~Tales of Terrible Mechanisms~

The Questions of Unknowing

Interviews are already stressful. Let’s just go ahead and say that the entire hiring process stinks and isn’t getting better. But, if someone does happen to make it to the fantastical interview plane, they stand little hope of continuing onward.


Because of a system questions designed to not lead anywhere except into a trap that one person cannot hope to ever escape. See, there’s a difference between questions, there are great questions then there are dreaded questions.

What’s the questionable difference in questions?

There are lines of questionings which are real inquires into discover answers or gain insight. Queries which can spin off into infinitely interesting conversations are always wonderful. Alas, dear reader, be forewarned, these are not the inquiries that I type of.

Here is the list of the most blasé of questions that are used to turn off a potential candidate and ruin a perfectly good interrogation… interview.

What makes you stand out?

Oh, Humdrum… how sweet of you to stop by.

This is exactly the kind of undercompensating question that requires a great deal of thinking on someone else’s part. Not. The. Candidate’s.

This favored interview question seems to circle around the conference table repeatedly like an infinitely annoying gnat. At the point of the interview, if you don’t know why this person stood out, they should walk out. A whole host of information is available to hiring managers from resumes, cover letters, online content, and more. If you’re interviewing them, they have already stood out to you in the first place.

Try to flavor up your vanilla with: What about our company or this position made us stand out to you?

What’s your biggest weakness?

My, aren’t we the fresh one! Did you ask about strength also? Did the dog eat their resume? The point here is, you might as well ask them what they weigh next. If you’re going for rudeness, you just stepped up. Strengths and weaknesses change with time. While you’re waiting, brush up on some etiquette.

Maybe, just maybe, to be a little less rude, you could ask: Where do you want to be challenged that you haven’t been before?

It’s all in the wording.

Why do you want to work here?

A person gotta eat. Why do you think they applied? Did you think this was a good question? You might want to bring your ‘A’ game and if this was it, try a substitution: What about us our projects attracts someone of your caliber here?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

*gives Magic 8 Ball a shake* <Yes>

NO! *tries again*

Dude, you suck.

Le Sigh.

Working for someone who doesn’t ask these questions.

Things change.

Plans change.

The world changes.

Asking someone where they see themselves in five years is fortunetelling. Would you tell me about your personal goals and professional goals, then tell me why you think they differ?

What other companies are you interviewing with?

Let’s talk about unprofessional. Do you actually ask your potential clients who else they are reviewing bids from?

I didn’t think so.

The smarter question is: What are the characteristics of the role do you envision for yourself? Because, that’s what you are looking for. What do they want to be doing versus what you want them to bring.

What’s a time you exercised leadership?

Let’s talk about leadership for a second. Every single person has the potential to be a leader. Not all of them are good at it and not all are bad. Also, leadership is a noun. It’s a generic name for actions.

Break down this question to something substantial, because you’re looking for a time they were good. You’re asking for a story, of any sort, because leadership doesn’t always happen in the work place. It happens everywhere. Will you tell us about a time where you had to lead people or take control of a situation? Now make some popcorn, this can get good!

What do you like to do outside of work?

Wear pajamas, drink beer, and play video games. You? Seriously, who thinks of these questions? What are your interests that round you out as a person?

If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?

*Throws popcorn aside* I cannot believe this is an actual interview question. This is more like a question asked by a very astute four-year-old. Humans are part of the animal kingdom. It’s our egos that want us to believe we’re higher order of animal than… say a… cougar. I don’t have anything witty to say other than pick a different question and never ask this again.

Are you planning on having children?

My mom called you, didn’t she? This might not be legal in the USA, but it’s still allowed in other countries. I put it on here for effect. It’s not as good as some I’ve read (like these gems), but it’s up there.

What were you earning at your last position?

This is another of those non-questions.

It doesn’t matter. It’s not your business. This question has nothing to do with the role you’re want someone to take on, if they make it past the Inquisition. Instead, the salary rage should have been stated up front which stops wasting people’s time — yours and theirs.

Tell me about yourself.

My name is Anna. I’m a Libra. I was born in the Year of the Ox. I love sparkles and jimmies. What the hell does this have to do with anything? This question is like the question someone asks that didn’t look at web content, read the resume, isn’t interested, or watch the videos posted on You Tube. At this point, you should be asking: Tell us one thing about yourself that we can’t find online or in your resume.

Tell me a time when you failed.

I missed the cereal bowl, dumping Lucky Charms everywhere. The cat, however, ended up with second-breakfast. She was happy and I was hungry. The end.

Make this question relevant by being a little more thoughtful with what you want out of it. Can you tell me about a time a project failed and the lessons you learned from it?

Interviews are about learning.

They learn from you what the role is about and met the people in the group. You learn about them, and their expectations, how they think they can fit in, and what they bring to the table. Those two things don’t happen when assessors ask inadequate questions.

Email me directly at anna@atomicdumplingmedia.com if you want to talk.

You can also hook up with me on Discord @Redchillismoke or Disqus @atomic-dumpling-media.

I blog for Atomic Dumpling Media on Scuttlebutt, you can subscribe through Apple News or your fav RSS feed.

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