Candidate Job Interviews

The Secret to Getting Great Information from Candidate Interviews

Interviewing candidates is a critical step in the hiring process. But how do you structure interviews to extract truly valuable insights? What techniques elicit detailed responses? How can you encourage authenticity and assess both hard and soft skills? This article reveals strategies to get the richest information from interviews. Follow these best practices to ensure your interviews yield the insights needed to make informed hiring decisions.

How can I structure interviews to gather the most valuable information from a job candidate?

Thoughtful structure is key to productive interviews. Develop a consistent script of questions tailored to the role that allows comparing candidates equally. Arrange them in a logical flow, moving from introductory background questions to increasingly specific work experience and skill questions. Build in flexibility to include follow-up questions.

Set expectations upfront on the types of interview questions you’ll ask candidates so there are no surprises. Leave time for the interviewee to ask questions too, which can give you valuable insights into how they think. And close with next steps so they know what happens post-interview.

This intentional sequence builds rapport, gathers details, and enables two-way dialogue for the richest exchange of information. In addition, developing strategic interview questions to ask candidates can reveal problem-solving abilities, technical skills, and motivation style.

What are effective techniques for eliciting detailed responses from candidates?

There are several strategies you can use to encourage interviewees to share detailed information. Skilled interviewers use these techniques to get beyond pat answers and glean as much information as possible:

  • Ask open-ended behavioral questions like “Tell me about a time when…” that prompt detailed accounts.
  • Follow up vague claims by pressing for specifics on how exactly they accomplished something.
  • Use silence to signal expectation of more robust answers. Slow down between questions.
  • Echo back information they provide and request they expand further.
  • Let them know that detailed responses help you assess qualifications.
  • If they get off track, reorient them to the initial question. Don’t let them ramble.
  • Take notes and reference earlier responses to probe for additional detail and consistency.

You can learn more about what makes a good interview question at the Society for Human Resource Management’s website.

How can I ensure that candidates provide authentic and honest answers during interviews?

The best interview questions to ask candidates reveal how they overcame setbacks rather than just successes. But candidates sometimes respond with exaggerated or inflated views of their skills to impress. How do you get to genuineness?

Stress that you want to understand their real experience to find the best fit. This frames honesty as beneficial. Ask for examples of setbacks, failures, or constructive feedback they received. This reveals authenticity. Press for specifics like names, timelines, and quantitative outcomes when reviewing accomplishments.

Ask the same question multiple ways to cross-check consistency of responses. Watch for cues like rambling, avoidance, or defensiveness which can signal exaggerations.

What are strategies for evaluating a candidate’s skills and qualifications during an interview?

It can be important to ask pointed questions about expertise levels to surface whether a prospect has the required capabilities for the job. The best way to do this is to get specific.

  • Discuss hypothetical scenarios related to the role and ask how they would respond.
  • Review past projects and ask them to explain exactly what their contributions were. Quantify where possible.
  • Understand the tools and software they used in previous roles and their proficiency level.
  • Assess foundational knowledge by asking them to define or explain technical concepts or processes.
  • See if they can teach you something about the field or role. This demonstrates command of the subject.
  • Use strategic interview questions to ask candidates, such as asking how they stay current on industry skills and best practices.
  • Ask them to talk through their approach to solving a sample case study or task related to the role. This reveals problem-solving abilities.
  • Ask them to outline how they would approach a key project in the first 30-60-90 days on the job.

Are there any specific behavioral or situational questions that help reveal a candidate’s capabilities?

Some examples of good behavioral and situational interview questions to ask candidates include:

  • Tell me about a time you successfully led a project from start to finish. What challenges arose and how did you address them?
  • Describe a situation where you had to resolve a difficult conflict between team members. How did you approach it?
  • Have you ever made a bad hiring decision for your team? What lessons did you learn?
  • Your boss assigns you a project without providing clear direction. How do you proceed?
  • A client is upset about an issue that is affecting them. Walk me through how you’d handle this.
  • Tell me about a time you discontinued an inefficient or unsuccessful process at work.
  • You’re under pressure to complete a project on a tight deadline with limited resources. What do you do?

How should I balance asking specific job-related questions and assessing a candidate’s personality and soft skills?

It’s important to assess both hard and soft skills related to the role you’re filling. Allocate at least half the interview to evaluating required hard skills, experience, and industry knowledge.

Use experience questions to get at soft skills. They can offer signals about work style, problem solving approach, and communication style. Include a few targeted questions about work preferences, management style, and teamwork approach to assess culture fit. You can also weave in rapport-building personal questions to gauge personality and see them as a whole person.

What are some common mistakes to avoid during candidate interviews?

Failing to prepare questions in advance results in disjointed, aimless interviews. Here are some tips to keeping them on track:

  • Don’t neglect to set expectations upfront about the interview process.
  • Avoid asking leading or closed-ended questions that produce yes/no responses rather than details.
  • Don’t allow the conversation to get sidetracked from your script.
  • Try to avoid filling silences or answering your own questions rather than waiting for responses.
  • It can also be a problem to move rapidly from question to question without pausing for elaboration.
  • Don’t accept superficial answers at face value —probe for depth.
  • Avoid talking excessively about yourself or the company instead of gathering info from candidates.
  • Prevent yourself from judging an interviewee’s statements—remain neutral to encourage candor.

Stay focused, let them talk, and avoid biased reactions to get meaningful insights. And remember, having a list of pre-planned, best interview questions to ask candidates helps avoid scrambling through disjointed questions off-the-cuff.

How can I effectively follow up on candidate responses to gather additional information or clarification?

Following up is essential to ensure thorough, unambiguous information. Useful techniques include summarizing what you heard and asking, “Did I understand correctly?” Keep your eye out for vague claims and ask for specific examples or data to back them up. Clearly state if you need more details on a topic and give candidates opportunities to provide clarification or additional context on any prior responses.

After interviews, review your notes and reach out if any responses still seem unclear, and let candidates know that you appreciate their patience as you do your due diligence to make the best choice.

Strong candidate interviews combine structure, technique and diligent information gathering. By implementing these proven strategies, you’ll gain the insights needed to make great hiring decisions that strengthen your team with top talent.


Let the Hiregy team help you find the talent your need. Reach out today to learn more about partnering with Hiregy.