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Interview Guides for Hiring Managers

Using Contrary Evidence Questions When Interviewing

Using Contrary Evidence Questions When Interviewing

In order to get the most from an interview, the best approach is to ask questions which are behaviorally based such as “Describe how you’ve built your self-confidence over the years.  What’s been of most value?” However, as useful as the responses to such questions are likely to be, it is also important to follow up and in this regard you may want to consider using Contrary Evidence Questions (or CEQ’s as we will call them for short).  Contrary Evidence Questions are excellent probing, or follow-up questions to standard behavioral questions. Specifically,

  • A CEQ can function as a probe, or follow-up question by asking for examples of behavior that is different, or opposite, from the behavior already described.

Interview Question: “Tell me about a work commitment you worked hard to meet.”

CEQ: “Now tell me about a work commitment you tried really hard to meet, but weren’t able to . . . what happened?”

  • CEQ’s allow you to ask about weaknesses without ever saying the word, “weakness,” in a way that is often acceptable to the candidate.

Interview Question: “Give me an example of a day when you were faced with last-minute changes and delays. How did you deal with this situation?”

CEQ: “Now tell me about a time when, you have to admit, you found your patience severely tested by multiple delays and constant change. How did you react?”

  • CEQ’s can allow you to see a more human side of the candidate and gain insight into the person’s ability to learn from experience and own up to errors in judgment.

Interview Question: “Tell me about a customer interaction you experienced recently.”

CEQ: “I think its fair to say that we are all human — everyone occasionally makes mistakes . . . now, tell me about a time when you wish you had acted differently with a customer, and why.”

The likelihood of eliciting quality data from a candidate using a CEQ is quite high (because it is unexpected!). For this reason, they are a very useful addition to the hiring manager’s toolbox.

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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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