Just about everyone over the age of 14 has had to sit through at least a few job interviews over the course of their lives. Chances are, you yourself have been required to suffer through several sets of droning, unengaging interview questions, delivered by someone who seemed almost completely uninterested. Experiences like these can make a terrible first impression on candidates, setting both them and the interviewer up for failure. Getting off-topic, probing too deeply into a person's personal life, and asking uninspired questions will ground an interview before it ever gets off the ground, in terms of engagement.
On the other hand, a quality set of interview questions will give business owners & leaders a great set of indicators regarding the candidate's chances of professional success. This is why it's so crucial to keep your questions based around the skill sets, knowledge, and capabilities required for the specific position. But, while steering clear of overtly personal pieces of information may seem obvious to some interviewers, there are plenty of grey areas to explore. Touching on facets of a candidate's personality that pertain to work (i.e. work ethic, punctuality, decision making, etc.) can really help you understand just how competent a potential employee might be before moving forward.
So, let's take a look at some of the least effective interview questions out there, in the hopes that you can avoid inconveniencing any of your potential hiring prospects.
Interview questions to stay away from
- "With so many good candidates, why should I hire you?" - This question tends to be an issue mainly due to its lack of relevance. Questions like these force the candidate to describe their character, which can pressure them into trying to pander to the person of authority sitting in front of them. This means that, as the interviewer, you'll be decreasing the likelihood of the applicant being completely honest with you. An alternative to this question would be something like "What sets you apart from your fellow applicants?", which is more open-ended and lets the candidate craft a more personalized response.
- "Do you have any children?" - This next question falls into an altogether unsavory category: illegal questions. Several classes of job candidates are protected under the law, and this list includes parents. Questions like this, ones that delve so deeply into someone's personal life, are often seen as unrelated to the job at all, and thus can sometimes be argued as law-breaking. An example of a safe alternative to this question would be something like "Do you have any responsibilities that conflict with the job's attendance or travel requirements?"
- "What year did you graduate?" - This question seems incredibly innocent but unfortunately gets a little too close to asking a person's age, which is another protected class. In addition to this, it's not exactly the most articulate question out there. Perhaps try something like "What are you looking for in terms of your professional development?". Pro tip: if you're not satisfied with the way your questions sound, you can always use a third-party site that enables interviewers to ask descriptive answers from candidates, to get assistance with your writing.]
- "What is your current salary?" - While this interview question isn't technically illegal on a federal level, many states in the US have enacted Fair Pay acts that make questions about current income strictly off-limits. If you're determined to ask about money, make sure it stays centered around their expectations for the position they're interviewing for. An example of this would be "What sort of salary restrictions do you have for this position?", which usually will provide you with enough details to get a sense of their current income.
- "Where do you see yourself in five years?" - Somehow, this ancient question is still getting pulled out by interviewers. But, while this particular inquiry may be common, it's become quite irrelevant over the past few years, thanks to millennials being so gosh darn nomadic. Who cares where you'll be in five years? Is the offer for a five-year contract? Probably not.
- "What country are you from?" - This is yet another question that falls under the "illegal" category, as foreign individuals are another protected class. Plus, in most cases, this question has almost nothing to do with the candidate's ability to perform the job. If you're really curious about this, try something like "Are you eligible to work in the United States?", or whichever country the job resides in.
- "What is your biggest weakness?" - The biggest problem with this question is that it pretty much eliminates the candidate's ability to provide any sort of authenticity in their answer. You're asking someone to specifically outline a facet of themselves that they actively avoid focusing on, which is never going to provide an employer with pertinent or useable data. A better line of questioning is perhaps something related to personal development, like "Tell me about a time that you saw a weakness in your workflow, and explain how you self-corrected".
Help is available
While interviews tend to be in person, there are also plenty of times in which businesses conduct pre-interviews, oftentimes through their own website. Penning quality questions can really throw some hiring managers off of their game, which is where text-based, quality management sites come into play. Using organizations such as these tends to be a pretty common practice for businesses, so make sure to use these types of resources if you're feeling stuck or uninspired.
When it comes right down to it, an interview always needs to be based on mutual respect. While the person you're interviewing may not necessarily be a "seasoned professional" regarding the position they're pursuing, they will always be just as deserving of a fair shot as someone who is.
Along with a sense of respect, it's crucial to understand why your interview questions aren't always "cutting it". This is why using third-party companies like the ones mentioned above to enhance or modify your writing can be a critical part of the interview process. It’s never a bad thing to get a specialist involved.
At the end of the day, how well an interview goes will always tend to be in the hands of the business, and by extension the interviewer. With a bit of critical thinking & a fair amount of effort, it's all but guaranteed that a business will attract & retain the types of employees that they’re searching for.