6 Proven Steps to Identify the Right Applicant

Hiring great people is one of the most important and most challenging things we do in our professional lives. The hardest part is often just knowing what to ask applicants to make sure we're getting the right person for the job. We know there are certain attributes the ideal employee will have, but what exactly are they and how do we test for those traits in applicants? And do it in the limited time you have? This pressure often leaves one feeling overwhelmed and even a little frustrated. 
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5 Tips I've learned From Writing 300 Interview Questions

A great interview question can make all the difference when selecting the right person to hire, yet writing such a question can be a daunting process for anyone. After spending countless hours and writing over 300 questions, here are my top 5 tips to write great interview questions in less time.

Tip 1: Determine the outcomes you want

Before you begin writing, you must decide why you are writing questions; are you trying to gauge performance, satisfaction, or maybe cultural fit? This step is important because everything that follows needs to be able to flow back to the desired behavior or outcome. For example, one of the most important behaviors or outcomes to identify in a potential new sales representative or account executive is: Can they meet or exceed their sales quota?


Tip 2: Identify relevant attributes

Now that you have identified your desired outcomes it is time to break it down into attributes. Attributes are the traits, skills, or competencies a person needs to successfully achieve the desired outcomes. In this case, for a qualified Sales Development Representative some ideas might be grit, drive, or maybe humility. In the end, it comes down to the attributes you consider necessary for the required outcome. This can be a great experience for a company as it allows employers to define what makes a person a successful performer and/or a culture fit in a particular work environment.


Tip 3: Define the attributes

It’s not as easy as just identifying these traits, you must generate clear-cut definitions for them as well. This is VITAL. Let's say you want a high performer and you think that high performers in your company possesses a lot of humility, so in response to this information your hiring team writes a question like:


“What past experience best demonstrates your ability to be humble?”


This question is great, but what your sales manager is really looking for is someone who is teachable and willing to admit and learn from mistakes. Understanding what behaviors reveal a certain attribute will really help you in writing a question that exactly matches the criteria. With this new information, you then can write a more tailored questions, such as:


“Often in this job, you will be coached and critiqued by a supervisor. What is your typical response to corrections? Can you tell me about an experience in the past where this has happened?”


As you can see, interpretation of what one might see as a common attribute will often get really messy and interpreted differently especially when that request is coming from the top down, so it is absolutely essential to define each attribute and the behaviors associated with it.


Tip 4: Articulate your question

Writing the question should be easy if the first two parts have been understood and done correctly. With that said, here are some specific tips for articulating what you're getting at with your questions;

  • Avoiding all yes or no questions
  • Make sure what you are looking for isn’t implicit in the text ex: “What makes you a humble person?” This is okay, but what will really increase a question’s response variability is with a question like, “When given a task you have never done before what is your typical response? Do you often feel like you can handle these situations? What best helps you accomplish new tasks do you ever ask for help? If so, when?” Remember, we aren’t trying to trick candidates, but we are also not trying to spoon feed them what we are looking for in a candidate.


Tip 5: Review and Practice

This part is often overlooked, but after writing hundreds of questions I saw tremendous value from peer feedback and simply working through questions to ensure they make sense to the interviewee. Here are a couple things to remember:

  • Look back and make sure the question matches the definition and desired behaviors.
  • Have a colleague test it out before you use it in the interview.
  • Ask yourself does this make sense for the interviewee or is it confusing and muddy?


After helping to create over 300 questions, I’m still not an expert, but I’m definitely getting better. What I know for sure is that desired outcomes, attributes, and questions have to be connected through each interview question for best results. Hopefully these 5 tips are helpful to you and if you would like to see a sample of the interview questions I wrote, check out  100 Modern Interview Questions for 2019.

Cody Jolley
Cody Jolley has a passion for helping people find jobs they’ll love, and helping companies hire the best people. Currently finalizing a B.S. in Human Resource Management, Cody has dreams to become an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist.

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