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Asking the right questions

The questions that the interview panel will pose to the candidates need to be worked out in advance of the candidate arriving. It is not good interviewing practice to dream up questions ‘on the hoof’ during the interview itself.

In some situations (e.g. where there is a national recruitment process in place), the questions will have been agreed at a national level, and the interview panel will be instructed in how to rate different responses as part of an initial briefing. In other situations (e.g. for a non-training post), the panel may have the freedom to choose their own questions. But the basic notion of linking all the questions to the person specification and posing the same set of questions to all the candidates still holds.

Hill (2008) suggests that an effective question:

1. Has a purpose
2. Generates information about the candidate’s suitability for the post
3. Opens up communication between the candidate and the panel
4. Links back to the person specification
5. Is not leading (i.e. it does not prompt the candidate to give an obvious answer such as would happen if you asked a candidate ‘Would you say you have the motivation for the job?’).
6. Is non-threatening

Hill goes on to advocate that spending time identifying good questions not only makes it more likely that you will elicit the information you need to evaluate the candidates, but also gives a good impression of the selection process to the candidate.

Thinking Points

  • How often in the past have you sat on an interview panel that did not carefully prepare questions (linked to the person specification) in advance of the first candidate arriving?
  • How might you do things differently in future?

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