Is It Time To Retire Some Of Your Interview Questions?
by Kurtis Blackburn
Everyone has their “go-to” interview questions, but are those questions really the ones you should be asking? Often times, as the one conducting the interview, we tend to follow a sort of script. I myself am guilty of this. Every time I’d interview a new employee, I’d print out my list of pre-determined questions and go through the motions. But I never took the time to really think about what I am asking. Am I asking them questions that will give me a good idea of who they are as an employee or as a person? The occasional, more personable, question is welcome (Check out our articles on company culture), but if thats all you are asking you may as well not be conducting the interview at all. Don’t waste time with the questions that may not be relevant. Here is our list of interview questions we think should be retired for good.
1. What is your greatest weakness?
Save time, skip the run-around and just ask them about their strengths.
Are you looking for flaws in your applicant? If not, then why bother with this question? Would YOU be willing to answer this interview question with complete honesty? If not, how can you expect the applicant to do it? A weakness is a very personal thing, and if we are being honest, is it really any of your business? You wouldn’t ask them about their love life or spirituality, why are you willing to ask them about their greatest weakness? All potential applicants should leave the interview feeling excited to work for you, and asking about weaknesses is not that way to go about doing that. And, in all honesty, do you REALLY expect the applicant to be honest about their greatest weakness? At best you are going to get some half realized excuse as to why their greatest weakness is actually their greatest strength, or some such answer. If you want to know their greatest strength, just be up front and ask them. There are countless articles online, like this one, that advise on the best ways to answer this question and, you guessed it, it’s by turning that weakness into a strength. Save time, skip the run-around and just ask them about their strengths. After all, thats the answer you are going to end up with anyway.
2. Why should we hire you?
I don’t know, why should you? As the one conducting the interview, its our job to figure out if they would be the best fit for the company, not theirs, and we can do so with out putting ourselves on a pedestal in the process. Asking questions like these can leave the applicant feeling dejected, and defeated. You can get an accurate picture of the employee with out making them feel like they are a waste of your time. You don’t need to make your applicant feel like they are in a life and death fight with a handful of other applicants. Never make a potential employee feel like they just aren’t good enough for the position. You brought them in for an interview, so there is obviously something about them you like, expand on that. Help them provide an accurate depiction of themselves.
3. If you were a “Insert random thing”, which one would you be?
I’ve been asked this interview question in almost every single interview I have been part of. Every time I’m asked something like this my first thought is “Why”? What can be learned by having an applicant tell you which animal they would be, or what their favorite color is? How are you supposed to process this information? How does it apply to your job? To hire someone for a job, I honestly don’t need to know which type of car they would be. In no way would this further their chances for employment. I don’t know anyone who, when deciding between 2 employees, says to themselves “I’d like to hire this guy, but he said that if he could be any animal he would be a wolf”. NO ONE says that, and no job is determined by which famous band you would be. It just doesn’t happen. Don’t waste anyone’s time with trivial questions like these. Ask the questions that matter and ditch the ones that don’t. Sure, it’s a fun question, and can help you learn about someone as a friend, but it really doesn’t serve much purpose in identifying them as a potential employee.
4. What would you do in this very specific situation?
A few years ago I was applying to work at a Credit Union. The person conducting the interview asked me this.
Interviewer: So, lets say that you are alone on the teller line. The phone is ringing, 2 tubes are down and waiting in the drive through, and you have a line of three people waiting. You have been helping an elderly person with a cashiers check, so its taking some time and the people are getting impatient. What do you do?
How could I possibly know the answer to this question? At this point I had never worked in a credit union, and had no previous experience working in any kind of financial situation. How am I supposed to answer? I had no idea what was allowed and what wasn’t. I didn’t know the process it took to create a cashiers check, or why I would EVER be alone on a teller line. All this question seemed to do was to cause me, as the applicant, some stress. Immediately my brain started thinking things like “Is that something that could happen?” “Does she expect me to do this kind of thing”? I answered the best I could, but I really felt like it was an unfair question to ask. And later, when I was the one conducting the interviews, I refused to ask this question. It serves no purpose. All you are really doing is establishing what this applicant needs to be trained on later. Don’t waste their time with that now. Figure it out together later on.
5. Are you doing anything later?
In fact, asking these kinds of questions in an interview can get you in quite a bit of trouble.
Ok, thats an extreme example, but the idea is still there. You are a professional, conducting an interview for the company you represent. Keep it professional. Don’t ask your potential applicant something that will make them feel uncomfortable or uneasy. You absolutely do not need to know anything about personal relationships, marital status, race, religion, sexual preference, or anything even remotely like that. You are here to find an employee that can do the best job possible for your company. In no way do you need to know anything about their religious beliefs or marital status to do so. If they feel the need to share any of that with you, that’s up to them. But it should play no part in whether or not you decide to hire them. In fact, asking these kinds of interview questions can get you in quite a bit of trouble. Businessinsider.com states that by asking these kinds of questions, you could be breaking both state and federal law. No one wants that. Avoid any risky situations by just staying professional. Don’t let personal preferences get in the way of hiring an exceptional employee.
It’s ok to have a script, or questions that you stick to, just make sure they are relevant. Make sure you are making the most of your time with the applicants. Don’t get distracted by “Fun” or “Interesting” questions. It’s a great idea to take your script, and give it a quick run through before the interview. Pick out the questions that are more tailored to the job position in question and go from there. If you want an honest interview, go with the questions that you yourself would be willing to answer honestly. Following these steps can help keep you safe, and assist in hiring the prime candidate for your position.
What are some of your favorite interview questions? We would love to see what you are asking your potential employees.
Need some help? Download a list of some of our favorite interview questions.
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