Why Common Interview Questions Don't Work

The Best Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates

It's hard to get past the usual "where do you see yourself in five years?", but there are more effective interview questions to ask to evaluate job candidates. The Best interview questions are those that get you the best person for the job. 

"People are not your most important asset. The right people are." - Jim Collins

The key is “for the job” because every job is different. So a generic set of interview questions to ask job candidates won’t work. People, jobs and even organizations aren’t one-dimensional. For example you may find a programmer with excellent coding skills but they may not fit in with the culture of the organization. So it’s not a single type of question that works best, but a few different types.

Jobs are Different… 

Jobs are different because they require different things. Different competencies, different skillsets, and different types of people. For example, the best accountant won’t necessarily make the best sales person and vice-versa. 

Organizations also have different job fit requirements. That’s why it’s important for interviewers to match values and culture. In fact Zappos has built a company based on hiring for culture. In a video interview with Wall Street Journal, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh revealed an awesome technique the company uses to make sure hires aren't only good cultural fits but also good people. The core philosophy: Even if you make an amazing impression in the interview, if you're rude to your ride from the airport, you aren't getting the job. 

"A lot of our job candidates are from out of town, and we'll pick them up from the airport in a Zappos shuttle, give them a tour, and then they'll spend the rest of the day interviewing," Hsieh says. "At the end of the day of interviews, the recruiter will circle back to the shuttle driver and ask how he or she was treated. It doesn't matter how well the day of interviews went, if our shuttle driver wasn't treated well, then we won't hire that person." 

So with so may variable factors to consider the only way to make the best hiring decisions and hire the best people is by using the best interview questions. 

Types of Interview Questions 

The best interview questions give you comprehensive insight into the person behind the resume. They reveal the job candidate’s values; personality; strengths; weaknesses; knowledge; past behaviors; competencies and skills. 

Wondering how to write an interview that assesses and evaluates all the above? It’s as simple as choosing the right combination of the best interview questions to ask:

  • Behavioral Interview Questions
  • Values Based Interview Questions
  • Interview Questions to Avoid Bad Hires 

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral based interviewing tests how the interviewee acted in specific past situations. The reasoning is that the best way to determine how someone will perform in the future is to find out how they have performed in the past. Plus, how candidates use their skills in real-life situations is a good indication of their potential. 

For example, a typical interview question to ask might be, "Have you dealt with an irate customer in the past?" and the typical answer would be, "Yes I have," which doesn’t give you any indication of whether or not the candidate did so competently. 

In contrast, a more effective behavioral interview question would be, "Can you tell me about a time when you had to deal with an irate customer in the past? How did you resolve the situation" Answer, "I listened to the customer’s complaint and confirmed my understanding of the problem. I advised what I would do to resolve the problem how long it would take. I followed up with the customer when the problem was resolved. The customer complimented me on my good service.” 

The behavioral interview question is by far more valuable to you as an interviewer and gives greater insight into the competencies of job candidates. Competencies are the skills, attributes and behaviors that are required in order to be able to do a job effectively. Competencies vary according to the job. And this is why you can't use the same set of interview questions for every job. You get better results by using questions designed to evaluate the most important competencies. 

In fact, behavioral interview questions are fast becoming the interview questions of choice. So much so that Google have “banned” their infamous brain-teaser questions in favor of more effective behavioral ones. In an interview with the New York Times  Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior V.P. of People Operations, explains that what works well are structured behavioral interviews. Using these you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up. 

Values Based Interview Questions

Values based questions help interviewers assess the values, motives and attitudes of job candidates in order to ensure a good job/ culture fit. They focus on "how" and "why" an applicant made certain choices. To learn more about identifying and assessing the values of job candidates, click here for your FREE download of the Manager Foundation Values Assessment.

Interview Questions to Avoid Bad Hires

Bad hires waste your time, are costly and disrupt you and your team. Unfortunately, mis-hires are also common. But there is a way to identify the characteristics of bad hires using specific interview questions to ask that will help you identify any potential red flags. Click here for Interview Questions to Avoid Bad Hires 

How do you Select the Best Interview Questions 

At the outset it may seem like a lot of work to create customized interviews that incorporate the best interview questions to evaluate all the above. 

That’s why I’ve developed an Interview Question and Assessment Guide to show you how to choose the best interview questions for an interview. 

It contains a tried and tested selection of the best interview questions and everything that you need to: 

  • Create a customized interview;
  • Compare job candidates against each other;
  • Effectively evaluate skills and competencies; 
  •  Avoid bad hires and;
  • Make better hiring decisions.

To Download the FREE Interview Question Selection and Assessment Guide Click Here

P.S - Managers are under a lot of pressure to hire the best employees for the job. But few bosses get training on hiring. That's why I've made the www.boss.camp program. It shows you what they didn't teach you in school about managing people - including how to hire for performance.


Do you have any tips and suggestions for evaluating and comparing job candidates? Help the rest of us by sharing in the comments below.



Here's some food for thought. Hiring the right person for the job is a key manager skill. Hiring is also a costly process. There are obvious costs like recruitment fees. But add in manager time, training and waiting for the employee to get up to speed and it’s not far off an annual salary. Ditto when things go wrong. The total cost of a bad hire is a minimum of 25% of their salary but could be over one and a half times their annual cost.  So is it worth the time, pain and cost of hiring someone new to replace your bad employee? What if I told you that there is an easy and time-efficient management technique that you can use to engage your employees, improve productivity and make managing easy.


Do you know that regular, high quality one-on-ones with your employees are the single easiest management practice. Do one-on-ones right and not only can you can take care of almost all your management responsibilities in one go but you will also:

  • Improve employee engagement,
  • Boost productivity,
  • Build better relationships with your staff.

That's why I made a mini-course on one-on-ones (including a one-on-one template with a one-on-one meeting agenda) which will show you 3 Easy Steps 2 1 on 1's. What I expect you'll find is that you already know some of the content on some type of level but maybe you're not putting it into practice. This will help. As I say this is essential for new managers and helpful for experienced managers.

The Hiring and Interviewing Series

This is part of the Interviewing and Hiring Series. This series covers how managers can increase employee performance through hiring better employees. And how managers can avoid common hiring mistakes.

Topics in the Series Include:

Other Relevant Resources:

Power Interview Pack: The complete set of interview questions to get the best candidate for the job. Increase employee performance through hiring the best staff and avoiding bad hires. Link here. 

Hiring for Performance: Improve your manager skills - How to hire the best employees and improve employee performance, engagement and retention. Link here.  

Employee Onboarding for Performance: If employee onboarding goes wrong, your new hire may leave you in the lurch or become a demotivated low performer. But motivate and integrate your new hire well and you will have a happy, productive team member. Link here.

Boss Camp

What if work was awesome and being a boss was easy? Is that something worth working for? I think so, and that’s why WWW.BOSS.CAMP was invented. The program includes topics such as:

  • How to hire for performance,
  • How to motivate employees,
  • What are bad employee motivators,
  • What you must do as a manager but isn't on your job description,
  • How leaders get power.