Build great Teams – People management

Extract Experience

Extract Experience

How do you find out if someone has experience that demonstrates they have the attributes you are looking for? In a previous article we discussed identifying the attributes that are most important for a particular role in your company. Knowing what you are looking for is the first step in finding the right person to hire. Once you’ve done that, how do you find out if the candidate has the attributes you are looking for? The best way to find out is to ask, but there are different ways to ask a question. You want to elicit open, honest answers that will help you decide if this candidate will fit in your company.

Types Of Question

Use a combination of Open and Closed questions to get the most information from your candidate. A combination of Open and Closed questions will also keep them on track so you don’t run out of time. Try to avoid asking leading questions – you don’t want to give your hand away. You also want to find out what they think is relevant. In addition to Open, Closed and Leading questions, we are now going to look at a very specific type of question. As you’ll find out, it’s not actually a question at all! Read on to find out more….

Behavioural Interview Questions

I’m assuming you already have a prioritized list of your top ten attributes for the role you’re recruiting for. That means you know which are the most important 3 or 4 attributes you are looking for. Next you need to find out what experience someone has had that shows they have the attributes you’re looking for. To do this you need to develop behavioural interview questions to find out what relevant experience they have.

What do we mean by behavioural interview questions? Behavioural interview questions get the candidate to provide you with real-life, past examples of job-related decisions, actions and results. This provides you with relevant information about how they might perform in your job in the future.

Experience Varies

Let’s assume the role involves speaking Spanish to Spanish-speaking customers over the phone in a technical support role. This person will be trying to troubleshoot the customer’s technical problem as their priority. Their language skills need to be second-nature so they can talk about technical matters. Let’s assume you’ve found a candidate who speaks Spanish – their CV says “Spanish language skills – good”. From this you don’t know what experience they have and what exactly they mean by good. Have they translated live debates in the European parliament, or does their ability stop at ordering a beer?

Finding out if they’ve successfully spoken Spanish in an appropriate situation will provide information that will help you decide. Asking “Can you speak Spanish?” is also a leading question. It’s likely to result in them promoting their Spanish-speaking skills since they now know you’re looking for a Spanish speaker. Dig deeper with more questions to find out what circumstances they have used their Spanish-language skills. Ask them what the outcome was. That will be more useful to you for making a decision.

Within your behavioural interview questions you should think about when and how to use ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ questions. In general, try to use mostly ‘Open’ questions. You should also try and avoid asking ‘Leading’ questions.

Negative As Well As Positive

Let’s assume you’re looking for Spanish-language skills as the attribute most important to you. You want to gather specific examples that demonstrate the candidate has the skill at an appropriate level. Asking for examples that show success is great, but it doesn’t give you the complete picture. You may also want to find out how they handled situations when things didn’t go to plan. You might ask about a time when they struggled to communicate in Spanish. How did they deal with that situation? You can use open questions to encourage them to talk about their thought process as they tried to communicate. Asking “Why” or “How” are good ways to dig deeper.

It’s Not A Question

Try an approach where what you’re saying is actually not a question, but a statement. For example, ask “Tell me about a time when you struggled to communicate a message to someone in Spanish”. This is not actually a question, but it requires the other person to tell you a lot. If you do not get the level of detail you need in the response, ask open questions to dig deeper. Keep asking open questions until you do get what you’re looking for.

Time spent developing non-leading, behavioural interview ‘questions’ will be worth it if it helps you identify the best fitting candidates for your company.

My Question To You

What sort of interview questions do you use when you interview? Do they really let you dig down to find out what you want to know? If this is something you would like to discuss or would like some help with, contact me at can also buy my book Accelerate to Team Success which is available as a paperback or on Kindle.


About the Author:

Nikki Faulkner photo Dr Nikki Faulkner founded Mulberry Bush Consulting to work with business leaders and their teams to make the 'People' side of their business as effective as possible. Mulberry Bush Consulting's specialty is helping small businesses who are new to having employees and helping businesses who are growing rapidly and increasing their employee-base at a rate that is creating a significant challenge.

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