Sizing up the interviewee sitting across the desk from you can be daunting.  How do you really know who you are talking to?  Getting past the resume and prepared answers is the key.

Asking situational questions can reveal character and personality traits, if you know how to listen.   Questions that begin with statements such as, “Tell me about a time when…”  or “Have you ever…” can get past the prepared answers and give insight into the person across the desk.

Before you even get to the point of having a resume in hand, think about what you are actually looking for.  First, know your team.  Are you looking for more of the same, someone who will comfortably fit in?  Someone a little different who will balance out the team?  Or someone to throw in the mix that will shake things up and challenge them?

Secondly, know your company.  What values are intrinsic?  What about work habits?  Do employees tend to stay late and take work home?  Or, is it a ghost town by 5:05 p.m.?  Finally, look to the future.  What are you trying to accomplish?  What kind of person will help you get there?

Now that you know what you need, ask the situational questions.  Ask follow-up questions to move past prepared answers.  For instance, start with, “Tell me about a time you and your boss did not agree.”  Follow-up with, “What kind of leadership style did your boss have?” or “Did your coworkers have the same kind of interactions?” or “How often did you disagree?”

Don’t simply listen to the answer.  Listen to the periphery.  How the candidate answers the question is much more important than what he or she answers.   How did he handle the situation?  Is he a critical thinker or a task master?  Does she describe a time of conflict as if she was the victim or the problem-solver?  Listen for adjectives.  Do these descriptions line up with the kind of person you need?

By knowing what you are looking for, and listening to the way questions are answered, you put yourself in the best position to know who you are talking to.  More importantly, you’ll have good insight into finding a candidate who can help you reach your goals.

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