” interview questions. Really, any will do – just don’t accept the first answer you get!

Tim Sackett will speak on What Your CEO Wished HR Would Do at the TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.