They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question. But “they” are wrong. There are plenty. And when you ask silly things during the hiring process in particular, your hiring decision can be just as stupid as the questions asked.
HR managers and small business owners usually ask the right questions. Questions like Why do you want to work for us? and Why did you leave your last job? But sometimes, interviewers get too creative and ask off-beat, sometimes offending and illegal questions. Here are some of those questions:
“What is your favorite color?”
Unless you’re hiring an art director and are looking for an insightful reasoning to back the answer, don’t ask this. A program developer has every right to love the color orange, even if it doesn’t match his skin tone.
“What do your normally dream about at night?”
This is creepy and way too personal. You might be innocently asking about a candidate’s overall life aspirations, but dream interpretation is not the way to go about it. Instead try, “Tell me about your dream job.”
“Are you expecting?”
Even if the candidate has a noticeable baby-bump, you’re banned from asking about it. A person’s marital and family statuses are off-limits to interviewers. But what if you want a long-term employee? Ask about future goals instead.
“How old are you?”
People over 40 are protected by The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) from employment ageism. Avoid synonymic questions like “When did you graduate high school?” or “When were you born?” You know you’re sneakily asking the same thing. You are, however, allowed to ask if teenage candidates are of legal age to perform specific jobs.
“Describe your sex life.”
This was asked during a real interview. Out loud. Over 2,000 newly hired employees were asked by talent management consultants Development Dimensions International to divulge the weirdest interview questions asked of them. This made the list and all we can say is, don’t ever ask this.
“What do you dread about work?”
This is trap. There are obvious work-related tasks we’d all like to forever banish- filing, unnecessary meetings, monotonous reporting. You’re trying to get a sense of his or her work ethic, but there’s a better way to do this. Instead of forcing an answer like “Nothing. I absolutely love every work minute,” call previous supervisors for insight.
“What’s your race?”
This could get you in big trouble. There are some cases where appearance is a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ), like in TV or movie casting, but if you’re just looking for an accountant or project manager, steer clear of this question.
“How many sick days did you take last year?”
Prying health information out of a candidate is strictly prohibited and could get you sued. Wanting to avoid malingering employees is justifiable, but you can’t overtly ask this.
“Is there anyone else you would recommend for this position?”
Or you could just tell them they’re unfit for the position.
These are obviously stupid. And the legality of some is questionable. Remember: by asking imprudent and irrelevant interview questions, you run the risk of insulting potentially perfect hires and facing a lawsuit.
You also jeopardize your bottom line. Rather than focusing on informative questions, you might miss signs of a bad hire- which could be extremely costly. 25% of companies surveyed last year lost over $50,000 dollars due to a bad hire. So save 50K’s and avoid asking stupid questions. They do exist.