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Interview Guides for Hiring Managers

Job-Specific Interview Tools

Job-Specific Interview Tools

For some time now, it has been established wisdom that preparing for an interview in advance is a good idea. There is simply too much going on in the typical job interview for any interviewer to “wing it” and hope for the best.

Interview guidelines for talent managers

First, talent managers should have core, job-related questions to ask. Then they must listen carefully to what the candidate does and does not say, and hopefully they take a few notes without completely sacrificing eye contact and the comfortable level of rapport created during the first five to 10 minutes. Perhaps most important is generating good follow-up questions to obtain missing or incomplete information with which to assess a candidate’s experience and skills. This can be tough to do when an interviewer also is thinking about what to say next.

Keeping all these balls in the air can be challenging even for skilled and practiced interviewers, and the stakes are high. A poor hire can cost an organization dearly, which is why many good interviewers welcome tools to minimize the chaos and risk of missing quality information to aid decision making. The following are some common interviewing tools.

Question lists are poor tools

The use of purpose forms and question lists is common, but not very effective. Questions need to originate from the unique nature of a specific job. There is a right job for everyone, but not everyone is right for the same job. Interview questions should be job-specific to uncover the behavior needed to be successful on a given job.

The benefits of a good interviewing system

Carefully phrased questions will produce the information necessary to make informed hiring decisions. A good interviewing system can help create a job-specific interview guide in advance of the actual interview so talent managers or other interviewers can loosely follow a script once a candidate shows up. This allows the interviewer to devote him or herself entirely to listening, watching and generating follow-up or probing questions to elicit missing information.

Competency-based interview guides

To generate a useful interview guide, the system should be built upon core competencies; the six to eight areas that matter most for successful performance. To arrive at these core competencies, analyze the duties and responsibilities that are integral to the job and extract or derive related competencies.

Competency-based interview tools

Many competency-based tools will have a library of generic competencies from which to choose. This allows the talent manager to prioritize the few competencies that best differentiate successful performance. This might include competencies such as analytical skills, empathizing ability or cost consciousness. Once core competencies have been identified, focus on interview questions and target behaviors. A good system will pair a target behavior with an interview question.

For example:

  • Competency: Analytical skills.
  • Interview question: Describe a problem you worked on that required quite a bit of research and analysis. Describe the process you went through to work on a solution.
  • Target behavior: Demonstrates efficient information-gathering and analytical skills; solves complex problems with effective solutions.

Ask interview questions related to target behaviors

The target behavior serves as a goalpost to evaluate candidate responses and allows the interviewer to assess their quality. Too many interviewing systems spit out interview questions without giving the interviewer any idea how to weigh and balance the candidate’s information. Pair a target behavior with a question to determine how well the candidate’s response matches up with the target. There is no right answer, only degrees of “rightness” depending on how well the response matches up to target-behavior expectations.


A job interview is a fluid, dynamic experience that calls on the interviewer’s expertise as question-asker, judge and jury to assess suitability for hire. Putting some time and effort into identifying core competencies that produce good questions with paired target behaviors is simply smart management. A good online system can generate job-specific interview guides and make sound hiring practices a more strategic business activity.

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About Anne Sandberg

With a degree in Experimental Psychology and a masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Anne Sandberg has 25+ years of experience in the human resources, training and management consulting arenas. Anne is President of ReadyToManage, Inc. and can be contacted at

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Interview Guides for Hiring Managers
About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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