How to Learn More from Job Candidates

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Resumes and job interviews can be full of clichés and canned questions and answers, so the trick to learning more about a job candidate could be in the follow-up questions you ask.

Staffing firm OfficeTeam recently compiled a list of the most overused and meaningless phrases that appear on resumes. The secret to getting around these bland assertions is to ask the right follow-up questions, the company says.

So if someone claims to be a “people person,” ask him to tell you how he won over a challenging customer.

If someone claims to be “flexible,” ask her how she responds to major market shifts, organizational upheavals and other unexpected but inevitable changes.

For candidates who claim to be “problem solvers,” give them a hypothetical business problem and ask them how they’d solve it.

If someone says they’re a “self-starter,” ask the applicant to explain how she took action and got results when no one asked her to.

For those who claim to be “team players,” ask for examples of how they partnered with colleagues to meet company objectives.

For “hard workers,” ask them for examples. Did they meet exceptionally tough deadlines on a high volume of projects? Did they take on more than their job description required?

And if someone claims to be “highly qualified,” ask him or her to talk about specific skill sets, certifications and other unique attributes.

Adapted from How to Respond to Overused Job Interview Phrases by Dennis McCafferty at CIO Insight.