3 Interview Questions to Stop Asking (and What to Ask Instead)

Feb 9, 2022Recruitment

I really like interviewing people. It is actually one of my favourite parts of what I do. I love the opportunity to connect with people and learn about who they are. When I interview someone, I try my darndest to make people feel seen and comfortable so that I can get a good idea of who they are – I try to get a sense of their true self. 

Many business owners struggle with interviews. It can be challenging to determine if someone is a good fit for your team based on first, or even second, impressions. There are many standard interview questions that will come up when you search for advice.

However, I have discarded these common interview questions because I have found they are counterproductive to my goals. In this article, I will explain why I don’t ask these questions anymore, and what you can ask instead. 

First, let’s make sure we understand the purpose of an interview. 

The Purpose of A Job Interview

The purpose of a job interview is threefold: 

  1. Determine if the person has the necessary skills to do the job
  2. Determine what the person’s unique experience and perspective can contribute to the company and organizational culture
  3. Give the applicant an opportunity to interview YOU. 

A quick note to applicants: I love when people come in and interview me as much as I am interviewing them. It is so important, as an applicant, to ask questions and use the recruitment process as a way to decide if you want to work for that company. 

Recruitment and hiring are lengthy processes, and at the end of the day, you want someone who is going to be the right person for the role and your business.  That is why I really focus on seeing the true person that I am interviewing and getting a strong sense of how they would potentially perform if hired. 

Since the interview process is a large part of how I determine if someone is a good fit, I put a lot of thought into the questions that I ask – and do not ask – during interviews.

Questions I No Longer Ask In Interviews

Here are my least favourite interview questions, and why I don’t ask them. In each instance, I will outline the purpose of asking it, why the candidate’s answer doesn’t give you what you need and what you can ask instead. 

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

The purpose…

The goal is to see how conscientious a candidate is. You would ask this question to see if they could self-identify where they add value and where their growth focus lies. 

The problem…

This question is so common and difficult to answer in a true, balanced way, people are coming into interviews having been coached by career coaches or even just through TikTok creators. So what you will get isn’t the truth, it is what they are being told the “right answers” are. 

Though I love a prepared candidate, the intention is to create a genuine conversation or honestly assess someone’s ability to self-evaluate. A rehearsed answer does not help you with either. 

Ask this instead…

How could your manager best set you up for success within the first 6 months in this role? 

This gives you insight into their preferred management style and tells you where they anticipate needing support. It may also bring into play some successful, or unsuccessful working relationships that this person has encountered, which can highlight how this person performs best. That is what you want to know.  

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

The purpose…

Like we said before, when you hire someone, you generally want them to be committed to the company and the role. This saves you from having to re-recruit for the same position. So this question’s intention is to understand the applicant’s goals and how that aligns with the succession planning for the position in question. 

The problem…

You’re putting your candidate into a situation that feels a bit too much like walking a tightrope. If they answer ambitiously, you may worry they will get bored. If their answer is too safe, you may not think they can grow in the company. If they are not sure, you may construe that as aimlessness. 

It’s putting them into a no-win situation, which adds a really tense atmosphere to the interview. Plus, you’re asking them to be fortune-tellers. And in these UNPRECEDENTED times, that is simply not fair. 

Try this instead… 

What are you most excited to learn about while in this new role? 

This gives you an idea of where they are interested in growing and tells you how thoroughly they reviewed the posting. 

What makes you stand out from other candidates for this position?

The purpose…

This question is asked to gauge how well your candidate understands their own qualifications and how they relate to the position. 

The problem…

Where do I start with this one…

  1. They don’t know who else you’re interviewing, so how can they say what sets them apart? 
  2. It very quickly turns into a sales pitch. A sales pitch is not a real snapshot of who they truly are – it’s a statement of what they think you want to hear. 

Instead, try asking…

What makes this opportunity special to you? 

This question gives them the opportunity to connect their skills to the role and again, gives you an indication as to how carefully they have considered this position. 

The Right Questions to Select The Right Candidate

As noted, finding the right candidate can be a real challenge. However, with the right support, strategies and questions, you can have much more confidence that the person you hire is truly the person for the job!

If you find yourself with questions about hiring, why not tap into our expertise? At Support Panda, we assist businesses in building teams and creating employee experiences that match their values. Book a call today to learn more! 

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