The 5 Questions Interviewers Shouldn't Ask

While interviewing a potential hire is arguably the most important step in the hiring process, it’s surprisingly easy to not get what you need from those precious 30-60 mins you spend with a candidate.  Asking the right questions for the right positions is essential – as a general rule: ask generic questions expect generic answers.  Tailor your questions to be specific to the interviewees experience and the responsibilities they would hold in the position.

As for these questions, let’s agree to put them peacefully to rest.

1. Tell me about yourself.  

This seems like a good opener to an interview, a chance to get the overview before you dive into the specifics.  But everyone interprets the correct way to answer so differently, it’s better to be specific upfront and ask about what you really want to hear.  For example, one candidate might begin with their childhood in Nebraska and another might launch into why they are a good fit for this job.  Are you asking this questions to know about their career goals, why they want this position, or to understand them as a well-rounded person?

2. What is your biggest weakness?

Oh, the quintessential cliche. This is first questions we’re taught we’ll be asked when we learn what a job interview even is (along with “what is your biggest strength?”).  Aside from it’s generic ick, there doesn’t seem to be much value in answers.  Most people have been taught to turn their weaknesses into strengths or they have a prepared an answer that isn’t actually going to tell you with what their struggling with professionally.  If you want to know their weakness, ask about a project they’ve worked on and what professional weakness were challenges to completing that project.  Or maybe you genuinely enjoy hearing about applicants who just work too hard or get caught up in being detail-oriented.

3. If I offered you the job, would you accept it?

Unless you are explicitly offering the job, this questions has no place during the interview.  Chances are candidates wouldn’t say ‘no’ in the moment even if they did need more time to reconsider (which will only leave you angry if they later decide to turn down the job after you do offer it).   There are other ways to judge if a candidate is excited and would be committed to the position.  If you’re trying to judge their feelings about taking the job, ask about what excites them about this opportunity or what questions they have.

4. Why hasn’t anyone hired you yet?

Ouch.  You’re worried why they’ve been on the job market for awhile; there must be something wrong with them, right?  Firstly, a candidate who has been searching for a new position for some time doesn’t equate to “unfit to work anywhere” – chances are the right fit just hasn’t come up yet and it could be you!  Secondly, chances are they don’t know and asking them to speculate about what makes them unhirable sends the interview into an unproductive and depressing spiral.  Thirdly, ouch.

5. Are you more a hunter or a gatherer?

This question was asked by Dell and is one of many bizarre questions many big name employers ask to supposedly challenge candidates.  The thought behind them is that candidates will have to think quick on their feet and you’ll be able to see how they reason out problems.  But the truth is that brain teasers such as “how many golf balls fit in a 747?” (it’s 31 million, by the way) don’t actually have any measurable effects on a candidates intelligence or capability to perform a job.  Google became famous for these brainteasers and has recently stopped using them for this reason.  It’s better to ask questions within the realm of relevance.  Unless you’re really dying to hear theories about why a pizza delivery man would need scissors.  To each his own.

What’s your interview question blacklist look like?

Originally Published on CareerPlug

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