Job Interviews: Asking Better Questions – from the Hiring Seat

Job Interviews: Asking Better Questions – from the Hiring Seat

“Hiring is a manager’s most important job.”

Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005), American management consultant

Can you put yourself in the shoes of a manager looking to hire two new staff members? What qualities are employers looking for in a new hire? What kinds of interview questions encourage real reflection and promote compelling workplace conversations? How can a manager ask questions that go beyond rehearsed answers that provide meaningful information about a job applicant?

How it’s done

Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace has some insight on these subjects. Coming from a corporate background in Human Resources while career-coaching on the side, she knows better than most that “[b]uilding trust is the highest goal of HR.” As a result, Ryan advocates setting a more conversational tone in job interviews from an employer’s perspective. Much like Ms. Vozza – whose work we referenced in previously in this series – Ryan encourages hiring managers to let the interviewee do most of the asking. By letting the prospective hire direct the conversation, Ryan notes, “you’re going to learn a lot more. . . than you will by asking questions of your own.”

Smarter questions lead to Compelling Conversations

When the hiring manager is doing the asking, Ryan recommends staying away from the usual lines of questioning. Instead ask more specific, targeted questions that keep the candidate engaged and thinking on their feet. After all, “you’re looking for neural activity. . . not canned answers,” says Ryan. The interviewees should expect the same from you!

In her article “Smarter-Than-the-Usual-Stupid-Interview Questions for Managers to Ask Job Candidates,” Ryan lists ten thoughtful questions of her own that she’s found help pave the way for more compelling conversations. Here were a few of our favorites:

  • What’s the project or accomplishment in your working life so far that best illustrates how you operate?
  • If we end up working together and I’m your manager, tell me how I can support you best. How do you like to communicate, to check in on projects, to give and get feedback, and anything else you care about from a managerial or coaching standpoint?
  • What would you say we’re doing right [as a company], and what are we doing wrong or could be doing better?

Bringing it back to the classroom

Staging mock interviews in English classes remains an essential, and often popular, assignment with adult and college students. Allowing students to provide peer feedback adds additional information for ESL students to consider. While playing the role of the applicant in these exercises is the most practical form of rehearsal, English language learners also learn from role playing the hiring manager.  Sometimes shy students, in particular, find it both challenging and rewarding.

By stepping back and observing others’ approaches to the situation, other English students gain a better understanding of the employer’s thought process and ultimately prepare better answers when the roles are reversed.

Here’s a simple form that I’ve often used with my university and graduate students. Asking an entire class to give some feedback on a mock job interview of 10-12 minutes also keeps students engaged since they become participant observers. Sometimes students will also have different, interesting perspectives on a mock job interview. Finally, from my perspective, giving students a chance to share their observations and add their voice adds a more democratic feel to the English classroom.

Feel free to use the following peer response sheet in your own classroom!

MOCK JOB INTERVIEW: Peer Response and a Question

Please provide feedback to your classmates on their mock job interview.

Applicant/Student Name:

Position:                                              Company:                                            Date:

  1. What was good to see in this interview?
  1. What was the classmate/applicant’s strongest answer? Why?
  1. What could have been better? What still needs to be improved?
  1. Write some observations and tips would you like to share.
  1. Please write a question for the applicant/classmate.

May I also recommend recording the mock job interviews and posting them on a lerning management system or unlisted on YouTube? Recording allows classmates to review their own performance and receive more detailed feedback from instructors. Recording the mock job interviews also adds significance to the mock job interview.  Sometimes students also like to share their recorded mock job interviews with friends and relatives.

Have you ever been in the hiring seat? In your own experience, which interview questions prompted the most compelling conversations? Why?

Are you seeking a lesson plan for addressing interview etiquette in the English classroom? Check out the Practicing Job Interviews chapter from Compelling American Conversations on my TeachersPayTeachers store, featuring bonus content from the Teacher Edition!

Ask more. Know more. Share more.
Compelling Conversations.

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