General Question

nikipedia's avatar

How do you interview someone for a job?

Asked by nikipedia (28071points) June 9th, 2008

I need to hire someone to replace me. I have a stack of resumes of the top picks so far. What am I supposed to ask these people? Mostly I just want to know if they’re smart and not annoying.

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14 Answers

robmandu's avatar

Rands in Repose has some interesting, if verbose, ramblings on the subject on how to handle what the hiring management is thinking from the interviewee’s side.

Since he spells out what the management is thinking… maybe that’s the stuff you oughtta consider.

Having interviewed several folks myself… I can say it’s an imperfect science, fraught with snares and pitfalls… but often times, it just works out.

Has your HR briefed you yet on the etiquette of the interview? What kinds of things you’re allowed to ask? Et cetera?

shilolo's avatar

@Niki. This is for a science position, right? I suggest an informal style to sort out what kind of person you are dealing with. Then, ask pointed questions about their background, paying particular attention to whether they can, in detail, tell you what they did and why they did it. You don’t want someone who lists a bunch of experience on their resume but then cannot explain the things they did. That just shows a lack of insight and motivation. You want someone who, irrespective of their role in the project, was eager and intelligent enough to understand the overarching goals of the project. I also like to ask some “problem solving” questions, and if they list certain areas of expertise on their resume, I focus on that. For example, if someone lists PCR or DNA analysis on their resume, I might ask a few “quiz” like questions about the background of the technique, and what to do if an experiment fails.

wildflower's avatar

I interview people regularly. You’ll want to ask questions that establish:
Experience of similar tasks
Job-specific knowledge
Organizational fit

Stay away from questions related to any area that can be grounds of discrimination (I.e. “how will you manage being a single mum and dedicated to this job”)
Over here we also have a rule that all candidates must be given same chance at same stage of recruitment and you have to ask the same questions, but I know my colleagues across the pond aren’t restricted by this.

lindabrowne1's avatar

There is great stuff on the Internet to help you with this one. I know we’re supposed to answer and give advice. . .just google your question to see what comes up. There are also some great books about the same subject. Go to amazon and put in job interviewing. Hope this helps!

soundedfury's avatar

I always try to get the candidate to express some sort of excitement. In addition to the good advice above, try to use questions that lead them towards something with the job they are excited about. That tells you more than anything else, in my opinion.

girlofscience's avatar

I think you can get a better sense of people from their appearance, confidence, conversation, and demeanor than you can from the actual words they’re using to answer the questions. I don’t think it matters what questions are asked – they’re just a conventional way to observe the person. You already know their experience and qualifications from their resume. Maybe it would be good to get a sense of the things that wildflower mentions, but, especially since you’ve been doing the job, you’ll know after talking to someone for fifteen minutes about anything whether they’d be good at it.

gailcalled's avatar

And it is important, when you winnow down the pack, to check the references. I have seen absolute duds hired for important management jobs w/o a reference check.

srmorgan's avatar

At first glance, I am really concerned about this situation. I don’t know where you work or the size of the organization or location, but to my mind it is dangerous if not criminal for an organization to give someone absolutely no training or guidelines about how to conduct an interview and more importantly, what questions may or may not be asked in an interview.
At minimum, you should be told what not to ask, and how to phrase the touchy questions in a way that you stay within the law and still elicit the information that you need in order to make a decision.

If there is an HR department where you work, someone is sleeping on the job big time.

Look I hope I am not blowing this out of proportion but this can be a tricky situation if mis-handled,

You really ought to talk to HR and get some idea about what you should be doing in an interview.

That being said, the purpose of an interview is to obtain information about the candidate and give him or her information about the position and about the employer.

You have received some good advice on Fluther so far, the trick is to make yourself comfortable in the interview and to put the interviewee also at ease. Don’t try to ask tricky questions or try to trip up the candidate, just be yourself and ask those questions that are necessary to discover what you need to know about the candidate.

It is not a problem for you to have a list of questions that you can follow., you don’t want to inadvertently omit something critical. You should take notes, and if something is unclear, ask the candidate to clarify the response.

There is a lot to add here but you have gotten the basics.


shilolo's avatar

@Niki. I agree with girlofscience that you can get some insight by how people behave. That said, that is the least important aspect of the interview. Especially for science-type positions (is this a research assistant position?), you really want to know if someone can “do the job”. I have done lots of interviews, and it is vital to know whether someone can explain their past experiences well, and demonstrate critical thinking.

If this really is for a research assistant type position, I don’t think HR needs to get involved. You should select and pre-rank the top 5–10 people. After the interviews, rerank the people. Of course, your boss is going to need to be involved as well. Good luck.

marinelife's avatar

You have lots of great advice here, nikipedia. I think the one thing I would add is trust your gut. If you have a “feeling” about someone one way or the other, listen to it. Our subconscious picks up cues we don’t register in our conscious mind.

Also, since you know the day-to-day issues the candidate would face on the job, describe one or more typical problems that you deal with and ask the candidate how they would approach solving that problem. That will help you ascertain if they are smart as you want to know (and we all know resumes are not always indicators of smart).

I have found it can also indicate red flag personality issues. For example, you pose a problem-solving question and the candidate says, “It’s not job to solve problems like that. I don’t get paid enough for that kind of grief,” you know there is a potential attitude problem with that candidate.

Good luck.

nephrons's avatar

since you are the one to be replaced.. ask the question that answers whatever expectations you want to be realized.. in which case then you will be at peace when you leave, assured and knowing that you are handing over the task/duties, to a responsible person..

project007's avatar

Well you didn’t specify the kind of job you’re interviewing for. In case you’re interviewing Project Managers, then I suggest this excellent list of Project Management Interview Questions . Answers are not provided.

grrgold's avatar

my usual approach… give a brief overview of the position and its requirements, then let the candidate walk you through their resume and tell you how his/her experience fits your needs

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