Interview Questions – The Best and the Worst

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Our interview questions can sometimes thwart attempts in hiring the best candidates. Learn how to identify some clunkers and replace them with quality questions!

Interview Questions - The Best and the Worst

Let’s do some guided imagery to kick off this post. Imagine this: You and your team will need to hire a new person to round out your staff team. You’re the hiring manager or selected to be part of an interview team. Perhaps it’s an expected vacancy. Or it’s a vacancy you weren’t expecting. And perhaps funding for an entirely new position came through. In any of these cases, resumes will be reviewed and top candidates will be invited for an interview.

At this point in the imagery, you have to think about the process that follows, as it varies from industry to industry. Thinking about my husband’s field of biotech, new hire interviews can last up to five hours over several days of interviews. However, in my previous field of student affairs, final interviews could last between six to eight hours and even up to two days (True Story!). That’s either a little time to fill or hours and hours to fill with questions. But in each interview slot, you still need quality questions to determine if the candidate is the best for the position.

In your imagined job to fill, what are the questions you want to ask? Questions you need to ask? And questions you think would be fun to ask?

Now ask yourself: which ones will help you find the best candidate for the job?

Good Questions Matter

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how interviewers can and should shift to a culture-add mindset when bringing in candidates. I shared a few resources on how to add questions to your mix of questions to help with your selection.

But I am also reminded that not all questions and all resources are great to consider.

There were many times I wanted to tell the interviewer what I really thought of their question!

Below I will share some questions to consider adding and those you should think about taking out to help create the best interview environment.

The Worst

In doing some research for this post, I ran across a few questions that were suggested to add to your interviews. I won’t share the names of the sites that provided these questions, but if any version shows up on your own, get rid of it.

  • If you were a dessert, what dessert would you be?
  • What is your usual order at a diner?
  • What is an unpopular opinion you hold?
  • How many footballs could fit in this room?
  • Which superpowers would you choose?
  • What advice would you give to your former boss?
  • Would you rather be a wedding cake or a fortune cookie?
  • If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see play the lead role as you?
  • How do I rate as an interviewer?

While these were suggested, I have some familiarity with them. I have been in an interview where I was asked about superpowers. I’m pretty certain I made a face, which showed off my confused state, and likely tilted my head in confusion.

I’m pretty sure I stumbled through the answer because the question didn’t fit the work I do or how I see myself. Showing up every day with a positive attitude was a superpower enough for me! But to push the question to some fictional world didn’t make sense to me as the candidate. I can only imagine what type of answer was expected from me.

And I think that’s the gist of bad questions. What type of answer are you expecting from the candidate from this clever question?

Instead, ask that question!

Instead of trying to be creative with your question, just ask what you really want to know!

The Best

I believe that the intention behind a bad question matters. Because, again, with hours to fill, some questions may get boring to ask. Or perhaps you’ve used the same interview questions time and again, which did yield some positive results. Consider challenging this status quo to broaden your pool and learn more about your candidates. Use some creativity to learn what you need to make the best culture-add decision.

Consider some of these questions below when looking to replace the current interview questions you use.

About Creativity:

  • What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
  • How do you manage to stay both personal and original in your creative endeavors?
  • What do you do to get into your creative zone?
  • If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?

About Organizational Culture

  • Do you come to work just to work, or do you like to socialize along the way?
  • What inspires you to work in this industry?
  • Tell me about a time when you felt like a hero at work.
  • Tell me about a time when a job or company felt like a bad fit for your personality and why.
  • What are the three most important attributes you’ll bring to our company?

About the Big Picture

  • If you were the CEO of our company, what would your 5-year plan be?
  • What do you think our industry is going to look like in 10 years? Will it still exist?
  • If you were interviewing me for my job, what would you want to know about me?
  • If you had an unlimited budget, what innovation would you want to create in our industry?
  • How are you going to continue to develop your professional skills and knowledge?

About Work Relationships

  • What adjectives would your past coworkers use to describe you and why?
  • Describe the work environment that will help you to contribute most effectively.
  • What kind of oversight would your ideal boss provide?
  • Describe a situation in which you worked as part of a team, but your team failed to accomplish the goal on time and within budget. What was your role? What did you learn?

About The Candidate

  • What do you suck at?
  • What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months?
  • Tell me about a project you worked on that failed. What did you learn?

While a unique question may break up a long list of similar questions, asking a probing question could yield an equally interesting answer. And the answer may tell you more about the candidate’s skills and aspirations. Even being franker in the questions, asking “what do you suck at” rather than asking “what’s your biggest weakness” may throw the candidate off-kilter but yield a truthful answer that’s relevant!

And more relevant answers will always help compare candidates in the long run.

Ask a better question, get a better answer – which is always going to be more helpful!


About Post Author

Joseph Rios, EdD

I am Joseph Rios and I believe that leadership is an expression of our values
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