The 2019 Australasian Talent Conference was another excellent mix of speakers, vendors and networking.
Xref CEO and Co-founder, Lee-Martin Seymour’s session on the second day; The Art of Asking Great Questions provided an example of what all excellent conference presentations contain: brevity, humour, credibility, stories, value and a memorable model, acronym or concept.
Xref’s ten years of gathering online data on candidate performance via written responses to the questions referees are asked, has provided a rich source of valid, relevant and reliable data.
From this data robust conclusions can be drawn with respect to the effectiveness of asking a question one way compared to a slightly different way.
Although the Xref research was gathered from reference checks the conclusions are just as valid for interview questions (the examples, below, are interview questions).
Seymour’s short answer to what a great question contains is…….BACON.
Brief. Applicable. Compliant. Open-ended. Neutral.
Brief: Unnecessarily long questions can lose and confuse respondents. Keep yours as short as possible.
Not recommended: Sometimes salespeople are faced with barriers that prevent them from accessing those with the ultimate buying decision maker. These things include resistance from an existing company contact, unavailability of the relevant contact or a complex organisational structure. This is common and to be expected. What approaches have you found to be the most effective in your most recent job, or even the job before that one.
Recommended: Tell me about the most significant success you have had in gaining a key meeting with a hard-to-contact prospect?
Applicable: Irrelevant questions soak up valuable time, do not provide information that’s relevant to the outcome sought and run the risk of annoying the respondent, or worse, lead to the respondent terminating their participation in the process.
Not recommended: What’s your favourite football team? Do you go to their games regularly? Who’s your favourite player?
Recommended: What’s the most effective way you switch off from work?
Compliant: Some questions should never be asked. Understanding what types of questions these are and eliminating them from your interviews will help avoid a potential anti-discrimination claim from an aggrieved candidate.
Not recommended: Do you have dependent children?
Recommended: What’s your availability for starting work earlier, or finishing later, with less than 24 hours’ notice?
Open-ended: Answers to leading questions have no validity as the respondent is telegraphed the right answer. Open-ended questions maximise the likelihood that the respondent provides you with an untainted answer.
Not recommended: Do you like working in a team of all women?
Recommended: Tell me about the most effective team you have worked in?
Neutral: Adding your own opinion, implicitly or explicitly, or including commentary in a question not only lengthens the question it also increases the likelihood that the answer is tainted or the respondent disengages from the process.
Not recommended: It’s great that the Federal Government was returned at the recent election as this is positive news for business and should lead to a stronger economy. Business confidence is already much better than before the election. How would you go about taking advantage of this positive business climate in <industry> as our National Sales Manager?
Recommended: What current economic and political issues do you consider as important ones to consider in our sales strategy for <industry>?
Not recommended: Were you fired from X company>?
Recommended: What were the circumstances that led to you leaving X company?
I prefer BEACON to BACON.
Although it could be argued that my recommendation is covered under Applicable, I prefer to include it as a separate point:
Evidence-based: Asking for facts, evidence or objective information greatly increases the relevance and validity of the information you receive, compared to opinions, speculation or subjective information.
Not recommended: What would your manager say about you?
Recommended: What performance rating were you given by your manger in your most recent performance review? What strengths of yours were acknowledged? What was identified as your most important area to improve?
BACON or BEACON; either way, you can’t go too far wrong.
How well do your reference check and interview questions stack up?