5 Ways To Avoid Asking Stupid Questions In An Interview

5 Ways To Avoid Asking Stupid Questions In An Interview

by Ryan Kohler

As a professional in human resources, you are often the first line of defense in finding quality new hires. Once a few choice candidates are selected from the vast applicant pool, you are tasked with screening them in an initial interview. While this can get overlooked as a standard routine task, it really merits care and attention as a critical early step in the hiring process. While there are no hard-and-fast rules about what you should or should not ask, here are some general guidelines every interviewer should follow.

1. Plan your questions in advance

As you review a candidate’s application materials (i.e., resume, cover letter, reference letters, writing samples), compile a list of areas you’d like to learn more about and translate these into direct questions. For instance, perhaps you’d like more details on the applicant’s proficiency with certain software or procedures they would need to use at your company. You could ask for examples of relevant experience. Write down at least a few questions before the interview. You don’t necessarily need to read them word-for-word, but writing them out helps to ensure they’re well-formed and easy to articulate.

2. Allow questions to arise naturally from the subjects discussed during the interview.

An interview is, in essence, a conversation. Feel free to ask follow-up questions.”

An interview is, in essence (although, unfortunately, not always in practice), a conversation. You are presenting your company to the candidate while assessing his or her suitability to fill the available position; the candidate is presenting their experience and assessing your company’s ability to fulfill their career needs. In the course of the discussion initiated by your prepared questions, a candidate should offer some new information (that is, something beyond what you could learn by reading his or her resume). Rather than just sticking to your prepared “script,” feel free to ask follow-up questions: “You mentioned that you started in department A. but moved to department B. Why was that?”

3. Don’t ask questions that yield a “yes” or “no” answer.

If you ask “yes” or “no” questions, you lose an opportunity to learn more about a candidate. Although a savvy candidate should translate a “yes” or “no” answer into an articulate response that exemplifies some stellar experience, as the interviewer, you should aim to control the discourse and therefore keep questions insightful.

4. Never force it.

Sometimes a question you prepared in advance will be answered during the course of the conversation, in which case, asking it will make the candidate think you haven’t been listening. Skip it and ask something more relevant.

5. Be genuine.

Ask something authentic to identify if they would be a good fit.

There are stock questions you can pull from during an HR interview, and some are applicable in just about every context: for example, “What about this particular position appealed to you?” or “Why are you looking to leave your current job?” But presumably the candidate answered these indirectly in his or her cover letter. Ask something authentic about the candidate as an individual to really identify if they would be a good fit within your company’s culture.

To learn more about interviewing tips, click here.


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