Good Interviewing Goes Beyond the Simple Questions

It’s widely known that interviews are a source of stress for a job seeker. What’s not as obvious is that interviews are stressful for the employer, too. In the field of higher education, college employees frequently serve on hiring committees with little HR training or preparation, yet we are still on the line for hiring the best candidate. As we move through our own anxiety regarding uncovering the right employee for college and university positions, here are two tips to keep in mind while interviewing your candidates:

1.       Ask questions that make the candidates prove their skills.

Higher Education hiring committees typically develop a list of questions for the interview. The questions asked target the desired information, but sometimes fall short of asking in a way that elicits concrete proof of how the candidate will be an asset (or not) as a college employee. A common example is, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Though we do want to know this answer, we will get better, deeper information by asking, “Name two of your most relevant strengths for this position and give examples of how you have demonstrated these in your previous work experience.”  The answer should reveal not only the strengths, but proof that these are the candidate’s true strengths and will be seen if the candidate is hired.

2.       Uncover the candidates’ values.

As an employer, a second question we should be seeking the answer to is, “What honestly drives this person in life, both personally and professionally?” The idea here is to look further into who the candidates are beyond the listed skills by understanding what is important in their lives, what motivates them, and what drives their decisions and choices each day? Not only do we want to know what these values truly are, we need proof (see tip #1!).  Find ways throughout the interview to obtain this information, perhaps even asking directly, “What values guide you, and can you provide examples in your life that demonstrate your commitment to your values?”

Job searching is sometimes looked at as a game to be played, and we – as employers – know that a candidate with the most polished resume or best practiced answers may not be an accurate representation of the actual person in front of us. However, if a hiring committee digs down and uncovers concrete examples of candidates’ skills, experience, and their guiding values, we have a much better chance of hiring the best person for the job.

Tara Wainwright is a Higher Education Career Counselor, Adjunct Instructor, and Lifelong Learner who has served on numerous hiring committees and currently resides in the Seattle, WA area

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