While it is certainly a plus when the candidate you are interviewing has a 1:1 skill set match for the position you are looking to fill, don’t let that conversation dictate the entire interview.
Equally, or perhaps even more important to hiring the most ‘skillfully’ qualified person is hiring someone with the right ‘soft skills’ who will fit in well with your company’s overall values and culture.
Asking situational interview questions will help you glean a good deal of insight into a candidate’s problem-solving skills, work ethic, and overall character.
1) ASK: You have been assigned to collaborate on a project with a difficult colleague. How do you handle this?
LISTEN FOR: Responses that project professionalism, adaptability, and the ability to neutralize potential conflict and work well with different personality types.
BE WARY OF: Indications of a rigid personality or the inability to navigate challenging interpersonal dynamics with composure and ease.
2) ASK: You are working on a project with a tight deadline and need critical information from an unresponsive colleague to complete it. How do you deal with the situation?
LISTEN FOR: Answers that reflect someone with a strong sense of ownership and who will think creatively to meet goals.
BE WARY OF: Signs of a tendency to “pass the buck” or to not be fully invested in outcomes.
3) ASK: You are a team leader and the performance of someone on your team has recently changed … and not in a positive way. What do you do?
LISTEN FOR: Indications of an effective leadership style that demonstrates the ability to maintain open doors of communication and mentor or motivate as needed.
BE WARY OF: One-dimensional responses that reflect a narrow scope or lack basic empathy or human relation skills.
4) ASK: Your boss wants you to do something a certain way, but you disagree with the approach. How do you handle it?
LISTEN FOR: Approaches that reflect good diplomacy skills.
BE WARY OF: Answers that show a lack of confidence or conviction or, alternatively, a closed mind.
5) ASK: You and your team complete a project and, as team leader, you are responsible for the final review and submission to the client. After submitting, you learn that a mistake was made that impacts the bottom line. What do you do?
LISTEN FOR: Indications of good problem-solving instincts, a strong sense of responsibility and an aptitude for growth.
BE WARY OF: Answers that reflect an unwillingness to learn from mistakes or knee-jerk reactions to assign blame or throw team members under the bus.
Remember, a bright candidate can always be trained to learn any additional skills needed to achieve that 1:1 skill set match you seek. But soft skills are often innate, or at the very least developed and honed over an extended period of time.
Identify the soft skills ahead of time that you seek in the ideal candidate. Then, by making good use of situational questions in your interview process, you can gain a 360° view and hire the person who is truly the best fit for the position and the company.