A business woman asking questions

Why Aren’t We Asking These Questions in HR?

Times change, but some HR departments stick to a formula that’s well past its sell by date.  You know what we’re talking about.  We’re talking about tired, flyblown interview questions.

These are the cringe-worthy queries job candidates dread, galvanizing themselves in preparation for them as they walk into every interview.   There’s a reason they’re dreaded – they’re time-worn, amorphous and do little to help you select the right person.

In this blog, we’re trotting them out and suggesting more appropriate alternatives.  Those alternatives are intended to compel you to ask the question, “Why aren’t we asking these questions in HR?”.

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

This old chestnut is rolled out with such mind-numbing frequency that it’s never really had the opportunity to gather dust.  It’s the “go to” annoying question every living, breathing, working person dreads more than any other.

Job seekers aren’t fortune cookies, interviewers.  The truth is that in a dynamic, employee-driven job market, there’s really no way of knowing.  And besides, mobility is the new “job for life”.

Why not ask how the candidate intends to rock the role they’re applying for?  A question like “Why are you not only the right candidate for this job but the only one?”, invites the candidate to speak of themselves in flattering terms.  It’s your opportunity to gauge confidence, humility and sense of humor.

What’s your greatest weakness?

What interviewers need to ask themselves before deploying this clunker is the value of forcing unpleasant self-examination in a professional setting.  Does it really have any value to speak of?

We think not.

Instead, you might want to ask a behavior-based question like, “What’s the proudest moment you can remember in your working life?”  Surprise the candidate by providing space for them to share a project or an accomplishment that stands out for them.  Watch their face as they speak.  If they’re being sincere and honest with you, it’ll show.

Why did you leave your last position?

Instead of establishing rapport, this question is a full-frontal demand for information which may put your candidate on the defensive.  At any rate, it should be in the resume you will have received prior to the interview and that’s something you should have read beforehand, right?

Try something a little less intimidating.  Ask, “How have you developed relationships with past co-workers and how have those relationships served the organizations you’ve worked for?”  Sending your candidate on a trip down memory lane may render both positive and negative results, but either way, you’ll have a created a window into the candidate’s relational style and the question may lead to other avenues of inquiry which are similarly revelatory.

Being creative about the questions you ask in the context of a candidate interview allows you to tease out character and work and relational styles which separate great candidates from good candidates.

Precedent HR is setting the standard, bringing you comprehensive applicant tracking that helps you find the right people for your organization.  You know they’re out there.  Let’s go find them!

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