There are companies that are known for their unusual sets of interview questions: Google is especially famous for its rigorous questions such as “How many golf balls can fit on a school bus?” Another interviewee reported being asked how she would weigh her head.

The reason Google asks such unique questions is because they want to pick the best and the brightest candidates—they are looking for candidates who can think quickly, creatively and inventively- and who can come up with effective solutions to unexpected problems. Those are certainly good traits for an employee at a multinational Internet search technologies corporation, but they probably are not what you are looking for in the candidates for your university jobs. 

Think of the traits you are looking for in your ideal candidate: Do you want someone who can identify and establish goals and objectives?  Or who can identify and analyze problems and issues or to listen to suggestions and see other points of view? Whatever traits you are looking for, your interview questions should help you to identify candidates with those traits. 

A good way to understand how candidates will act in the future is to ask how they have responded in the past. For example: Tell us about a time when you took a risk that backfired. How did you recover? Describe a situation where you strongly disagreed with the way a direct report wanted to handle something. How did you work that out? Describe a situation where you did not have enough resources to accomplish an essential project. How did you determine the main priorities? 

You only have a short amount of time to identify your best candidate. Make sure all your questions are targeted toward the specific traits your winning candidate needs. 

Dindy Robinson is Director of Compensation at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas.

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