Crafting Motivational Interviewing Questions

Motivational Interviewing QuestionsNo matter who it is that you’re interviewing, you can set people at ease faster, and get better, more honest answers by asking motivational interviewing questions. Motivational questions help to keep the interviewee relaxed and engaged, which means you are more likely to get the types of responses that you can actually use.

What Are Motivational Interviewing Questions?

A motivational interviewing question asks the interviewee for answers that can both lead in a specific direction, and get the interviewee to open up and divulge the desired information. This type of interview style works well with nervous clients or potential new hires. Because the questions can help lead the person being interviewed down a specific path, building on the answers that were previously given, the person interviewing can keep a better grasp on the interview. Learning to give interviews and learning how to be interviewed are skills that many people need to cultivate. Motivational questions can often make it easier for both parties to get to where they need to be.

Why Use Motivational Interviewing Questions

There are several different styles of interviewing, and not every strategy will be right for every situation. While you can take a course in interviewing strategies, sometimes you still need to pick and choose which one will work for you. Motivational questions work particularly well in a number of different scenarios such as:

  • Interviewing clients to find out what they need or expect from your services
  • Interviewing customers to get the best feedback
  • Speaking with people who have underdeveloped interview skills, or who need some time to open up

Coming Up with Motivational Interviewing Questions

It’s not always easy to come up with questions to use when interviewing someone. That’s why motivational questions can sometimes be so useful. Each question sets the stage for the next one, so you can ask questions in clusters or groups that will give you more complete and revealing answers, rather than asking disjointed questions that don’t paint a clear picture.

When you’re crafting your interview questions from a motivational angle, it’s important to come up with what you want to hear first, then work backwards in small steps. For example, if you are interviewing a customer for feedback that is upset, obviously you want to know why they were upset, but you also want to know what you could do to change things in the future. So a series of questions might look like:

  • What things would you change about your experience?
  • Why would you change those specific things?
  • What would you hope the outcome would be from those changes?
  • What will happen if not every change is made – which are the most important changes?

By coming at the root of the problem from this angle, you direct the interview toward a successful resolution, while making the client feel that you care about his input and want to fix things. You also get constructive feedback that you can use, rather than just a litany of what they didn’t like.

Each set of motivational questions that you ask will be tailored to your end goal. For example, if you are interviewing someone for a position in your company, and you want to find out if they are self-motivated or if they’ll require more micro-managing, you would ask a series of questions like:

  • Why did you leave your last position?
  • What about that position would you have liked to change?
  • How would those changes have made a difference?
  • How would you deal with similar situations in the future?

The idea is to read between the lines and see how they would handle specific situations. An employee that would have liked more personal control over a project, and explains that it would have made a difference by increasing productivity would be self-motivated, while an employee that felt they didn’t get enough direction would need more hands-on management.

The Steps or Stages of Motivational Interviewing Questions

Coming up with your series of questions to ask for each specific answer you want to get is just one part of crafting your interview strategy. Motivational interviews are designed to help put the person being interviewed at ease, and open up a friendly, comfortable dialogue. Therefore, the order you ask the questions in and how you lead into more difficult questions are nearly as important as the type of questions you are asking.

Asking Permission

Before venturing into tough questions, or into questions that may make the interviewee defensive, it’s always a good idea to ask permission to ask these questions. Examples of this may include:

  • Asking a potential employee, “May I ask about your previous employment?”
  • Asking a client, “May I ask what attracted you to service?”
  • Asking a customer, “May I ask what made you unhappy with your experience?”

By asking permission, you’re giving the illusion of power to the person you are interviewing. This makes them feel that they are in control, and therefore makes them more comfortable with you and with the interviewing process. People who are more comfortable and feel in control are more likely to give expansive and honest answers, than people who feel that they are on the defensive.

Change Talk

By asking what about a previous experience that someone would like to change, you not only get helpful suggestions from clients and customers, you also get a very personal view on specific circumstances. This is a great way of finding out useful information, as well as discovering how someone is thinking and what they’re typical reaction is to specific circumstances. Examples may include:

  • Asking a client, “What would you change about your experience with us?”
  • Asking a customer, “If you could change something about our product, what would it be?”
  • Asking a potential employee, “If you could change something about your previous workplace, what would it be?”

By asking change questions, you not only get to see personal views and ways of thinking, you also give that sense of power and control back to the person you are interviewing. If at any time the interviewee is becoming defensive, switching to change talk generally brings the conversation back to a more positive place.

Goal Importance

Obviously as the person interviewing, you have a specific goal in mind. This could be to get constructive feedback from a customer, to get the information you need to complete a job from a client, or to determine if a candidate is likely to fit in with your company. You need to make sure that the person you are interviewing understands your goal, and can give you the answers you need to reach it. It can also be helpful to get a sense of the goals the person you are interviewing has. Obviously, a potential new hire will have an end goal of working for your company, but what is their goal after that? Does it mesh with what you want? For example, are you looking for someone that could potentially take on additional roles over time, or someone that would stay and specialize in the niche you are hiring for? By asking goal oriented questions, you can find out how well your goals are meshing with the goals of the person being interviewed.

Open Ended Questions

Don’t be afraid to use plenty of open ended questions in the interview. In fact, the bulk of your interview should be made up of questions that need to be answered using more than a simple yes or no. Listening to someone speak on a subject gives you a chance to sit back and evaluate things such as body language, response time, and dialogue. At the same time, the interviewee is at ease, and there is a sense of camaraderie between the two of you. This makes the entire process more pleasant for everyone involved, and can help you to get more complete answers, which will in turn let you make better judgments and come to more accurate conclusions. The result is a successful interview that gives you all the answers you need to make decisions, or to implement change if necessary.

Learn to Interview Motivationally

Learning to interview properly takes time, no matter which side of the desk you’re sitting on. Whether you take a course on interviewing customers, or you begin to craft your own questions and learn from experience, coming up with a good set of motivational interviewing questions can help you get the type of interview you’re after. When you ask these types of questions, you put your interviewee at ease, give them confidence and a sense of control, and get the most detailed and honest answers. Using all of this information, you’ll find that you’re then in the best position you could be post interview. Try coming up with a set of motivational interviewing questions of your own, tailoring them to your specific experience and needs. With just a little bit of tweaking, you will probably find that you’re getting much more accurate results from your interviewing process. Take the time to try some motivational interviewing and see how much more you can get out of your interviewing experiences.