Seven effective training questions for managers to identify best qualified candidates

For more than 40 years of recruiting and talent attraction consulting, one constant stood out. Most hiring managers have never been taught how to effectively interview candidates for their open positions.

If a manager has never been formally trained to effectively interview candidates, they have never been trained to select the best qualified candidates.

What are the different ways I may structure an interview question?

Behavioral questions

By now, almost everyone has been asked behavioral interview questions.

Behavioral questions are best created when a manager has a specific situation that the candidate will face in their new position. The question may be structured in different ways. This is an example of one way to structure the question: “If you found two employees who are in a heated argument about improving a process, what steps would you take to defuse the disagreement?”

This allows the manager to understand how the candidate would handle that disagreement. Once a candidate puts something on the table, it may be used as a potential source for a follow-up question.

One-step questions

One-step questions are meant to invoke specific answers to specific questions.

An example could be: “In your last company, it appears that you were promoted every two to three years. Why would you like to leave that company now?”

This is an important candidate response for you, because now you will hear the candidate’s motivation to leave their current company.

Two-step questions

This type of question is a combination of a behavioral question and a one-step question.

One of my favorite two-step questions is: “Have you ever found that a force beyond your control put you behind schedule? Were you able to get back on schedule — and, if so, how?”

This question has given me many interesting responses, and almost all of them invite me to learn more about the situation by asking a probing question to follow up.

Comparative questions

You may ask the candidate to compare their past two positions and discuss what they liked or did not like.

Situational questions

In this form of a question, you provide an example of a situation from your professional experience and ask the candidate how they would handle it.

An example could be: “Recently, I managed two amazing direct reports. We created a new position of supervisor under me. Both employees were perfect fits, but I had to choose one without losing the other one. How would you have handled my quandary?”

The candidate’s response could give you insights into their thoughts on managing their direct reports while letting them feel they are assisting you in your thinking. It is always interesting to see if they would have the confidence to take a different path than you.

Using the ‘echo technique’

In this technique of forming follow-up questions, you listen to the candidate’s response and pick up on a short phrase to request elaboration.

This allows the candidate to go into detail about their observation.

Yes or no questions

There is an appropriate time to ask a question where you are looking for a simple “yes” or “no.”

One of my clients is Cache Valley Electric. They are the 16th largest electrical contractor in the U.S. While I recruited project managers and estimators for them, occasionally I also recruited laborers. One of the questions that I needed to ask because they may need to move a company vehicle or drive for supplies was: “Do you have a current Utah driver’s license that is clean?”

Interviewing should be fun. Keep track of the candidates that you wish you could have hired. Let them know that you will gently keep in touch. Include them in your network for future openings. Contact them immediately if you are opening a position that may interest them — or someone they may know.

Practice creating questions using these techniques and mix up the ways you ask them, so candidates will need to remain on their toes.  

Bill Humbert is the Google ranked No. 1 talent attraction consultant. Mr. Humbert can be reached at