What makes a quality interview question?

How will a selection panel judge whether they have crafted a quality interview question? Here are 10 points to consider.

  1. Time was devoted to crafting the question. The chances of creating a quality question 15 minutes before the first applicant appears is low.
  2. The question is geared to the requirements of the job. Taking a question from a past selection process without considering the current job is unlikely to deliver a quality result.
  3. The question is tested. Seeing how the first applicant responds is not a satisfactory way to test a question. Test it on staff not involved in the selection process.
  4. The question should be relevant to the job specifications so as to gain evidence about a person’s ability to do the job or perform at the level of the job. For example, if the criterion is about interpersonal skills in the context of a PR role then a question about handling journalists might be appropriate but dealing with upset service recipients may not be.
  5. If the question has multiple parts consideration should be given to how this is put to the applicant. Options include giving the applicant a copy, or signalling there are multiple parts and taking one part at a time.
  6. Shorter is better than longer. A question that is a paragraph long is going to be difficult to follow and understand.
  7. A question riddled with jargon, management speak, acronyms, is going to be difficult to understand for some applicants and may disadvantage external candidates.
  8. The question provides evidence of the selection criteria. If the criterion is about ‘demonstrated’ skills then a behaviour based question is appropriate.
  9. The question needs to be capable of delivering evidence. If the criterion is about writing skills an interview question will not demonstrate actual writing skills.
  10. Alternatives are crafted to cater for people who do not have direct relevant experience and must draw on transferable skills and knowledge.
Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.