Almost everyone has gone through an interview at some point in their lives. In fact, in the modern economy, we are likely to go through many interviews and be asked many questions. The types of questions can range from the mundane to the detailed, but each should be chosen to maximize validity. 

When we say validity, we are referring to content and construct validity; meaning the likelihood that the types of questions asked with relate both to the candidate’s future performance in the role as well as connect back to the competency that we are looking for. As much as we are all told to be ready for the “biggest weakness” question, those organizations that ask for weaknesses are not adding value to their interview. Not only can a candidate simply respond with a rarely honest response, but it provides little insight to how the individual will perform inside the role or company.

Instead, questions should be built around central competencies to the role. For instance, we recently have helped a student organization hire for a new graphic designer. Inside the job analysis process for the position, we worked with the hiring committee to describe the job by five key competencies. One of the competencies we used was adaptable; which helped to design segments of the pre-screening and selection interview. We didn’t ask the candidate to tell us what programs they knew, but we asked the candidate what they’ve done in the past when they’ve been told to do a project in a unfamiliar software. Not only did the question connect back to the basic knowledge of the position – working creatively with software and programs – but it provided an insight into how adaptable the candidate would be. Properly weighted for the role, it helped lead to a successful hire.

When interviewing it can be attractive to simply have a conversation or to discuss the candidate’s past or skills. Such unstructured interviews give away the control of the process to the applicant, and can make the difference between adding a new strategic partner and brand ambassador to your organization or simply a warm body that will have to be replaced in months, if not weeks. Save the trouble and design an interview process that your job to a worthy candidate, not the other way around.