Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
Interviewing is a practice that still clings to the old ways; outdated and behind the curve. Companies will defend themselves, claiming their questions are scientifically researched and designed to reveal a person’s true character but that’s really not true. Stupid interview questions are traps, designed to make you uncomfortable and to reveal things in the worst possible context.
Interviewer and interviewee enter the room as professional adults with the goal of matching a skilled candidate to a job opening, yet the platform that determines the fit is littered with irrelevant and meaningless questions. It’s a thinly disguised process that leaves both parties lacking in the real information needed to make a hiring decision.
Hardly anyone likes to acknowledge this. A workplace where this is done well reflects a healthy work culture. An experienced interviewer—and they do exist—knows the stupid question road is a dead end that serves no one well.
Short of everyone having an epiphany and doing it right, the best defense is a good offense. How you frame your responses says a great deal about you, your intelligence and your communication skills. Your goal is to provide the interviewer with data to evaluate you against the position.
Stupid Interview Questions: Theirs
Rarely is there a level playing field. In the worst of all possible scenarios, the candidate is in the hot seat and must prove themselves in an orchestrated one-up, one-down style. “Prove to me you are the one I should hire” permeates each question, with undercurrents of an “I’ll get you and your little dog too” strategy.
Stupid questions abound – too many to list them all. They reveal laziness on the part of the company and interviewer and offer no content that could not be obtained through a more rational set of questions. A stupid question is a waste of time, there is no way to score an answer that is not subjective. It’s OK to terminate an interview that is going down the stupid road. If it feels wrong, it probably is.
Hall of fame stupid questions include:
- Why should we hire you?
- What would your old manager say about you?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Why is a manhole cover round?
Trick Interview Questions
These are also trick questions that have no place in an interview. So yesterday.
But they do get asked, so tie your answers directly to your work history, experience, skills and the belief that you are a strong fit in the job. It catches them off guard but also allows you to provide an intelligent and meaningful response.
Never use the word weakness. I have always wanted to say “My weakness is potato chips”, but generally go with “I don’t define myself by weaknesses; it’s not an effective way to evaluate skills. I am proficient in my field and committed to a high standard of excellence in the work I do. One of my goals is to become more proficient in Oracle with respect to purchase-order management and I just completed a training class”.
No one is perfect. We all have areas we can improve upon and the best way to highlight those is with interest and initiative towards a stated goal.
A question almost every interviewer uses is “tell me about you.” It’s an unstructured request designed to see how articulate and confident you are and to get a sense of your career history, skills and goals. Practice your answer and keep it focused.
If you are an interviewer, I encourage you to read Human Workplace founder Liz Ryan’s take on real interview questions. You’ll be glad you did.
Stupid Interview Questions: Yours
Before we talk about questions you should or should not ask an interviewer, you must ask yourself one. Do you want this job? Knowing this before you accept an interview will influence your attitude and your answers. The interviewer form opinions with each question asked.
If you made it through the SEO programs companies use to screen resumes you will likely begin with a phone screen. Sometimes you get a robot; a person with a limited understanding of the position being filled or the required skills. They are simply following a script. You can shine by sharing your knowledge about the company, passion for your field, and how your skills align with the job. Good responses net an in-person interview.
So what must not be asked? Common sense should prevail but just in case…
- How much does the job pay?
- Can I telecommute?
- Do you offer flex time?
- What is the benefits package?
- Do I have to take the drug test?
- Do you offer a gym membership?
The first four are inappropriate for an interview. Use them when you are negotiating an offer. The last two: stupid.
The worst question is the one you never ask. It suggests a lack of understanding and interest. Ask open-ended questions about how things are done or have been done. Current and past behavior is the best indication of future behavior. Questions like these speak to curiosity and intelligence:
- How will my performance be measured? By whom?
- What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
- What are the three biggest challenges of this job?
- Describe your management style
- What are the skills and abilities necessary to succeed in this job?
- What is the organization’s policy on providing seminars, workshops, and training?
- What type of cultural/personality fit you are looking for?
- Describe your corporate culture and give me an example
Cultural is important.
Skills are only part of the equation. Finding a healthy work culture is critical to your happiness and your success.
For additional suggestions, this article covers them nicely. Remember to put them in your own voice. Be honest, be genuine. The best way to make a good impression is to be you.