Three common interview questions you really shouldn’t be asking

By February 23, 2012Human Resources
Human Resources Job interview questions

Whether you hire once a year or are an experienced HR professional, conducting an interview is an important skill, and the most critical element of the hiring process. So what if someone told you that you had it all wrong?

Interviews, as most hiring managers have been trained to do, are inherently flawed. Or at least that’s the opinion of Mark Murphy, leadership strategist and author of a book called Hiring for Attitude. The insights we get into candidates’ true attitudes are limited by our commonly bad questions.

Here are three very common (but very bad) interview questions:

1) Question: “Why should I hire you?”

This doesn’t seem that bad—but really, is as common as the proverbial “tell me about your biggest weakness.” Questions like this call for a canned, prepared response. There isn’t a candidate on earth who hasn’t thought about how they they would respond to this. If a question doesn’t really require someone to think on the spot about a response, it falls into this category. The point is to get a candidate thinking on their feet, not reciting an answer they have already put together.

2) Question: “Tell me about a time when you were able to resolve a difficult situation by finding some common ground.”

This is a common type of behavioural question that is widely accepted in HR circles. I’m inclined to think there are merits to this line of questioning. So why can this pose a problem? In courtrooms this is what’s called a leading question, and Murphy argues it’s applicable here too. This question hints at the fact that there is a correct answer (i.e. you resolve conflict by finding common ground). You want a candidate to come to the answer or conclusion of their own accord.

3) Question: “Tell me about a time that your priorities had to quickly change, and how you overcame that.”

This is another common behavioural question, and this one specifically asks for a success story. Sometimes, what truly sets someone apart in the workplace is how they respond to failure. A question like this is basically saying, “don’t tell me about the times you couldn’t resolve the problem, tell me about the one time you did.” Failure, however, is a reality of day-to-day life at work, and what’s truly indicative of someone’s attitude is how they respond to that.
Do you agree or disagree with these ideas? Do you find behavioural questions effective during the interview process? What other common questions do you think are ineffective?