The One-Question Interview: The Single Best Question to Ask
Interviewing is an art form. It’s all about cutting to the heart of the matter, digging deep to get at the core of a candidate to choose the best person to fill a specific opening. The best interviewers are gifted at cutting through generalization and exaggerations from an applicant without increasing nervousness or allowing first impressions to have too great an impact. They do this by asking the right questions. In fact, you can anchor the entire conversation and illuminate exactly what makes a candidate tick using the trick of the one-question interview.
The One Question
Could you please tell me about your most significant accomplishment
That’s it. That simple question begins a journey with the applicant as you guide them to clarify the following:
-A full explanation of their success and its significance.
-The real results they achieved and the process that enabled those results.
-When they attained this success, how long it took and with whom they partnered during the effort.
-Their title(s) and the role(s) they filled as the initiative progressed.
-Why they were selected to head or participate in the process that led to the achievement.
-The most significant three or four challenges faced during the undertaking and how they were able to surmount those challenges.
-Some of the biggest decisions they were called upon to make.
-The working environment and resources to which they had access, and how they made use of them.
-The technical skills developed and employed during the project.
-The makeup of the team assigned to the challenge, including titles and hierarchies.
-Some of the biggest mistakes they made while working on the problem and how they addressed those mistakes.
-Ways in which they changed and developed as a person.
-What they would do differently if they had the chance to do it all again.
-What they liked and disliked about the effort.
-The project’s budget and their role in structuring and managing it.
-How well they did at matching the project to the plan.
-How they motivated and influenced others, backed up by specific examples.
-How they responded to conflict, with specific examples of problems and resolutions.
Using the One-Question Interview to Take the Measure of an Applicant
Getting at this information is incredibly useful as you piece together a portrait of the candidate, but it’s up to you to make sure you get it out of them. The applicant isn’t going to simply talk and talk and fill in all the blanks without prompting and guidance. This takes a certain amount of finesse and skill at leading a conversation, and it’s here that an interviewer truly earns their pay. Your job is to ferret out a complete answer to the basic question about their greatest accomplishment. The key is to break the question down to its most important elements to gain an understanding of the achievement, the process that enabled it, the environment in which the goal was reached, the precise role of the candidate in meeting the objective and what motivated the applicant to undertake the effort.
Continue to develop the one-question interview by exploiting the same question in the same deep level of detail for several successes. have the candidate describe two to three individual and team victories with which they were involved over the preceding five to ten years. Organize their achievements in chronological order to illustrate their personal and professional growth over time and to gauge the impact they have had in different jobs and with different companies. Drill down deeper by asking about successes directly related to the position for which they have applied. For example, you could modify the question to ask about their biggest accomplishment in creating scheduling systems for manufacturing.
Interview More Efficiently
Taking this approach to interviewing puts all the candidates on a level playing field by producing reasoned, comparable evaluations of candidates’ strengths and abilities to deliver similar results in work environments similar to yours. The one-question interview method also helps remove key sources of hiring errors, namely the tendency of many interviewers to talk too much, listen too little and ask questions that have no real importance. Focusing on getting a full answer to just one enlightening question is a lot more useful than wasting time coming up with lots of ïcleverï questions with which to pepper a candidate. When every member of your interviewing team is similarly devoted to getting an answer for this one question, you can expect better hiring choices and improved results from your recruiting efforts.
For more helpful tips on getting the most out of the one-question interview, and for additional hiring insights, explore the extensive library of resources here at Mighty Recruiter.