Focusing Questions

by Floyd Rumohr

Focusing questions in an interview process can help draw out essential information from candidates while effectively using limited time.

During a search for a director of development at a youth services organization in New York City, the interview design consisted of two interviews each with a different focus:

Interview #1

Interview #2

Focus: Skills and Experience

Focus: Working Style and Compatibility

Sample Questions:

  • What tools, if any, do you use for time management and tracking critical tasks?
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?  Why?

Sample Questions:

  • What is your personal working style?
  • Would you say you are more of an independent worker or collaborator?


  • Executive Director
  • Consultant


  • Program Director
  • Program Managers (2)

The questions for each interview were focused to elicit appropriate information from each candidate in about an hour and a half. Necessary information was shared in the time allowed for the most part. Pressure can mount if expectations of each interview transcend the time you have or if too many spontaneous questions arise. These kinds of distractions can cause increased stress levels in interviewers who have other job functions and candidates who might cross each other while waiting to be seen. Worse yet, a line of interviewees could form in the waiting area!

Focusing questions also helps to determine how many interviews will be needed. Our case study reflected in the above table consisted of two interviews each with a particular focus.

Reasons behind the various people involved in the process are described next.

Next up: multiple perspectives.

Watch the Focusing Questions video in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 3.5.

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