In the 20-plus years I’ve been in the professional recruitment business, I’ve conducted or sat in on thousands of interviews. I’veseen interview fads come and, unfortunately, not all of them go. Some of these antiquated or down right pointless interview questions are still being used, and if you’re serious about finding and hiring a skilled candidate, you should make sure to avoid them.
The goal of conducting an interview is to get to know the candidate and to assess his or her skills and experiences to deem if the candidate is an appropriate fit for the role you are recruiting for. The interview process is not to entertain you, to see if you can stump the candidate, or to see how she “acts under pressure.” Remember, the candidate is here to get to know you and your business as much as you are trying to get to know them. Sometimes the questions you ask can turn the candidate off, with them electing to decline the position. In this market, can you afford to lose a qualified candidate?
5 Worst Interview Questions
The following are my “Top 5” eye-roll inducing interview questions. These are questions I’ve honestly heard asked in an interview. They range from ridiculous to pointless, with one even verging on being illegal. But one thing they all are is useless, which means you should avoid using them.
#5: What color is the sky? (Ridiculous!)
Unless you are an astronomer or hiring this candidate for some unearthly scientific work, this is a silly question that won’t tell you anything about the candidate. It’s in the same genre as, “If you were an animal what would you be?” and “What is your favorite ’90s song?” I know the hip tech companies and start-ups like to think of these types of questions as fun, but they’re not fun for the candidate. These questions can make the already anxiety-provoking interview process much worse for the candidate because he can’t possibly know the right answer. My advice: ask questions you can actually measure.
#4 What is your greatest weakness? (Overused!)
This question is so overused that no one answers it honestly anyway, so why bother? And really, what is the right answer? You’re better off asking a question like, “What skill set would you like to improve?”
#3 Where do you see yourself in five years? (Irrelevant!)
This is a standard entry-level question and aside from being mildly insulting with implied judgment and no right answer, it tells you nothing about the candidate’s motivation. This question isn’t truly relevant to any position. How about asking, “If you could design your perfect job, what would it look like?” (With the caveat that the job for which they are interviewing isn’t it.)
#2 Do you have children (or are you planning on having children)? (Almost illegal!)
Technically, this is not illegal per se, but it can get you into big trouble with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And you can’t legally use it to determine if you’ll hire this person anyway, so why go there? It’s okay to follow up if the candidate offers information about children, but don’t ask about daycare timing or anything like that if you want to avoid getting into some seriously hot water.
#1 What is your favorite day of the week? (Pointless!)
This question tells you nothing. First off, who doesn’t honestly prefer a Friday to a Monday? With this question, you’re just forcing the candidate to lie. Plus, it’s so ridiculously subjective that it does nothing to measure competence or provide a window into personality. If the goal of this question is to get to know the candidate, how about being more direct and asking, “What do you like to do when you are not working?”
There are many (many, many) more foolish interview questions out there; I could go on and on. But this blog isn’t meant to take the fun out of interviewing (well, I think it’s fun!), it’s meant to remind us all to think before we ask. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes: you want to feel valued and at ease with your interviewer. And to your advantage as the interviewer, once people get comfortable they tell you all kinds of things. It’s your responsibility to facilitate that by asking pointed and professional questions. The less you put candidates on guard, the more you learn, the more they like you, and the more you will be able to assess skills and fit. And even if you don’t hire them, they’ll walk away feeling respected—a lasting impression that’ll reflect on your business.
If you need help with questions, please call us at (207) 572-0067. We want you to make successful matches!