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Improve Your Interview Questions

TXTS4 Leaders List

Improve Your Interview Questions

Leslie Beauchamp

How can you adjust your interview questions so that they predict a person’s performance on the job rather than assessing if they are good at interviews? 
Determine the attributes and competencies that you need for this position.  Do you need someone who is results-driven?  Flexible?  Someone who has a “whatever it takes” attitude?  Someone who will be open to support and mentoring from a strong team?  Figure out these competencies first and then select questions to assess these competencies. 
Eliminate bad interview questions.  The questions you ask need to differentiate between the candidates and help you predict their performance.  Mark Murphy, founder of LeadershipIQ, shares how to change your interview questions in his Hiring For Attitude webinar outlined below:  
·        Get rid of hypothetical questions in favor of “Could you tell me about a time when…”   Delete questions that can be rehearsed, that ask candidates to gaze into the future, or where candidates can reconstruct history.  For example, “Why did you leave your last job?” asks about the past, but not about the candidate’s actions in the past. Questions that ask about past behavior have a higher potential to determine whether the candidate “has the competencies that are hallmarks of superior performance in a particular job.” 
·        Leave the question hanging.  If you want to know how they handled a difficult situation, leave off “…and what you did to resolve the situation.”  Applicants should provide a positive resolution without prompting if they are problem-solvers, reflective, or results-oriented. 
·        Ask fewer questions.  Try to narrow your questions to around 6 questions for a structured behavior based interview.  It is better to ask only those questions that can differentiate performance for your key attributes or skills.  Think of a current employee who is marginal and one who is exceptional.  How would they answer, “Tell me about a strength and weakness.” This question rarely differentiates performance between candidates.  Now, consider how your marginal and exceptional employees would respond to this approach:
·       What is your supervisor’s name?  Please spell that …

·       Could you tell me about ___ as a boss? 

·       What could you have done to enhance your working relationship with ___?

·       When I talk to ___ what will ____ say your strengths are?

·       Everyone has areas to improve.  When I talk with ___, what would  ___ say your weaknesses are?       (Murphy, Hiring For Attitude, 2015)

Create answer guidelines.  Know how each person on the team should evaluate the candidate’s response.  You may want your exemplary employees to create the “Target” answer for each question.  Your interview form can have the “Target” bullet points and then your team can rate responses as Target, Acceptable, or Unacceptable.  
Another way to have interview team rate responses is to listen for the candidate to describe PAR:  a specific Problem, an appropriate Action, and how he or she learned from or contributed to a Result (Clement, 2008). 
Need examples?  Below are a compilation of questions.  What competencies or skills do each of these questions assess?  Select the competencies and skills you need and then select a handful of questions that would assess them. 
Questions from Mary Clement’s  “Improving Teacher Selection with Behavior-based Interviewing” (2008):
·        Could you describe a unit of study that you have taught?
·        How have you divided a large amount of material to be covered?
·        How do you write a daily lesson plan, and what is included?
·        Could you please describe a practical way to teach _____________. (e.g., the concept of symmetry in mathematics, or democracy in social sciences)?
·        What have you done to refocus a class? 
·        How have you modified assign­ments for English-language learners (ELL) or special education students in your class?
·        Share an example of a positive commu­nication that you have sent to parents.
·        Could you tell me about a typical homework assignment in your class and what you have done to deal with students who do not complete homework?

Questions from David Walker’s “I’ve held 1,000 interviews, and I’ve found only 4 questions truly matter” (2017):
·        How did the culture at your last school or organization empower or disempower you?
·        What were the characteristics of the best boss you’ve ever had?
·        Describe how you handled a conflict with one of your co-workers.
·        What kind of feedback do you expect to receive in this role and how often do you expect to receive it?
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Questions from Anne Rubin’s “14 Fascinating Teacher Interview Questions for Principals to Ask” (2018): 
·       Tell us about your best collaborative experience with a colleague.
·       We tell kids all the time that failure is an important step toward success. Describe a time when you failed in a professional setting. 
·       Can you tell me about a moment when you had to be a leader?
·       Can you tell me about a moment when you had to be a follower?
·       How have you changed from your first years in the classroom?
·       Could you share an example of how your teaching practice been shaped by your understanding of your identity?
Clement, M. (2008, January/February) “Improving Teacher Selection with Behavior-based Interviewing” Principal.  NAESP.  Pp. 44-47.
Murphy, M. (2015, February 19).  “Hiring For Attitude” [Webinar].  LeadershipIQ.   
Rubin, A. (2018, March 30).   “14 Fascinating Teacher Interview Questions for Principals to Ask” School Leaders Now.
Walker, David. (2017, July 26).  “I’ve held 1,000 interviews, and I’ve found only 4 questions truly matter” Inc.