Good Hiring Managers Need To Ask Better Interview Questions

Have you ever Googled “Common Interview Questions”? Whether you’re an experienced career candidate, recent college graduate, or somewhere in between, I’m willing to bet you’ve looked for common behavioral interview questions or gone the extra mile and visited Glassdoor for the “inside” scoop. Maybe you know someone at the company and you asked them for their advice — because people love to give advice.

What you are looking for is different from what you find. You’re going to find the most common questions — those questions that you might have already answered 20 times over the course of your career. Do you really want to answer those questions, again? Such a turnoff, right? Like shitty shows like 2 Broke Girls or Keeping up with The Kardashians, they’re popular… but that doesn’t mean they’re good questions.

If you’re a hiring manager, bad questions could be hurting your chances of the candidate accepting an offer. Read that again, dear hiring managers — you are judged by the types of questions that you ask.

Alternatively, nobody wants to feel stressed out, put on the spot, or tricked during a job interview. After all, who wants to experience that in your day-to-day job? Why do we demand it of candidates in the interview process? What is this — a game of gotcha?

Be mindful of the different personality types, cultures, and backgrounds that are applying for open roles at your company, and consider retiring some of the more common interview questions in your arsenal.

Instead, try these alternatives that might give you more helpful information about the candidate without making them feel awkward in the process.

What can you tell me about yourself?

You might be surprised to see such a traditional interview question at the top of the list, but it’s not as great of an opener as you might think. In fact, from the candidate’s perspective, it might tell them that you haven’t read their résumé, browsed their portfolio, or checked out their LinkedIn profile. Candidates don’t want to brief you on their entire job history during the short time they have to make a first impression — they want to have a conversation.

Instead, ask a question based on what stood out to you most from their resume and application. Show the candidate you’re taking them seriously and want to learn more about them, beyond what’s on paper.

What’s the project you’re most proud of?

Yes, I ask this question because it’s useful to learn what projects a candidate enjoys working on most, but you could take this question further by asking something broader.

Instead, ask them to talk about how they produced a piece of work with multiple different teams. The answer will reveal how they work dynamically and as a project manager, useful traits for most development teams.

What’s your biggest weakness?

“My biggest weakness is that I work too hard,” is the answer your opening yourself up for and that’s going to tell you zero, zip, nada. Simply put, it’s presumptuous to assume that you understand what a candidate’s perceived weaknesses are. The answer could exclude candidates from other cultures or industries who aren’t familiar with yours, and it puts candidates in a negative state of mind.

Instead, ask them to describe a challenge they faced in a role and how they handled it. The answer will teach you more about their problem-solving skills, without putting them in the awkward position of personal self-reflection.

Are you a team player?

Typically, I think close-ended questions are bad. Open-ended questions are more conversational and will give you more information about the candidate.

When it comes to this question, the answer is valuable, but a candidate is unlikely to self-identify as an individual worker. Likewise, your company probably doesn’t have any roles that are completely siloed, solitary confinement, working in the basement roles.

Instead, ask the candidate what their ideal team dynamic is. You’ll get the same answer you’re looking for — if they work well with others — while allowing them to elaborate on their preferred working environment.

Sell Me This Pen

I know. You saw the Wolf of Wall Street… and if you’re hiring for a sales role, you should know: “Sell me this pen” has become such a frequently-asked question, it can be easily answered in a quick Google search before the interview. It might not give you the candidate’s true selling abilities. It’s something you need to know before investing time and resources in training them.

Instead, ask them how they would handle a common roadblock your sales team faces. The answer will prove if they’ve done their research, and it will give you an idea of their persuasion skills if they were on a call.

What other “Bad Interview Questions” need to be retired?

What’s a common job interview question you wish would be retired? Share with me in the comments below.

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