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6/29/2015 11:20:42 AM

Six questions you shouldn't ask an applicant (and six you should)

If the recruitment process leaves you disheartened because you can’t find any applicants with that ‘spark’, it could be your interview methods which leave something to be desired. If the questions you are asking are too routine, bland or vague, you are likely to get routine, bland or vague answers.

Here are six such questions, and what you could ask instead.

Tell me about yourself.

Faced with this in an interview situation, a candidate will probably condense themselves down into career-focussed points, all of which already appear on their CV. Ask them something more targeted instead, such as What makes you happy? This would reveal the candidate as a person and help them feel at ease and show their passionate side.

Can you tell me about your past positions?

A candidate’s past positions will have given them relevant experience, but general questions about the roles themselves are wishy-washy.

Look to the near future: tell them about a current project in the business and ask: How would you tackle this? This will give you an insight into their skills and how they are applicable to your company.

What are your strengths/weaknesses?

A routine question which will get routine responses, with strengths such as ‘I’m a team player’ or ‘organisation’ popping up frequently, and weaknesses like ‘I’m a perfectionist’ or ‘I work too hard’ becoming clichés.

Ask specific questions that target the qualities you’re looking for. For example, Can you give an example of a time you worked well with a team?

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

This question can provoke empty flatteries about how the candidate wants to progress within the company. Instead, ask What would you like to achieve during your time here? This would encourage the candidate to give a more unique answer, considering their skills and the role rather than just the company.

Why would you like to work here?

You will probably get rehearsed responses which regurgitate phrases on your website. Why not try What are you looking for in an employer/manager/team? to get an idea of whether they will be happy in your company’s environment.

Any question about race, gender, sexuality, children or disabilities.

You’re trying to ascertain whether the candidate will be able to do a good job and fit into the workplace. None of the above characteristics affects this and so they are not relevant at all. Furthermore, if you place emphasis on them, you will be breaking discrimination laws.

Instead, ask a relevant question, perhaps Why are you leaving your current job?, which would give you an idea of what it is that they are looking for.


By tailoring your interview methods a little, you can get so much more out of a candidate and a better idea of who they are, how their brain works and how they will fit into the role and the workplace.

- written by Alex Cruden

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