Interviewing candidates to fill a position can be an overwhelming task and a time suck. It's a big challenge to identify an individual's actual performance simply by speaking to him or her for an hour.
There is infinite advice around how to interview effectively on both sides--as the employer and the employee. Here's the question that works wonders:
"If you were to land your ideal job this week, what would be the top three traits of this position?"
When you ask this question during an interview, look for these four things:
1. Clarity and focus
It is unbelievable how some candidates will go off into a personal story, or start discussing the negative aspects of their last job and why they don't want to deal with those negative aspects again.
You asked for three traits, not a story, not a justification, not a list of what they don't want--simply a list of three traits that describe their ideal job. Clarity and focus in their communication is key.
2. Excitement and arousal
If they are being honest about the three traits they list, it should spark some excitement in them. As they are envisioning getting this ideal position, their tone of voice will change, their body language will open up, and they should seemingly be enthusiastic about the idea of landing a job with these traits.
Look for excitement and arousal from them as they start to describe their ideal position.
3. Definable traits
Work hours is a definable trait. Autonomy on a project is a definable trait.
What gets to be tricky is when someone answers with something like a "positive environment" or "good communication." These tend to be way more challenging to define and rather idealistic. The less idealistic their response is, the easier it will be to communicate with them in the future.
4. Compensation, value, and growth
You want to hire people who value their work and time. If at least one of the traits is not related to their compensation, growth, or potential value, they won't value your company, either.
Only people who value themselves can value your business, too.