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Avoid unproductive interview questions to make the right hire

Interviewing job candidates for an open position is not an easy process. It can be tedious, stressful and time-consuming. Also risky—because if you make the wrong hire, it can cost you time and money, and create a lot of stress.

That’s why you want to ask questions that will get answers you need to make the right decision. And yes, it’s also why many companies use a recruiter or recruiting agency for the initial phase of the interviewing process. Professional staffing services not only know how to find the right candidates, but how to ask the right questions, as well.

Some interview questions are better than others at eliciting information to help you make a good decision. Chances are, you have been interviewed for a job yourself and have been asked an unproductive question or two. Here is a sampling of questions to avoid and why:

  • “What’s your greatest weakness?” Everyone has come to anticipate this question and has an answer prepared, one that will convey how their weakness (“I take too much work home” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist”) is really a strength. So, you won’t really uncover their weaknesses with this question anyway. Instead, ask, “Tell me about a time when you needed help to complete a task. How did you proceed to get the necessary information or assistance?
  • “Do you think you can handle the workload?” No one is actually going to answer “no” to this question. The answer will be a confident “yes,” so you already know the answer to this one. Try asking about a time when they felt overwhelmed at work and how they managed to accomplish everything.
  • “Where do you see yourself in five years?” This question has good intentions, but has become a cliché. Many candidates don’t have a clue as to where they might be in five years. Rather, ask why they applied for this position and how it would fit into their long-term career goals.
  • “Tell me about yourself.” First, this request is too broad. You don’t want to know about candidates’ personal lives but rather what they have done professionally. So, focus on that. Second, you might appear unprepared. With resume in hand, you already know where they have worked and when. Instead, begin with some general questions about their prior experience. As their comfort level increases, ask more specific questions about their day-to-day responsibilities and noteworthy accomplishments.
  • “What were you like as a child?” You’re not hiring the child. You’re hiring the adult that the child became, and they may be quite different. What the interviewee was like as a child—easy-going, a little hyper, obedient, etc.—is really immaterial.
  • “What kind of tree (or animal) would you be?” Yes, this is really a question asked in some job interviews. It’s representative of a whole list of far-out questions whose answers shouldn’t really matter to you, unless you’re really more intent on hiring an oak than an elm (or a cheetah than a panda).

If you would like help with interviewing and finding the right candidates for a professional, full-time position, talk with us here at TriStarr, an employment agency and HR consulting firm with recruiters (or if you prefer, headhunters) in Lancaster, PA.

We back our recruiting with our Good People Guarantee. If you aren’t pleased with a new hire within the first few months, our guarantee takes effect. We will replace the person with another candidate at no cost or provide an agreed-upon, prorated refund. But our clients rarely request that. With more than 60 combined years of recruiting and temp staffing experience, we find the candidates who are a great fit almost every time.

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