Job interviews are stressful for job seekers, intentionally so. They have to face challenges designed to prove that they’ll be a great employee, can perform under pressure, and show that they’ll fit in without seeming overeager or disingenuous.
But maybe it’s employers who should be stressing more about interviews.
A 2015 LinkedIn survey of more than 20,000 job seekers found that 83 percent of respondents would change their mind about taking a position after a negative interview experience. This means organizations can lose out on talent by asking the wrong job interview questions, or worse, asking the ones job seekers hate.
There’s a real struggle going on right now for many companies to find the best employees out there. It’s in your best interest to create an engaging candidate experience while, at the same time, properly screening job seekers.
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Here are three job interview questions candidates are sick of hearing and alternatives that will still help you vet candidates:
1. “What Can You Tell Me About Yourself?”
For many, this seems like the most natural way to start an interview. It gives the job seeker a chance to introduce herself and go over the highlights of her background. However, the hiring manager should already be familiar with this information.
This question signals to the candidate that either you haven’t taken the time to either read the resume she worked so hard on, or that you can’t think of more customized questions to get to know her. That sets a bad precedent for how talent will be treated if hired.
After all, if you can’t take a few minutes to read her resume, why should she believe that you’ll take the time to give her the support and guidance she deserves from an employer?
Instead, make the first question you ask specifically about the job seeker. It will show that she’s not just another nameless applicant and that you’re actually interested in getting a deeper idea of who she is. Whatever stood out to you as out of the ordinary or unique is a good place to start because it gives the candidate a chance to talk about what makes them special without feeling like they’re bragging.
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2. “What Are Your Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses?”
In 2015, Glassdoor analyzed interview reviews and compiled a list of the most common job interview questions. “What are your strengths?” and “What are your weaknesses?” were number one and number two.
One of the most common pieces of advice job seekers receive is to never give generic or cliche responses during an interview. Yet employers can keep reusing the same tired questions.
While it is important to learn about a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, there are better and more unique ways to get that information. For example, you could ask, “If you could learn to improve any one skill, what would it be and how would mastering that skill affect your professional future?”
The candidate’s response will not only tell you what his weaknesses are, but also open the door for discussion about the candidate’s career goals and his plan to achieve them.
3. “How Many People Flew Out of Chicago Last Year?”
Impossible-to-answer questions are designed to see how candidates handle pressure and solve problems creatively. But some questions are so crazy or hard that they make the interview unnecessarily difficult.
Another 2015 study by Glassdoor found that while a somewhat challenging interview led to greater long-term employee satisfaction, an interview rated as “very difficult” decreased satisfaction.
In order to ensure job interview questions are demanding enough to weed out bad hires, but not so over the top that they scare away great ones, keep them as closely related to the position as possible. That way candidates will know their skills and experiences are being assessed and that they’re not just jumping through hoops.
Focus on scenarios that would be extreme, but could still happen. For instance, ask candidates what they would do if they were working with a co-worker on a big presentation for a client and on the morning of the presentation the co-worker was running late and had the only copy of it.
How they answer will tell you how they think on their feet and whether they'd throw their co-worker under the bus.
When asking talent job interview questions, remember that they are vetting the organization during the experience. Inquiries that make them feel unimportant or like they’re being set up for failure do not send a positive message about the company.
So instead of just choosing questions that give you the answers you want, find ones that also create a great interview experience for candidates.