Somehow, and somewhere along the line, it was decided that forty five minutes to one hour was the ‘ideal’ time frame to interview candidates for a job position. Further, it seems to be deemed that the lower down the chain in the organisation the position, the less time you need to interview.
Given we are all busy and time is short, you don’t have time to waste on questions that don’t serve your selection requirements best, or elicit the quality information you need.
Here is a guide to the dumbest interview questions to avoid…
1. What Are Your Main Weaknesses?
It’s a waste of your precious interview time asking this has-been question. No-one is going to give you an honest answer to this one. Except for one guy, who said to an interviewer I was an observer for, “Well actually, I can’t think of any at all…”
Many interviewees have been coached around this one with the ‘turn it into a positive’ approach. For example, ‘My weakness is that I can’t say no, if asked to stay back to work’
Yeah, right. I’d say the weakness is that they are a flaky fibber!
Many candidates aren’t completely aware of what their real weaknesses actually are, and even their friends won’t tell them. The most accurate way to get to the bottom of the weaknesses that are relevant, (and relevant is the key word) is to use candidate assessment tests.
2. Where Will You Be In 5 Years Time?
This old chestnut is still making the rounds, and similar to the weaknesses question most people don’t really give you a straight answer. Secondly, who really knows where they will be in 5 years time? Life happens. The smart candidate also knows that it is a potential trap question, where they should be answering with a serve of undying loyalty for your company. If you both get real, you will get further in the interview. Just because a candidate says they are going to develop their career and make their way up in the company doesn’t mean they actually will. In addition, it is contrary to solid studies and surveys that indicate the average tenure in today’s workforce is 18 months to 24 months. Besides, the dates on their CV will indicate their average tenure (even if they have fudged it by a few months) and their level of stability, and is easily checked with references.
3. If You Were A Car/Animal/Colour… What Kind Would You Be?
This kind of a question, an ‘out-of-the-box’ or trick questions, are often thrown out willy-nilly with little understanding of how to use them, or how to interpret the answer effectively. Trick or ‘twist’ questions, if carefully constructed with a series of specific, follow up questions, can open up further insight about how an individual thinks, applies logic, plans or makes decisions. Unskilled interviewers who lack understanding of interviewing psychology are best to steer clear of twist questions, and resist the urge to use them just to ‘mix things up’ a little bit out of interviewing boredom.
4. What Are Your hobbies?
What are you going to do with the answer anyway? They are not there to pursue their hobbies, and you aren’t offering them, so it’s a go nowhere question.
I once had a person whose hobby was to dress up in medieval clothes and attend a club where they pretended to be in a political court of the 1300’s. Potentially useful if it was lawyers position, but she was in aged care. All I learned from this question was that there were six King Henrys during the Middle Ages, and one Queen Matilda.
If you want to know if a persons penchant for model trains will hold them in good stead for attention to detail, you are far better off using proven personality profiling tests.
5. Do You Have Any Kids?
Seems like an ordinary question you would ask any one at a Sunday BBQ to show you are interested in them. But why is it a dumb question? Firstly, you are not at a BBQ when formally (or informally) interviewing a candidate for a job. Secondly it is straight out illegal to ask it. It still floors me how many people don’t know that this is an illegal question in Australia. Candidates are within their rights not to answer it, and you potentially leave the company open to a discrimination issue. Beware of asking other illegal questions in protected categories such as age, marital status, race, gender, pregnancy status, national origin, disabilities, citizenship or arrest and conviction record. One young, inexperienced, recruiter I was mentoring in interviewing, straight out asked the candidate if he had murdered any one! I nearly had apoplexy, and stepped in to avoid an unlawful situation that could have gone horribly wrong. I wonder some times if he may have answered ‘Yes I did actually. I murdered an interviewer for asking a dumb question!!!”
Last word, your balance of interview questions should follow an 80/20 rule. 80% behaviour and culture fit related questions, and 20% skill & experience. It is highly researched, and many survey results determine that the majority of employee turnover results from behavioural or culture fit based issues, not on skill or ability based.
Anne-Marie is a sought after media commentator on HR, leadership, and business and has appeared in various publications including Sydney Morning Herald, Boss Magazine, NETT Magazine, Marie Claire, CLEO, My Business, Dynamic Business, Cosmopolitan & HR Monthly. In June 2012 Anne-Marie Co-authored ‘Mind Your Own Business’, a guide for small businesses, published by Mithra Publishing in the UK.