Three Types of Interview Questions

In part one of BioTalent Canada’s series exploring the hiring and development of top talent, readers were shown the importance of developing an interview process to ensure that an organization hires the best and brightest to their team.

Part two of the series highlights three types of questions that are useful in creating a rounded and fair interview for all candidates.

1.    Job Knowledge Questions

These questions most often deal with the technical or professional knowledge required to effectively perform the duties of the job. Often they can be effectively assessed through paper and pencil knowledge tests or work sample exercises which simulate the type of work done on the job (i.e. simulation of an experiment results report, written exercise detailing the steps taken to conduct a certain type of research, knowledge test of specific scientific concepts essential for the position). The advantage of asking these types of questions in the interview, however, is that the interviewer can ask follow-up questions to seek clarification and probe more deeply into the answers given. An example of a job knowledge question is:

“What are the steps involved in conducting a Total Protein and Albumin/Globulin ratio test?”

Ask a sufficient number of job knowledge questions so that you feel confident in assessing the candidate’s ability to perform required tasks. You can create questions using the Bio-economy Skills Profile and Skills At-a-Glance. For example, if you were planning to interview a Regulatory Affairs Specialist and wanted to understand the candidate’s ability to prepare submissions you may create an interview question like “Tell me about a time where you had to prepare a submission.  What documentation did you produce?  What process did you follow? How did you verify that you were correct?”

2.    Situational Questions

These types of questions ask the candidate to provide information on how they would deal with job-related situations that are typical of the kinds of circumstances the candidate is likely to encounter on the job. They are designed to gather information on the types of skills and qualifications required to perform in these job-related situations. Often these situations or scenarios are taken directly from the job. For example:

“As the team leader of a laboratory team, you are faced with a situation where two team members are fighting over who will get credit for an accomplishment, how would you deal with the situation?”

The purpose of this type of question is to get an appreciation of how the candidate is likely to deal with job-related situations and problems. This type of questioning strategy establishes whether the candidate knows how to deal appropriately with the situation presented. A disadvantage of this technique is that while candidates may know how to respond appropriately to the various scenarios presented, there is no guarantee that they will behave accordingly once on the job. It is advisable, therefore, to use this questioning technique in combination with other approaches.

3.    Behavioural Questions

Behaviour-based questions are a good compliment to the situational questions and have been shown to be one of the most effective structured interviewing strategies. These types of questions are based on the premise that past behaviour is often used to predict future behaviour in all facets of life. The questions are directed at obtaining information about the candidate’s past experiences and accomplishments in order to make a reliable prediction about how the candidate is likely to perform on the job. For example:

“Can you give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a particularly difficult manager?”

All of these types of questions can be included in the competency-based interview, striking a balance throughout the interview. However, since behavioural questions have been proven to provide one of the best indications of future job performance, as much as possible, the majority of the questions in the interview should be behaviour-based, especially if the candidate is BioReady.