Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Interviewing: Asking the Right Questions – When Yes and No Is Not Enough

Have you ever finished an interview and realized you don’t know any more about the person or event than you did before you started. How would you rate the interview, pass or fail?

Before I realized what I was doing wrong, this happened to me all too often. Whether you are interviewing a new employee candidate, a potential client in real estate, a service provider professional or your children, the type of questions you ask will determine the answers you get.

Early on in my career I learned there is a simple solution to this problem. The key to a successful interview is not to ask “yes or no” questions. Simple, but listen to yourself the next time you interview someone.

If you ask only yes or no questions you will only get yes or no answers. When I am on the other side of the table I have been taught not to provide too much information and I love yes and no questions. All I have to do is answer the question and I have provided the interviewer with exactly what he asked, albeit not what he may have wanted.

Never ask a yes and no question, always ask for more information, opinions, descriptions, explanations, etc.

Let’s look at some examples:

A. Have you ever been terminated or laid off from a job?

B. Explain why you left your last 3 places of employment?


A. Do you want to sell your house?

B. Why do you want to sell your house?


A. Did you see the accident occur?

B. What did you see happen?


A. Can you cut down the tree in my yard?

B. How would you cut down this tree hanging over my house?


A. Did you kick your brother?

B. Why did you kick you brother?


Even though these are simple examples you can see where in each case the “B” question will provide you with a better picture and more information from which you can form an opinion.

Yes this is a simple solution but as I said earlier listen to the questions you ask and I believe you will be amazed at how many are yes and no questions. I still have to watch myself to avoid this trap and practice it every day. When I do it right it makes my job a lot easier and successful.