Dairy Excel: Asking right questions key to interviewing


Interviewing is frustrating enough and on top of that I never know what questions to ask! This is a statement I hear many times by employers.

Should be easy. Questions should not be a stumbling block. This is the one step in the hiring process where employers get to find out all the work and personality details about the person being interviewed.

Good interview questions can find out much more about the employee than any resume or job application will tell. A resume provides basic facts, but it cannot tell you much about the person.

Plan ahead. That is where the interview questions come in. Make questions up before the interview. Write them down and ask the same questions of every person you interview.

Remember, there are many personal questions you cannot ask such as are you married, how many children do you have, have you been in jail, etc.

Good interview questions will not only give an employer a chance to gain a feeling for the interviewee’s personality, but more importantly how they will fit into the “employee team” on the farm.

I will agree with many that say interview questioning is a learned skill. It takes time and practice and it is not learned overnight. Many interviewers tell me they struggle with the questions to ask.

Takes experience. An inexperienced interviewer just does not ask the correct questions or does not ask the questions correctly to get the information they really want.

When hiring, some experts recommend concentrating on a person’s past job record and on his or her personality instead of focusing on credentials. Those are already on the job resume. All that needs to be done is to verify that they are truthful.

Interviewers can tell a lot from what a person says. Listen to what they say in response to your questions. Remember that some potential employees can interview well, but when it comes to doing the work they fall short of expectations.

Listen. Many times the questions asked do not get at the real necessary information to make a good hiring decision. During the interview, relax (easier said than done) and let the candidate do most of the talking.

Silence is OK while someone is thinking. A good rule is to spend 15 percent of your time on questions about a person’s resume, 15 percent on skill-based questions and the other 70 percent on situational or behavior-based questions.

Avoid yes or no. Given all that, let’s take a look at some sample questions that could be used during an interview. Almost always avoid questions that can be answered with just yes or no. After all, what does that tell you about a person?

For example, question by employer, “Do you handle criticism well?” Interviewee answer is an obvious (whether true or not) “Yes.”

This question would be better asked, “Give me an example in a past job of a time when you had to handle criticism.”

Let the employee answer. Then ask, “Would you handle the situation differently today? If so, how?”

Do you see the difference in the amount of information that could be gained compared to the yes or no question?

Sample questions. Some other useful questions would be:

* “Give me a one word description of yourself.”

* “What appeals to you about this job and why?”

* “If you could take a self-improvement course on any topic, what would it be and why?”

* “In your last job describe a project that you had to develop, implement and see through to its completion.”

* “Describe a time when you had to motivate or encourage a co-worker.”

* “Give me an example of a job experience where you had to tell other employees that you had an opinion different from theirs.”

* “Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What tasks were not completed? What were the repercussions? What did you learn?”

* “Suppose you discover you do not get along with someone that you might work with. How would you handle the situation?”

* “What is your one strength that would help us on this farm?”

Many good questions could start using the previous job as a starting point. For example, “In your last job you were in charge of spring field work. What was your maintenance plan for the equipment to assure minimum breakdowns and delays?”

That should be enough to get the idea across that these questions will get more information than yes or no questions.

Keep in mind. As a closing comment keep in mind performance based or situational based questions are much better at gathering information than the “yes” or “no” question.

Non-yes or no questions should give employers much better information about perspective employees on which to make a better informed decision.

(The author is an agricultural extension agent in Wayne County and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)


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