When your company is looking to hire someone for an open position, conducting interviews with potential candidates is typically an important part of the process. Some applicants may appear impressive on paper only to disappoint in person, while others "interview well" and offer more than their applications may convey.
The questions you ask will steer the conversation and elicit important information about each applicant's background, personality, and abilities. One simple tool that can help with this critical recruitment task: the sample interview questionnaire.
What is a Sample Interview Questionnaire?
A sample interview questionnaire is a written list of questions, plus space for answers. Companies will often use interview questionnaires for candidate screening (as a way to determine whether or not to invite the candidate in for an onsite).
But as an interviewer coming in later in the recruitment process, you could use a questionnaire as a cheat sheet of sorts to the actual interview.
The pre-determined list of interview questions you want answers to will be in front of you during the interview, ensuring you cover all the bases that need covering. Four reasons interviewers like you should use sample interview questionnaires:
- You can plan:
You don't want to take the lazy, easy route, and just ask whatever questions pop into your head while interviewing. Instead, plan candidate interview questions in advance by drawing up a list of questions you hope will get responses that help in your decision-making. Another benefit of this type of preparation is that you can collaborate with people who won't be on your interview panel, such as superiors or other co-workers who will be working in parallel.
- You can avoid question repetition:
A pre-defined list of questions that is specific to each role that needs to be filled can act as a reusable baseline for interviewers to follow (of course, there will be other questions to ask each candidate that are specific to their particular work histories). Using an interview questionnaire can go far with ensuring more consistent results and better candidate comparisons (since all candidates will be asked the same set of questions).
- You can find focus and stay on track:
Interview questionnaires help you stay focused on the questions you need to ask (and the information you need to get) from each candidate. If the interview goes off on a tangent, the questionnaire can make it easier to get back on track. Haphazard interviews will tend to meander, often going over the same information again and again, wasting valuable time and impressing no one—this isn't a one-way street; you need to impress the candidate as well. Having the questionnaire as a guide will keep you from doing that.
- You can take notes:
Consider printing out the questionnaire for the onsite, and leave room under each question so you can jot down key takeaways from a candidate's responses. Basically, you'll be "filling in" the answers for them. Writing down on the questionnaire the nuts and bolts of a candidate's responses will help you later on, when you need to provide candidate feedback to your manager or recruiter.
To get rolling with the creation of your interview questionnaire, start with a few general questions to break the ice and get a feel for the candidate's background. While they've probably included this information on their application, discussing it in the interview can give you the opportunity to ask follow-up questions and build a more detailed picture. Here are some questions you might ask:
1. Tell me about your educational background. How does it make you an ideal candidate for this position?
2. Can you talk about what you learned in a previous position that applies to this job?
3. Have you ever had a job that is similar to the position [we're hiring for]? Could you describe your responsibilities there?
4. What was your greatest achievement in your [previous or current] role?
Interpersonal Skills Questions
You'll also want to get a feel for the candidate's personality with some of the questions you devise. Consider creating questions that provide clues to their interpersonal skills (as well as their work ethic). Ones like these:
1. Can you describe your communication style?
2. Can you describe a situation where you had to work on a team to get a task or project done?
As you get a glimpse of their interpersonal skills and work ethic, consider how this candidate would fit in with your team and the clients they may work with. Your sample interview questionnaire could include questions such as the following:
1. What is your greatest strength? How has this helped you to achieve success in your career?
2. What is your greatest weakness? How have you learned to improve on it?
3. Can you give me an example of an important professional goal that you set in the past, and how you went about achieving it?
Once you know the basics about the candidate's education and work experience, and have a sense of how they'd fit in with the company culture, ask more specific questions to determine how they will perform in the position they have applied for. For example, if they'll need to use specific computer programs or certified skills, probe for more than a simple "yes" or "no" answer. Consider asking:
1. Do you have experience using [software they'll need to know]?
2. Can you talk to me about how you've used [software] in the past?
3. How do you stay current with your skillset?
In addition to specific qualifications and certifications, you will also want to determine whether the applicant possesses specific problem solving, critical thinking, or leadership skills the position may require. You might ask the candidate to describe their past performance or respond to a hypothetical situation with questions like the following:
1. Tell me about a project that went poorly, or one that you felt initially unprepared for. What happened? How did you learn from the experience?
2. Have you ever led a team before? If so, could you talk to me about your leadership style?
3. What is your strategy for keeping multiple projects on track simultaneously?
4. What would be your first priority coming into this role?
5. How would you keep the loyalty of a client who is considering moving to a competitor?
Hiring a new employee is a time- and energy-intensive process. You may know what you're looking for in a potential hire, but multiple rounds of interviews can make it hard to remember which questions you've already asked this particular candidate.
Consider using a sample interview questionnaire to focus your questions on the information that is most important to you, and to ensure you don't leave any proverbial stones unturned.
PS: If you're still struggling with getting calls back for interviews, LiveCareer can help. Put our resume builder or resume examples to use and craft a top-notch resume in no time at all. And if you need help with crafting a corresponding cover letter, check out our cover letter builder.