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Effective Interviewing, Part Three: Revealing Questions

Effective Interviewing, Part Three: Revealing Questions

Behavioral questions reveal how a candidate will perform at your workplace.

In parts one and two of this series we offered advice for how to prepare for the interview that will land the best candidate for your job opening. Now let's take a look at the most important part of the interview process: the questions.

First, have more questions ready than you can possibly use. Running out of questions is a sign you really haven't thought this through. Make sure everyone on the interview team is working off the same list of questions.

DIGGING IN: Behavioral questions reveal how a candidate will perform at your workplace.

Designate one person to jot down notes on candidate responses. This is a good suggestion for situations in which there are two or more interviewers in the room.  However, in some cases there will be only one interviewer at a time.  In such situations, each interviewer will need to take their own notes during the interview without disrupting the flow of the interview, or causing the interviewee to sit and wait for the next question while the interviewer is writing. 

"A helpful technique is to write only key words during the interview and then write more extensive summaries of key points immediately after the interview is over," says Bernie Erven, farm labor guru and professor emeritus at Ohio State University.

Ask questions that encourage applicants to use their own words. Avoid questions that can be answered yes or no. Cover a variety of topics, focusing on what the applicant has done in previous jobs, not what he or she says they would do if hired.

"Good interviewing is not about getting good promises," says Erven. "Good applicants know what you'd like to hear. They know how to impress you and are anxious to say what you want to hear."

Likewise, don't wear some cap or logo that can be used by the candidate to pull the conversation into a discussion about favorite sports teams.

What is legal? Only questions directly related to the job and the ability of any person to do the job, Erven says. That means that if you need someone to work on Sundays it is permissible to ask about religion. You can ask about that person's faith in the context of how it relates to the job. Make sure the written job description reflects this.

Ask job knowledge questions. For an office manager position, you might ask what are three ways to back up critical data on a computer. Ask "what if" questions: What would you do if we asked you to do something you don't know how to do?

Avoid questions like, What are your goals and aspirations? Why do you want this job? "What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses? You'll get practiced, canned answers.

Behavioral questions

Try questions like, How did you resolve conflicts between co-workers when you were a foreman? This is called behavioral interviewing and it can dramatically increase your chances of interviewing success. It's a good way to learn about your candidate because past behavior and performance are the best predictors of future behavior and performance, says Erven.

For an equipment manager you might ask, Describe an equipment related problem you have solved in the last year. How did you go about solving it?

"From this you get glimpses of the person's thinking process and problem-solving ability," says Erven. Ask follow up questions on how and why. Ask for examples.

Here's a few more:

What has been your most important accomplishment in your current job?

What were your steps that led to this accomplishment?

What is the most difficult challenge you have ever faced? How did you handle it?

How do you provide performance feedback to the three people you supervise in your current position?

Are you friendly to the three people you supervise, or do you try to make them your buddies? Why?

Describe the best supervisor, coach or teacher you have ever had. What made that person good?

Describe the person who is your all-time favorite co-worker…and why.

What has been your most important accomplishment outside of work?

Why should we hire you?

What is the one question you are most afraid I will ask you?

This last question, Erven says, is intended to be uncomfortable. "It's designed for someone in a management position, someone who may need to deal with landlords or input suppliers, to see if they can think on their feet," he says. "It's not so much about the answer, it's how the candidate responds to stress and if he or she panics."

All these questions should help you learn about the candidate and his or her attitude toward work.

Effective interviewing helps land good applicants, thus reducing costly turnover of good employees and avoiding labor shortages. It might take more time on your part, but that will be time well spent when you hire the person that best fits your farm business.

For all three parts of this series, visit Farm Futures Now!

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