Here are some techniques you can use to encourage job candidates to open up and give you the information you need to make a better hiring decision.
1. Phrase your questions so they can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Example: “What did you enjoy most about your last job, and why?” Not: “Did you enjoy your last job?”
2. Ask a series of follow-up questions after each main question. Example: “What do you consider to be your most valuable contribution at XYZ Company? What percentage of time was spent on the project? How many others were involved?”
3. Request elaboration, especially about those topics that are vital for success in the position. Example: “Can you give me some examples on how you turned dissatisfied customers into satisfied ones?”
4. Use “soft” questions, especially if you feel that direct questions may seem threatening. Example: Instead of: “Why did you resign from your last job?” you might say, “I see you resigned from XYZ. Tell me about that situation.”
5. Put silence to good use. Too much silence can be awkward, but a well-placed pause provides a strong prompt for the candidate to continue adding substance. If you’re quiet, he’ll speak.