Some interviewers adopt favourite questions that - while not actually illegal and discriminatory - are cringe-inducingly naff and corny. The applicant’s response (perhaps after an inward snigger) will contribute nothing to the task of identifying whether the person can do the job. Not only can a bad interview question take your interview wildly off course, it may also put you in a negative light in the mind of the interviewee.
Here are a few to avoid:
- Tell me about yourself —it’s far too broad. What you need to know about someone relates to work so provide a clear starting point: then the response might tell you what you were hoping to find out. Try an alternative such as “What led you to choose this career path?”
- What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses? This is such a common question that applicants have either answered it multiple times before or have read articles on the best way to answer it. Either way, it will give you absolutely useless answers. So what if a person says they can deliver on time or is a perfectionist? You’ll never really know whether it has any basis in fact or whether the applicant has just listed points Googled from a “best answers” cribsheet. Instead you could ask about a story of failure which will more genuinely tell you the person’s weaknesses rather than simply asking about them: “Tell me about a time you failed at a goal you needed to achieve.” A good interview question extracts information indirectly.
- Where do you want to be in five years? — The truthful answer might be on a beach in The Bahamas after winning the lottery. The answer you’ll be given will probably be a platitude like “to have progressed within your company into a management position” or an equally ‘interviewer pleasing' answer. Or even “I want your job.” Instead, ask “Which of your skills do you hope to develop over the next few years to help you take a step up in your career?”
- What can you do for us that others can't? — Isn't that your job as the interviewer to figure out? The candidate won’t know about the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors, so will generally resort to an answer related to their work ethic. Instead, “What makes you the ideal applicant for this role?” will give you much more useful answers.
If you were an animal, which one would you be? — This used to surprise candidates, but many will now be prepared for this amateur attempt at psychological analysis as it’s been widely communicated as laughable on social media. If you're looking for a lion (or someone who shows leadership) then ask a more direct question about their leadership skills.
- What salary are you hoping for? — This is something that can be discussed before or after a job interview, but not during as it's not right to put your interviewee under pressure to commit to a figure on the spot. You could however check what the applicant is earning currently or how much they earned in their last job, to give you a point of reference if you decide to make an offer.
Another type of question to avoid is the Leading question where you imply the answer you want in the question, e.g. “Can you cope? Are you a good teamplayer? Leading questions inspire meaninglesss answers. If you ask a question where the answer you want is obvious, you will hear what you expect. It will add little to your understanding of the candidate - so why waste your time?
The Human Resource helps managers to find the right new recruit – sorting out exactly what you’re looking for and how you’ll recognize it, wording the advert, questions to ask at interview, decision making. Download your free Expert Interviewer's Guide and contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.