Must Ask Interview Questions--NOT!

Inc. Magazine recently released an article about the top questions that employers should ask all prospective employees and claims that these three questions will reveal all! I disagree and here is why:

How did you find out about the job?

Yes this question should be asked, but with the technology capabilities out there today the employer should know the answer to this before they even call the prospect for the first time.

Yes I do agree that you want people who want to work for your company and only your company, but very few companies have that kind of reputation. Another thing to consider is that person may deeply want to work for you, but if they are not qualified or have the right personality, they will still be a bad fit for the company. Personal passion is amazing, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for the company.

What did you like about the job before you started?

The wording of this question is a bit vague, but the point is to ask prospects to explain why they were interested in one of their previous jobs before they were offered the position—or “why did you apply?”

This question is so vague that it invites the wrong generic answers of “great opportunity,” “chance to learn about the industry,” “next step in my career,” or “I needed a job/experience.” Also with just coming out of a major recession, many people are still just trying to find a job.

Why people apply to a job verses why they stay with a company are two different things. A prospective employee can tell you what their intentions would be with that role or opportunity, but they can’t tell or prove what their experience will be like until it happens.

The other thing to consider is even if the prospective employee knows what type of environment they will thrive in, how honest or knowledgeable is the company being with that information. Employees want the best job for them just as much as the employer wants the best employees—but that doesn’t mean that everyone is always being honest.

Why did you leave?

I do agree that is a very important question to ask, but it is also what I call a staged question or in other words, it is expected. Because of that, prospective employees practice how to answer this question so whatever their answer is, it will sound like they are taking responsibility for their own actions, have learned something, and are able to work in a team environment successfully.

Take this concept and apply it in a different way. Ask about a particular project the prospective employee worked on or ask about how they handled changing teams or supervisors. Those will give you the same information with an unrehearsed answer.

How many people have you hired, and where did you find them?

Again, this is a surface level question that does not encourage discussion. Also, not everyone is in a role where this is a responsibility. So when it is relevant ok, but again numbers do not tell the whole story—go deeper. Where did they find prospects and why did they go to these resources?

If the question isn’t relevant ask them how they would have selected someone to work with on a previous project. What would that person look like, what skills would they have, what recommendations would they make to their boss about who to hire?

I’ve given you my take, what do you think are really the most important questions to ask in an interview?

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