Recruitment Insights

Designing Powerful Job Interview Questions (Part 2)

We left off in our last discussion around the understanding that strategically designed interview questions can elicit different responses assisting the interviewer in separating probable high performers from middle and low.

In ‘Designing Powerful Job Candidate Interview Questions (Part 1) we reviewed research carried out by Mark Murphy (2012) Leadership IQ, where it was found that the following situations are amongst those that are likely to provide that differential that we are seeking;

  1. Response to significant change (positive and often exilerated vs avoidance)
  2. Problem resolution (searches out solutions vs pushing aside or to someone else)
  3. Learning new skills (embraces new ground vs excuses around why not possible)
  4. Encountering failure (examines own performance for improvement vs blaming others)
  5. Being given the credit (not a focus vs high maintenance/much stroking!)

How we design interview questions that will help draw out responses highlighting differences in attitude and approaches to identify candidates more likely to be high performers is critically important.

Let’s use Point 5 in the above list as an example of how the question can be posed. How a candidate responds to a question around ‘Being given credit’ can be very illuminating.

‘Can you tell me about a time when you were given the credit for a job well done?’

Posing the question with “Can you..” instead of “Tell me…” Murphy. M (2012) states has an important psychological affect via inviting the candidate to respond rather than instructing them to do so. This difference assists in developing rapport which in turn can lead to a more open and honest discord on the part of the candidate.

In addition, leaving the question hanging allows for much more individual interpretation which in turn opens up far more opportunity to gauge attitudes. It could be tempting to finish this question with ‘and how you reacted’ but resist the temptation as it will only curb the responses!

Here are some examples of possible negative responses to the question above;

“I can’t think of very many examples to tell you as my boss isn’t very forthcoming when it comes to acknowledging the effort I put in….”

“I really don’t care much about getting any credit, I think it is more important just to do the job I was hired to do”

And the more positive;

“There is nothing more satisfying than doing a good job and having it recognized,  but I always remind myself that my performance has to be consistent;”

“When we won the national highest sales award at a conference I was totally stoked but it could not have been achieved without the backup and hard work of all the support people in XYZ Co.”

High performance requires a whole heap of humility, a strong desire to do the best job possible (discipline and persistence) whilst bringing others along on the journey. These people usually display a robust verve for life centred around continual learning – the job interview process needs to highlight either the existence or the non-existence of these qualities and characteristics!

I hope you have found this blog useful.

If you have any queries or would like to discuss Recruiting for the Right Attitude you can contact Cheryl McCormack,  Director & Principal Recruiter at McCormack Employment Services on 61 2 9211 0592 or email Cheryl at