If you have ever been responsible for hiring staff, it’s more than likely you would have experienced the stress, frustration and costs associated with poor recruitment decisions. Over the years, I have helped my clients fine-tune their recruitment skills, increasing the likelihood of recruiting the right person for the job, the first time, saving them time, money and energy.
As a manager responsible for my fair share of recruitment, being able to find the right staff who will not only stay in the job, but excel at it has been so rewarding. In my book, Precision Recruitment Skills (that you can now buy online) I outline a number of practical advanced interviewing techniques and would like to focus on just one of them in this blog; the use of open and closed questions. It’s great to use this structure of questioning, but it’s also important to use open and closed questions in the right context and on the right person, to get the best results from your interviewing. Let’s break it down.
A quick definition; Closed-ended questions are low on information and can be answered by a simple “yes” or “no” while open-ended questions are those which require more thought and more than a simple one-word answer. Open-ended questions allow the respondent to the answer it however they want and take it in whatever direction they wish.
So in an interviewing situation, closed-ended questions can be seen to be information limiting, but gives the interviewer complete control over the direction of the questioning process. On the other hand, with open-ended questions you sacrifice control of the direction of the questioning in order to gain more information.
Be flexible with your use of open or closed questions, adapt your approach to suit your candidate
Responses to questioning, open or closed, have a lot to do with the preference the individual has for context or content. An average interviewer fails to determine this preference, whereas an advanced interviewer, a precision interviewer, will make it their goal to determine early on in the interview what preference their candidate has for questioning, and frame their questioning process accordingly.
Someone who has a preference for content will give short answers to questions, whereas someone with a preference for context, will provide more detailed and elaborate responses to the same question. Being able to recognise the preferred response type that a candidate has, content or context, and adjusting the amount of open or closed questions accordingly can quickly steer the interview into a controlled framework, leaving you in control of effectively gathering the information you need within the timeframe you have. In a nutshell, if you get content responses, ask more open questions and less closed questions. If you get context responses, ask less open questions and more closed questions.
Busting through the Fluff
Using this technique of open and closed questions is an excellent method of gathering the information you need. However, used completely on their own and in isolation, can leave too much room for miscommunication as words and language can mean one thing to one person, and something different to others. When candidates are in an interview situation they also have their guard up, presenting their best selves and can have rehearsed answers so you need to try to penetrate through to try to get insight into their true personality. I have a great technique for this called ‘fluff busting’, which is literally a way of busting through their ‘fluff’ to dig a little deeper to get more insight using ‘pointers’ which are very powerful tools and need to be used sensitively and respectfully as they can be a little probing and confronting.
Five “pointers” to help you bust the fluff when interviewing
Here are five powerful pointers you should try to use in your next interview, to break through the limiting statements and thought patterns of your candidates to gain further insight:
- Fluffy nouns – you can dig deeper by asking them to be specific. Eg: “I want a new job” can be greeted with “What job, specifically?”
- Fluffy verbs – dig deeper when these are used. Eg “I managed the project” can be greeted with “How exactly did you manage it?”
- Rules – People have rules for themselves which are revealed though words they may use such as “should”, “shouldn’t”, “must”, “have to” “can’t” etc..When confronted by a rule it is often useful to probe further to find out why the rule exists, how the candidate builds rules for themselves and to expand the limit of their thinking.
- Generalisations – bust the fluff of a generalisation (revealed through words such ‘never’ ‘all’ ‘always’) by repeating the word to them, as a question. Eg: “All managers turn against me” can be met with “All?”. This particular pointer needs to be handled with sensitivity and usually requires some built up rapport for the respondent to elaborate. Another, softer approach is to ask “Can you think of a time where you had a manager who didn’t turn against you?”
- Comparisons – people tend to compare themselves to others without even noticing and this can be exposed by words such as “better”, “worse”, “easier” etc… Again you can dig a little deeper here by asking them to elaborate eg: “you were better in what way?”
Having these powerful techniques to use in your interviews with candidates will help you gain greater insights into their thoughts and behaviour and their ability to perform in the job. Using these interview techniques will go a long way in ensuring you hire the right people for the right job.
Would you like to help your team strengthen your recruitment skills? I can help with my leadership training and custom workshops. Get in touch today.