This month’s newsletter article is taken from Tim Giehill’s  June 16th blog, entitled:  The two best interview questions you should ask.

“I’ll say up front that the subject matter of this post is a bit unreal. Great interviewing can’t be boiled down to a list of questions. It’s a combination of helping a candidate feel at ease, listening, observing, talking and, yes, asking the right questions  . And what a recruiter or potential employer does (or asks) in any given interview depends, to a large extent, on what the candidate is like.

Strategies can also change in mid-interview – several times, in fact – because of a candidate’s verbal or non-verbal response. And much depends on what kind of interview is taking place – a get-to-know-you phone interview, a final interview, an interview for a full-time position, an interview for contract work, or something else.

In short, there is no simple instruction manual for great interviewing. I would say, in fact, that it’s a difficult skill to learn, and the only way to get really good at it is to do it a lot, observe other interviewers, and try to constantly improve. If someone can speak with an experienced mentor, all the better.

So are there really “two interview questions that you should ask”? No, not absolutely. But there are two that should get asked in most interviews. Here they are, followed by some explanation:

1) Can you give me an example of how you ……?
In most jobs we are required to solve problems and complete projects/tasks in an efficient and effective manner.  You should finish this question with things like; solved a problem for a customer, designed a presentation for a company meeting, conducted research that you also shared with a client, disciplined an employee, etc.   An interviewer will customize this question to uncover successful completion of and knowledge of the type of things they will be doing in their job at your company.
It’s easy for an applicant to give a hypothetical example of how they would do something but this is a far cry from a specific example of what they actually did.  This question separates people who get things done from people who talk about getting things done.

2) Can you give me another example ……?
There are two reasons to ask this question; first,  it’s fairly easy for an applicant to spin up one example of something they did and make it sound like an answer to your question.  If the example they give is vague, they could simply be nervous or they don’t really have specific experience doing what you need them to do.  The second reason to ask this question is that even if they give a good example in the first question, someone with great experience doing what you’re asking should have many examples.  If an applicant can’t come up with at least two good examples of where they successfully accomplished the project, task or job you are asking about, they may be lacking the experience you want or need.  Keep in mind that the applicant may need a little extra time to come up with a second example and let them know that by saying, “take as much time as you need to formulate your answer”.  We are not trying to get them to stumble with this question; we are looking for solid examples of success in the job  .

I’ll say it again: there are many, many other great questions to ask during an interview, and there may be a few interview situations in which the above two questions may not be necessary.