There is a better way. “When they are doing their jobs effectively, interviewers know
that the best way to coax detailed responses is to ask behavioral questions,” says Paul
Falcone, an author and vice president of human resources at the Motion Picture and Tele-
vision Fund in Woodland Hills, Calif. “For example, if you ask ‘What do you like least
about your current job?’ and the individual answers ‘Having to fire people,’ then the
interviewer can open up that can of worms by discussing the last time that happened, the
circumstances and results.”
Conversely, relying solely on a handful of superficial questions without digging deeper
does a disservice to all involved, Falcone says.
A proven approach to uncovering how people
have performed in the past and what they really
think about the available opportunity is to make
three assessments during interviews:
• Recognize candidates who are great interviewees but not much more.
• Gauge which person will be the best fit based on
experience and temperament.
• Identify which individual really wants the job
and can excel in it.
“One of the typical mistakes made by smart job
candidates is to think they can just ‘wing it’ because
they’re smart, and they’ll get away with it if interviewers let them,” says Wendy Enelow, an executive resume writer and author in Coleman Falls,
Va. “The truth is that nothing beats preparation.
Truly committed candidates will rehearse answer-
1. Can you tell me a little about
ing tricky career-related questions so that they can
respond to them confidently, but it usually takes a
series of good questions over time to separate peo-
ple who interview well from those who will fill the
To that end, here are 10 classic questions that
interviewers should be ready to ask each job
candidate, regardless of the position they’re trying
to fill, as well as tips on how to interpret the answers
and follow up effectively.
Many interviewers start this way not only to gather
information but also as a way of assessing each candidate’s poise, delivery style and communication
“If the candidate launches into a mini-speech
2. Why did you leave your previous
about his or her childhood, schooling, hobbies, early
career, and personal likes and dislikes, it only took
you one query to realize you probably don’t have a
strong fit,” Falcone says. “ A meandering answer that
takes him or her down rabbit holes raises a legitimate
concern that the individual may have a difficult time
To be sure, not staying on script could be fine
if the person only digresses for 30 seconds. “But it
becomes super problematic if that side story goes
on for two or three minutes,” Falcone says. “The
recruiter wants to get to know the real person but at
the same time keep the conversation relevant and on
point as far as the individual’s career experiences and
employer (or why do you want to
leave your present job)?
Look for honesty and transparency in the answer.
Many talented employees lose their jobs in layoffs,
so suppress any desire to stigmatize those who were
part of a downsizing. However, if the individual
offers a vague reference to differing opinions or the
arrival of a new boss, dig deeper for possible performance issues that can be verified through reference
checking. “As you listen to each answer, look for a
situational context within which you can judge the
individual’s decision-making abilities, decisiveness
and ability to work in concert with others,” Falcone