Interviews are an undeniable fact of hiring. They are often considered to be one of the most effective ways to learn more about candidates and their career goals. That is, IF they are conducted consistently and if good interview questions are used. The trouble is that hiring managers often get into a rut with interviews and find themselves using the same tired old interview questions over and over again. Even the most seasoned interviewer can be guilty of this. And in today's world where candidates aren't just going through the usual job search motions but are actively choosing between multiple offers, subjecting a potential new hire to a dull, lifeless interview is not the way to attract their attention. These days the old "tell me about yourself" question isn't going to cut it. So how can you shake off that interview rut and boost your questions to provide a better candidate experience?
Why your rehashed interview questions could be hurting recruitment efforts
The real problem here is that job seekers are super-savvy these days and it takes just a quick search online to find a list of common interview questions that your company uses. Questions pertaining to managing difficult situations, where candidates want to be in a few years, why the company should hire them, and what past experience they have --- are all overused by organizations. Even the company that tries to come up with something unusual ends up getting it’s top-secret interview questions exposed and discussed on sites like Quora and Glassdoor which allow users to post sample answers to the questions they encounter.
When candidates know what interview questions to expect, they can prepare responses that sound pretty convincing to hiring managers. There are some things that will be difficult, if not impossible, to verify and candidates know this.
From the candidate side of things, being asked the same worn-out interview questions is annoying and a real waste of time. They are not impressed when they encounter an unprepared interviewer who has pulled a list of general job interview questions off a website somewhere. Neither are candidates happy about having to jump through stupid hoops to answer some odd-ball interview question that seemingly has no correct answer. This is a sure-fire way to say, “goodbye” to the talent walking through (or rather out) your doors. And keep in mind, the type of candidates who will be annoyed at this sort of interview behavior are likely the ones you are hoping to bring into your company. The interview process is something most people are familiar with, yes, but that doesn't mean it can't be an engaging conversation that gets at real insight rather than a basic execution of common questions. So what's the next step to boosting your interview game?
Out with the old...ditching bad interview questions
How can we make interviews more authentic? Here are some strategies for reframing tired interview questions and make them more interesting to improve the candidate experience and your hiring goals.
Consider why you are asking these questions in the first place
It’s possible that the company has been passing around the same list of interview questions for years. Maybe they were handed down by the HR director to the management team in a training session. Or maybe they are just what feels safe. If these are the reasons, it’s time for an upgrade.
Find out where these interview questions came from
Were the interview questions sourced from a valid career website or experts in specific areas of the business? If they were just randomly assembled, there is a chance they have no place in your organization anymore. Check out behavioral interview questions instead for a strategy with a little more structure.
Evaluate the questions and what kind of answers you receive
Read over the questions from the perspective of someone looking for a job. Do they tell you anything valuable about the company or what you can expect from a career experience here? Do the questions produce any interesting answers from candidates? If not, they need to go.
Review how/if you validate answers from candidates
It’s your job to fact-check what candidates tell you about themselves. Are any of these interview questions giving you that opportunity? Watch out about asking questions that can not be validated.
Gather some feedback from candidates
If you want to know if you are working with good interview questions, why not ask candidates themselves? Ask them in a follow-up email survey and have them rate the interview questions. Find out what they wanted to get from the interview and if they managed to do so successfully. If all your candidates report that they weren't, it should be a red flag to any hiring manager.
In with the new...designing better interview questions
Once you've done an audit of your most common interview questions, it's time to think about shaking things up. Try using these alternatives to some of the most-asked interview questions, to make the candidate experience more interesting and fun.
Interview Question #1: Why should we hire you?
Why it needs a re-do: It’s a candidate-driven market currently, so the question really should be along the lines of why the candidate wants to work for the company, instead of the competition.
Re-write: What appeals to you about working for our company?
Interview Question #2: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Why it needs a re-do: No one knows where they will be in their career in five years -- the economy has changed and so have mindsets around what a good career path should look like. Now people tend to spend less than two years in any one job before they find the next opportunity. All asking this question will do is put your candidate in an uncomfortable position where they'll likely have to lie.
Re-write: What can our company do to give you a great career-building experience?
Interview Question #3: How did you handle a difficult client/situation at your last job?
Why it needs a re-do: Every job circumstance is different, therefore just because a candidate claimed to have diffused a situation with a difficult client, doesn't mean this will happen in the future at your company. Instead, rephrase in an actual possible experience at your company.
Re-write: If you are hired as a manager and one of our high-level clients becomes angry, what steps might you take to provide them with the best possible service?
Interview Question #4: What are your greatest strengths/ greatest weaknesses?
Why it needs a re-do: A question like this is really a good way to find out how well the candidate has rehearsed for the interview. They’ve been told to answer with all positives, even when it comes to weaknesses, and that is all you will ever get. The only thing this question does is trigger a mindless answer the candidate has memorized.
Re-write: What would your family or close friends say is an area you sometimes struggle with?
Interview Question #5: Are you interviewing with other companies?
Why it needs a re-do: This is an unrealistic interview question. Please cross this out with black marker if it is still on your interview questions list. Of course the candidate is interviewing for other firms. That is not even in question anymore with today's job market. This will be doubly true if you're hiring in a space where there's not enough talent to attract.
Re-write: What have you noticed is different about our company so far?
These are just a handful of common interview questions to start with. As you re-do your own list, think of ways that your company can make the time with the candidate more meaningful. Not only will it give the hiring manager or recruiter more insight into who they want to hire, but it will leave a positive memory in the minds of your candidates. So in your next interview, ditch the standard questions and you might just find your star candidate is eager to jump onboard.