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Don’t bother asking a job applicant this typical interview question. It’s weak.

Posted on: August 24th, 2017 | Category: Hiring Methodology, hiring process, Interviews, Our Blog

Recruiting and brandFiguring out what to ask a job candidate in an interview isn’t the easiest task in the world, which might be why some business owners and hiring managers rely on the typical questions.

The problem with too many of these standard-issue questions, however, is that you get standard issue answers—sound bites, if you will. Aside from showing that the candidate has practiced and prepared for the expected inquiry, the responses can offer little else to an employer seeking to find a truly exceptional person to fill a position in their organization.

We recently read an interesting post over at by TED Social Content Manager Julia Fawal. It outlined the difference between competency-focused and character-focused interview questions. Even though both types of questions are important, the article explained that most of the time, employers focus on competency more, and neglect to look in depth at other important attributes that can impact business, such as integrity, thoughtfulness and ability to hold their composure.

The article pointed out one question in particular that is often asked in interviews, but does not bring lot to the hiring-decision table. It may surprise you to see which one it is:

“What are your greatest weaknesses?” is a commonly asked character question, but it’s a bust. The interviewer often feels obliged to ask because the answer, if honest, could be valuable. But in reality, the usual responses — “I’m too detail-oriented,” “I work too hard” and “I care too much” — are rehearsed, predictable and disingenuous. And while candidates are aware that they’re not being helpful or truthful when they make such statements, they’re also afraid to reveal their true flaws.

This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. When employers ask questions like this, they most often get responses that are little more than expected generalities, clichés and possibly a nice “humble brag” or two. Does this really give insight into how the candidate will fit into your workplace or contribute to your business? Probably not.

So what can you ask to find out more about character?

According to the Fawal, character questions should be an important part of the mix in a job interview. Some of her suggestions include:

  • Asking what traits from a candidate’s parents would they most want to ensure they have themselves. (GOAL: To open a conversation that leads to an unrehearsed responses and a sense of a candidate’s values)
  • “What is 25 times 25?” (GOAL: To see how people react under real-time pressure and how they’ll approach challenging or awkward situations—the math itself is irrelevant)
  • Ask about people whose lives positively changed thanks to the candidate. (GOAL: To find out if this person will be an employee who can help lift up fellow team members and if this person is someone inclined towards compassion and goodwill)

While questions that pertain specifically to competency are still important to the interview process, they should not be the only ones you ask candidates. Remember, the person you hire will be part of your workplace community and will be both affected by and have an influence on your company culture. Since the interview is a crucial step in finding the right person to join your team, don’t miss this chance to finding out more about their character while they are conversing with you.

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