Interviews are as intimidating for the interviewer as the person being interviewed. Hiring managers need to judge in 45 minutes whether or not this person they just met is, in fact, the right person for the job.

The perfect candidate offers a combination of knowledge, skill, experience and personality that suits the company and team, but with so many interviewees behaving as though an interview is a game of yes-or-no 20 Questions; it’s hard to get depth.

To make the perfect interview happen the manager must ask the right questions and this means customization as well as prioritization.

Select your top five priorities. You may get to ask more than five questions, but if each question leads to an in-depth discussion, you will need to make sure you have open-ended questions at the ready for several categories. Here are the seven most significant categories:

  • Workflow and prioritization
  • Relationship building and client service
  • Motivators and engagement
  • Culture and teamwork
  • Influence and leadership
  • Knowledge and experience
  • Personal work style

There are pre-fabricated questions that you can pull from any management book or web-site, but your questions should be customized to what you want to know and about your company or industry. When creating your questions keep in mind two important things: You are not looking for a yes or no response and you don’t need to play tricks to weed people out.

Remember that the candidate is nervous and will try to match your style and finally, they are interviewing you too! Approach as though you want to hire every person that walks in. This inviting mind-set will be felt will help candidates relax into giving you honest and in-depth answers.

From the list, you selected at least five categories; now write at least three questions for each. You are probably familiar with a STAR method interviewing: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Your questions should focus on providing an opportunity to answer that way. Combine that with your desired response before you ever write the question. Make a work sheet template for yourself. Using the category ‘Workflow and Prioritization’ we will create an example.

Listen for someone who…

  • Anticipates problems/is proactive
  • Asks questions
  • Is self-motivated
  • Applies experience
  • Follows through

Once you know what you are looking for, it’s not as simple as asking about philosophy or “What would you do if…” scenarios. You want real world answers and whether you are interviewing high school students to be on the yearbook committee or a manager who will be running a team of twelve, the need to understand what makes the candidate tick is still applicable.

The question then is not “What would you do?” but “What have you done?” These questions should be an open ended invitation to talk. We ask, “Tell me about a recent time when you learned something new.” This allows them to share whether they learn from experience, whether they strive to learn or wait to be directed. You decide whether the answer is a high score for your needs and follow up with questions like, “Did you schedule this opportunity?” and further, delve into the world of experience and application by asking, “How did this knowledge impact your daily work?”

Continue to develop your questions based on what you want and need to know and if you have a specific priority don’t be afraid to add them as examples within the question, such as, “Describe a lesson you learned while helping a client through the difficult personal loss.” You are sure to get to the heart of the candidates experience and styles.

About the author: Kirby Foster is a HR manager and guest author at Human Resources MBA, a site with information on how to get an online HR masters degree. Click here to read the guide.

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