If your job description includes interviewing job candidates, here are five questions to scratch off your interview script immediately:
1. What’s your greatest weakness?
2. Where do you see yourself in five years?
3. What’s your greatest failure so far?
4. With all the talented candidates, why should we hire you?
5. What would your last boss say about you?
What do these five questions have in common? They all ask a job-seeker to dance and prance and prove to you that they deserve a chance at the job.
Asking people to dance and prance is not a business skill. It has no place in the professional world.
Whether you intend them to or not, these five questions all reinforce the unhealthy and bad-for-business viewpoint that the employer is mighty and a job applicant is nothing.
It is none of our business what a job-seeker’s greatest weakness is.
It is only a cultural belief that people have weaknesses.
What is a weakness, anyway? It’s something that you could be better at doing than you are.
Of course there will always be millions of things you can’t do well — and so what? What’s important is that you know what you are good at.
It is beneath you as an interviewer to ask a stranger such a personal and intrusive question as “What’s your greatest weakness?”
The answer to this question doesn’t help you make a better hiring decision — but it does diminish you as a professional and as a person to ask.
It is ludicrous to ask a job applicant about their five-year plans given that you are not offering them employment for five years or perhaps even five weeks. This question springs from another deep-seated cultural bias — the bias that people with firm plans are more adult or responsible than people without them.
It is not even responsible to make a five-year career plan these days given the volatility of everything. If a job-seeker has a five-year plan, it might include traveling around the globe or doing something wholly unrelated to your business.
Why would any interviewer feel they deserve to know what someone’s personal, life plan is?
The “greatest failure” question is just as offensive as the “weakness” question and for the same reasons.
Some interviewers defend the question “Why should we hire you?” as the purpose behind the entire interview, but they miss one critical fact. It is not up the job-seeker to tell you why they are the right person for you to hire. You know the job inside and out, or you should if you are interviewing candidates for it — they don’t.
It is up to you as the interviewer to ask real-life, practical questions about work that is performed in the role in order to assess the candidate’s suitability for the job. The question “Why should we hire you” is not only obnoxious — it is the mark of a lazy interviewer, too!
The question “What would your last boss say about you?” is a fail but it also sends the message that in your mind, all bosses are on a higher plane of existence than all non-bosses.
Why would you or anyone care what my last boss thought about me? Would your answer change if I told you my last boss is in prison?
“What would your last boss say about you?” is a horrendous question because it presumes that it is every employee’s responsibility to know what their boss thinks or says about them — and that is not the case.
People with normal self-esteem do not go to work to please their boss, but to do their job and grow their flame.
Here are smarter questions you can start asking in place of the five questions you’ll be deleting from your interview protocol:
What can I tell you about this job or the company? (The candidate’s questions in response to this query will tell you a lot about their altitude level, their understanding of this type of work and the business world in general, their priorities and their preparedness for the interview.)
How does this role fit into your career plans? (The candidate’s answer to this question will tell you whether they are someone who simply needs a job and isn’t choosy — which may be a point of view that is a great fit for some roles and wildly inappropriate for others — and give you insight into the candidate’s level of altitude on their career.)
As you think about yourself performing this job, what do you imagine will be the biggest challenges as you get started? (The candidate’s answer to this question will make it clear how well they’ve thought through the requirements of the position and the overlap between those requirements and their own background.)
From what you understand about the job, which of your experiences at work or somewhere else do you feel will help you in this job? (You want some evidence that the applicant can handle the position, and this is a great way to ask for it!)
If you take this position, how do you expect to tackle the new job and the projects we’re discussing? In a general way, what will be your plan of attack? (Here you will see the candidate’s mind working, and that is what you want. You want them to see your mind working, too!)