The Best and Worst Interview Questions
The Art of InterviewingDo Ask: "What's something you're passionate about?"Do Not Ask: “Are your parents healthy?" Do Ask: "What weakness has most impacted your ability to succeed at your career?" Do Not Say: "I'll bet you're a good dancer." Do Ask: "Do you volunteer within the community?" Do Not Ask: "Do you think you can keep up with these younger whipper snappers?" Do Ask: "Describe a situation in which you had to work with a difficult person." Do Not Say: "A headshot is required before you can be considered for this position." Do Ask: "What can I tell you about what we're doing here?" Do Not Ask: "Why hasn't anyone hired you yet?"
Interviewing is the most important part of the employee selection process. You want to ask questions that let you know if candidates can do the job, how they function under pressure, and how well they will fit in with your team. We asked Ask Inc. users and HR experts to share what questions to ask and which ones to avoid.
This is an excellent question that has a tendency to catch people a little off guard. If the candidate answers timidly or unenthusiastically, run. If the person is able to effectively communicate what he is interested in and makes you interested, chances are he is a smart and passionate person – the type you're looking for.
"Questions that may elicit information about the health, national origin and whereabouts of parents or children are prohibited in order to avoid any possibility of discrimination or bias on the basis of real or perceived disabilities, possible caregiver requirements, and national origin," says George Moskowitz, an independent consultant with Human Capital Solutions and acting head of human resources for Argyle Executive Forum in New York City.
Why wait until their one-year anniversary with the company before you have candidates perform a self-evaluation? Often, what potential employees think of their own abilities is what will be reflected in their work performance to some degree. Chronically tardy employees are usually bad at meeting deadlines. The good news is that they're already aware of the problem. The goal is to make you aware and to implement a system to curb their detrimental habits if they are, in fact, worth hiring despite their shortcomings.
While your applicant may very well be a great dancer, if she doesn't offer that information herself, you've just committed an egregious HR error – stereotyping a candidate based on physical or implied characteristics. Ask questions based on explicit feedback from the candidate. Don't stretch or try to be witty – this is the candidate's interview, remember? You've already got the job.
Extracurricular activities can reveal volumes about a candidate. Certain jobs, such as volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, can allude to traits such as physical strength, the ability to work alone, and, in the case of fundraising, exhibit trustworthiness with money. "However, you must be careful not to specifically ask what organizations (except professional) the applicant may belong to," says Moskowitz. Asking a direct question could potentially reveal information about national origin or religious affiliations. "The interviewer should not comment on the organization or ask the applicant what his/her relationship is to the organization, but rather the service that is being performed and what the applicant is getting out of it."
Allegations of age discrimination are on the rise, especially as the growing pool of laid-off employees continues to compete with the influx of recent college graduates. Judge candidates based on their proven abilities and track record, verifying their claims with past employers if necessary. Above all, do not ask a candidate to state his age during an interview. That line of questioning is legally prohibited.
"I like this question as it represents a behavioral approach to interviewing, which I find more productive than standard interview questions, such as 'have you ever worked with a difficult person?'," says Moskowitz. Behavioral interviewing, he says, is more indicative of future performance than traditional interviewing. Be sure to follow up with a question on the outcome of the situation.
We've all seen the ads on Craigslist – so-called employers asking for photos along with resumes before an applicant will even be considered. But asking for a picture may violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says you cannot consider race, color, sex, religion, or national origin when making any employment decision, including hiring. "Asking for a picture with the resume opens the door for the interviewer to possibly reject candidates for an interview based on how they look, and can open the door to a lawsuit," Moskowitz says. If you need help recalling a certain applicant, create a filing system that places resumes in the order of interest.
The quality of questions candidates ask you speaks volumes about their interest, curiosity level, and overall knowledge about your company. Do they really want to work for your company, or are they simply looking for any job they can find? As Jason Fried of 37signals points out , you want to screen out people who ask "how" questions, and hire independent thinkers who ask "why?"
There have been recent reports about employers refusing to hire unemployed applicants due to the assumption that desirable candidates weren't the ones who were laid off. The reality is that the economy, while in recovery, has more applicants than there are available jobs in some industries. Even if a candidate was let go from another company, he could be a great fit with yours. If you have legitimate concerns about a candidate's past performance, check references or employ him via a trial-to-hire period.
--Tiffany Black and Lauren Cannon