Many people find themselves in the position to be interviewing prospective employees, without really having much training in how to conduct an interview. This often results in the interviewer asking boilerplate questions that the candidate has already been asked many, many times before. The result is a “canned” response that has been rehearsed and refined so much that it yields the interviewer very little authentic information.
In a recent article in Inc., author Jeff Haden lists the most overused job interview questions and offers alternative questions that “smart interviewers” ask. According to Haden, the 5 questions you should remove from your interview list are:
“What do you expect in terms of salary?”
This question comes close to being illegal in California, given that the state bans employers from asking a candidate an applicant for prior salary history.
“ Tell me a little about yourself.”
This is a “lazy” question, according to Mr. Haden, because it asks nothing more than what should have already been discovered during due diligence on the candidate.
“What is your biggest weakness?”
Don’t expect to get an honest answer to this question. Instead, you will get a rehearsed response worthy of the cheesiest Disney movies.
“What do you know about our company?”
This is another “lazy” question, says Mr. Haden. Any candidate can spend 2 minutes in the internet and get enough information to answer this question decently.
“Why should we hire you?”
Like the “biggest weakness” question above, this question will produced an inauthentic, rehearsed response.
The answers to these questions do not really help the interviewer. As an interviewer, you want to find out about this specific person: what drives them, how they handle mistakes, and are they really interested in this particular position at your specific company. You also want to determine if this candidate is a good “fit” for the culture of your specific company given the unique and specific things that it values and rewards.
To get to this critical information, Mr. Haden recommends that interviewers ask more broad, open-ended questions designed to predict the candidate’s emotional and behavioral characteristics. We agree wholeheartedly. We frequently get retained by clients to recruit and interview candidates, and we always employ predictive, behavioral questioning to illuminate helpful, authentic information from candidates. Some of the questions we find yield the most telling answers are:
Tell me about a time that you failed in something. What caused your failure? What did you learn from the experience?
What is a common misperception about you? How have you dealt with that misperception in your career?
What makes you laugh?
Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult client or boss. What made that person so challenging to work with? How did you handle the situation? What did you learn?
You’re walking down the street at lunch time, and you overhear colleagues in front of you talking about you and your work. What would make you most proud to overhear them saying about you? What would be the worst thing you never want to hear them saying?
Tell me something about you that is not on your resume.
What’s the toughest feedback you’ve ever received from a boss? How did you respond to that feedback? What was your take-away from that experience?
You’ve started a new job and want to create a “User’s Manual” about you that you can give to your new colleagues to help them get you know you and learn how to work with you. What would you say in that manual about yourself?
Why are you interested in this specific position at our specific company?
You can read Mr. Haden’s article in Inc. here.