Are you asking the right interview questions?

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Post job, read resumes, interview, hire: are you taking on the first candidate who passes through your basic recruiting system? A US leadership coach is suggesting companies find a different approach to recruiting to save later problems.

The “knockout” process is about finding reasons to say no, relying on signs of how the candidate might fit into your organisation and how well they would do their role. And it starts before you meet any of your candidates.

“It’s much better to be temporarily short-staffed than to lower your standards,” Dave Anderson, president of Learn to Lead said. “Your goal is to avoid face time with as many applicants as possible. As soon as you receive the first stack of resumes, you should start looking for reasons to cut individuals from consideration.”

Things like spelling mistakes in resumes or unprofessional language could eliminate applicants right away. A phone interview can confirm whether the candidate can complete the basic tasks as well as being able to to work certain hours and locations.

Anderson suggests sharing your organisation’s core values and behavioural expectations before extending an offer. Let applicants know that you have non-negotiable standards for traits such as integrity, teamwork, attitude and attention to detail, and be honest about the consequences for not living up to these standards.

Asking the right questions is key. Anderson says asking the following questions will give you insight into specific character traits.

Get tough: ‘Knock-out’ questions for candidates

Truthfulness

• Has a former boss ever asked you to tell a white lie? How did you handle it?

Work ethic

• Could you define for me what you believe doing a good job is? A great job?

• In your last position, what particular task or project do you believe you did a great job with? Be specific. Explain why you feel it was great.

Continuous learning

• What is the last serious book you read? What did you like best about it? What have you applied or changed as a result of reading it?

Keeping commitments

• Under what circumstances is it acceptable to not keep a commitment or to not do what you said you would do?

• What is the last commitment you failed to keep? Why?

Timeliness and meeting deadlines

• When was the last time you were late to anything? Why? How late were you? How did you handle it?

• Here is a famous quote: “Being late is the arrogant choice.” Do you agree, or do you feel it is too harsh and judgmental? Do you believe that being late is a sign of arrogance?

• Have you ever missed a work-related deadline? Tell me about it.

Acceptance of responsibility

• You have obviously accomplished a lot in your life. If you had to list three factors that have prevented you from being even further along than you are now, what are they? (Note: Do your interviewees accept responsibility by blaming their own internal decisions, or do they shift blame to outside conditions?)

• We expect anyone working for us to take some risks, seize the initiative, and make mistakes from time to time. Describe for me some of the bigger mistakes you have made in past jobs and what you learned from them.

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