The interview. Long established as the best way for a hiring manager to root out the best fit in a talent pool, the interview can only be as effective as the questions that are asked. Rather than relying on canned questions that lead the candidate to the answer you are looking for, consider these slightly more abstract alternatives during your next interview.

Ask them to describe the best time in their career.

Open ended questions in general enable candidates to demonstrate their knowledge in areas that are essential to job performance. But open-ended questions about their past experience allows the hiring manager to hear about the external factors that truly motivate the candidate to perform. Did their best six months include a group dynamic? Were they allowed to work on their own? Does this candidate prefer managing, thinking, or doing? This simple question allows the candidate to reveal the concomitant factors surrounding how they did their best work and the hiring manager to determine if their ideal is compatible with the job being offered.

Ask about their interests apart from the job.

Active learners are naturally curious people. They will tend to research new topics, try new things, and actively seek out opportunities to grow their knowledge base. The curiosity of an active learner will breed new ideas, new processes, and new products, especially in a small organization. By asking a person what they are currently reading, where they went on vacation the last three years, or what goal setting opportunities they have seized outside of work, a hiring manager is able to construct a picture of the total person. They are thereby able to see if the person has the adaptability, inner drive and self-awareness that may be necessary for the job in question.

Give them a problem to solve.

Giving a candidate an applicable problem to solve allows a hiring manager to see how they think on their feet. But it also gives them a chance to see what a candidate values when the pressure is on. If the problem involves time constraints, a hiring manager will be able to see if the person sacrifices quality for a deadline or if time constraints are not as important as the task at hand. If the problem involves personality issues, does the person become totalitarian to get the job done or are they a consensus builder who sacrifices the tasks for the relationships? A real-world scenario will often reveal a person’s true working style far better than a list of accomplishments will.

The bottom line? Bad hires are costly. The time, energy, and morale wasted when the wrong person is put in the wrong job have a direct effect on the bottom line of an organization, especially in small to medium businesses. However, interviews involving open-ended questions will reveal more than just a candidate’s past accomplishments, they help hiring managers determine if they are the elusive ‘right fit’ for an organization.