You Are Boring Me With Your Questions

I’m not a fan of the text book interviewing questions. I don’t ask candidates about their strengths and weaknesses, I don’t ask them about a time when they had a disagreement with a boss.  Those are canned questions and every candidate is likely prepared for them.

As a job seeker, I’m annoyed by those questions. I can answer them in my sleep. I know how to make a weakness sound like a strength and what story about a disagreement puts me in a good light. Every job seeker should be able to do this as well.  That’s exactly why I don’t ask those questions. They are boring.

I like questions that will make a job seeker think. I ask candidates to “tell me something about your profession you would change and why” or to “tell me what you look for an ideal company.”

Yes, past behavior can be predictor of future behavior but let me ask you this, when do you know for certain that the past behavior a candidate has told you about is the honest truth?  To quote House, “People lie.” Or, to better phrase that for our purposes, people stretch or have difference perceptions of the truth.

I find that having a conversation with a candidate about their work, not necessarily about their job, leads to a better understanding of the candidate.  Asking questions that throw them off track a bit, something to rattle their brains around, is always fun too but just don’t go all Google on them.

So for those of you reading and thinking “preaching to choir here lady” I send my thanks. Thanks for doin’ it right.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the Author

April Dowling

April Dowling, SPHR, is an HR Professional in Birmingham, Alabama where she works as an HR Generalist in the Insurance/Health care industry. She’s currently having a torrid love affair with technology and how to leverage it to make her professional and personal life better. April writes her own blog over at PsuedoHR and you can connect with her on Twitter as @adowling.

6 Comments

Audrey Geddes

Excellent article, April. I completely agree that asking questions outside of the box will enable you to hone in more on the person your are interviewing. Andria L. Corso writes about being a ‘trusted advisor’ in her book, From Gatekeeper to Trusted Advisor. She points out some real-life examples on what to do (and not to do) that are very helpful.

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Kimberly Roden

Yay April — rock on!

I like to say that I prefer “behavioral interviews” which for me equates to an amiable chat where we’re both learning. When done properly, it’s amazing how much you can learn about a candidate’s innate abilities regarding flexibility, creative thinking and willingness to learn, just to mention a few.

My “broken record” mantra is that the employer-employee relationship has to be mutually beneficial to be successful. Get to know them from the early stages — at the interview.

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Meda

Hello April,

Great subject!

I am not a recruiter but I have been interviewed a couple of times and I can say that I love the idea of not having to answer the same standard questions as a candidate. In my opinion the recruitment process has two interviews: one is the interview that I, as a candidate for the specific position, have to answer and second is the check list that I go through in my mind in evaluating the potential employer. In this evaluation I am looking to discover if the potential employer is looking for creativity, flexibility and strategic thinking, case in which I am happy to be part of that company.
I consider the interview questions a reflection of the company’s strategy and approach. Therefore, I think that not every company can/will adopt “off track” questions but, as a professional, I am looking for the employer who asks the right questions.

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Chris

Amy, you are so right, they may be boring but most people don’t know how to answer them. But ladies, wouldn’t it be nice to have like a 2 week reality show process. Kinda like the Apprentice, you get watch the candidates at home, on task, in the team setting and socially. But since we can’t, we have the interview and canned questions.

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Amy

As someone who interviews a lot of candidates, I’m bored to tears with the canned questions. However, I never cease to be amazed at how many candidates can’t answer them! Or at least don’t answer them well at all. Come on, all you have to do is Google interview questions to find most of what might be asked. I try to throw in some creative questions, but it really depends on the position for which I’m interviewing. If they’re stumped by the canned questions, I don’t even bother.

But I think the whole interview process is a big waste of time. Yet so many hiring managers want to spend WAY too much time on it. Short of a very technical position that requires specific skill level, I can tell within 10 minutes of talking to a candidate whether they’d succeed or not.

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Tamkara

Hello April,

Thanks for the post. I enjoyed reading it.

I definately agree that sometimes past behavior can be an accurate predictor of future performance. However, apart from candidates withholding the truth in order to give the right impression to recruiters other things could go wrong when past behavior is not analyzed in a holistic manner.
I have found that past experience rather than being used solely as a predictor of future performance or behavior can actually act as an instrument to shape character and mold future attitudes for the better.
As an example, someone who made poor choices at work and was corrected, may learn from that experience and use it as a learning point to deliver stellar results in the future.
Questions that focus solely on ferreting information about past behaviors as a means of forecasting an employees future performance without taking into consideration the learning points the employee may have gleaned in the process, may not only be very boring but may also be quite unfair.

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