4 Interview Questions to Stop Asking, Now. Instead, ask…

What is your greatest weakness?

Umm……..Pizza!

If you’re asking this question, STOP! Two big reasons this question is worthless. 

A. Asking someone about their weaknesses is very personal and well, to put it bluntly, it’s none of your business. 

B. Do you think everyone would actually answer honestly? This is probably the most commonly asked interview question. Any savvy candidate already has the answer planned out which I bet will also have a positive reflection in the end, even if they had to make something up. 

What if their weakness would never be an issue in the role? For example, let’s say I interviewed for a data entry position. My weakness is public speaking. Well, no big deal because, in this role, making public speeches aren’t a part of the job. So again, this makes this question worthless.

Instead: Wait towards the end of the final interview, after you have discussed all the details of the job. Then ask the candidate, “Do you foresee any challenges from this role that I can address?”. By asking about any challenges they may be thinking about for this specific role, you are actually getting what you need from the question. For example, some of my candidates would tell me that after learning more details, they didn’t think they’d be able to keep up, they aren’t good at multitasking, for example. From there, we both could address that specific “weakness” which directly relates to the job and determine fit. This not only saves the company time and money but makes for a much better candidate experience.

What other companies have you interviewed with?

Again, this is none of your business but let’s say a candidate tells you; how are you going to use that information? What if the job is one that can be performed across various industries, company sizes, has varying compensation plans, etc., thus you get some confusing data? With all that confusion, the question becomes worthless. 

Instead: Ask about their particular field interests, what is most important to them, i.e. salary, culture, flexibility, defined career path, working in a team, making a difference, etc. This gives you specifics on how your company aligns with the candidate’s desires. 

Why did you leave your job?

Who cares? Really? You called the candidate in to interview for a reason so why do you care about why they left or wanting to leave their job? They obviously had the KSA’s you are looking for so why are you getting caught up with this question? Stay focused on your organization. 

Instead: Ask about their particular field interests, what is most important to them, i.e. salary, culture, flexibility, defined career path, working in a team, making a difference, etc. This gives you specifics on how your company aligns with the candidate’s desires.

Now you may be thinking…”wait, is this a typo? You just said that.” No, it’s not a typo, the same advice applies.

Why is there a gap in your employment?

I feel like a broken record, but once again, IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!

Now, I’m going to give you a little insight. Did you know this question can EASILY become a discriminatory question? What? Yes! Let’s think about this for a second by giving you some common answers to this question: 

  • I took a few years off of work to care for my two children.
  • I took the time off to care for my spouse who had cancer but is in remission now. 
  • I took the time off to get help for my anxiety. 
  • I had to have multiple surgeries for my (insert disability).

Do you get the idea? 

Instead: Again, you called the candidate in for a reason, they have the KSA’s you need, etc., so why not focus more on what they are going to do for your company? “How?”, you may be asking. Can I get a drum roll please…Behavioral Questions! Ah, my favorite! But not just any behavioral questions. Don’t focus on the past; stop asking for the candidate to tell you about a time when they… Instead, think about current pains in your workplace. Maybe your pains include things like, tough decision making (firing someone), delegating on a moment’s notice, prioritizing or meeting tough deadlines. Just make up a scenario that fits and ask the candidate how they would handle it, just don’t rush them to answer! So simple and yet so effective! 

So, what do you think? Are any of these 4 most commonly asked interview questions on your list? Do you find them effective as is or are they mostly a flop? Try my method and let me know how it goes! 

Jackie O’Keefe is the founder of KOTA Resourcing, an HR Consulting and HR Professional Recruiting company. Jackie provides specialized services in recruitment, HR development, policy and employee relations. She recently left her job with a top staffing agency where she conducted more than 500 interviews. Additionally, she has higher education in HR Management and is certified through the Society for Human Resource Management.

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