Five bonkers interview questions that should never be asked again

Every candidate knows that preparing for interviews is critical to give yourself the best chance of getting the job. I can give you lots of advice about how best to do that based on your skills, experience and the job you’ve applied for, but what if the person who’s interviewing you decides to throw in a curved-ball question?

Google has long had a reputation for asking brain teaser questions in its interviews. Classics include why are manhole covers round? How many golf balls can you fit on a plant? And, a man pushed his car to a hotel and lost a fortune – what happened? But even Google has decided not to use those kinds of questions any more, declaring they only serve to “make the interviewer feel smart.”

Here’s my list of five bonkers (and not-so-bonkers) interview questions that should never be asked again.

  1. What kind of car/biscuit/cereal/animal would you be and why?

I’m not sure what recruiters are trying to find out here as a candidate’s answers are unlikely to reveal anything about either their skills or their values – the two most important things you should be looking to assess at interview. Is there a blacklist somewhere which means that if you declare yourself a pink wafer, Coco Pops or a lion you’re unemployable? This kind of question just wastes everyone’s time.

  1. Where do you see yourself in five years?

It’s a bit less bonkers, but again is absolutely no indicator of the skills or values of the candidate. No one knows what kind of situation they’ll be in five years from now. At best a candidate could say they want their potential manager’s job to demonstrate ambition, or they could say “still in this job” because they’re looking for a role to stay in for a long time.  Is either one of those answers better than the other? What if the candidate’s plan was to emigrate in three years – are they likely to tell a recruiter that? Questions should really focus on the job being recruited for, not the future.

  1. What’s your biggest weakness?

This is a classic example of a question to which a contrived answer reveals nothing about the candidate. Those who are well-prepared will have a weakness to declare which can be turned into a strength. Others might declare “chocolate” – and what can a recruiter do with that information? I’m all for questions which test a candidate’s self-awareness, but there are much smarter ways to ask them. How about: We support a lot of training in this organisation. What’s the area of personal development you’d most like to focus on and what have you done about it so far?

  1. Why do you want to leave your current position?

Of course it would be interesting to know why a candidate wants a new role, but there’s little way of checking the authenticity of the answer you get. They might be at risk of redundancy, hate their boss, or have just got to the end of the road in the role they’re in. Are any of these answers giving you a better idea of whether they could do the role being recruited for? Would someone really tell you they hated their boss? It would be far better to ask what appealed to them about the position they applied for.

  1. Why are you the best person for this role?

How can a candidate possibly know whether they are the best person? They have no idea what the other candidates’ skills and experience is like and they certainly don’t know exactly what you’re looking for beyond the role profile that’s been published. The recruiting manager will need someone to fit the dynamics of the existing team, perhaps there’s a special project on the horizon which the role will need to lead on – all of this information is unknown to the candidate, so they can’t possibly be qualified to answer why they are “the best” person.

I’d recommend switching this around and asking what the candidate thinks they will bring to the role, as you’ll get an insight into their motivation for applying and will perhaps draw out examples that the rest of your questions may have missed.

I support a wide range of people looking for the next step in their career – from writing CVs to providing a full career-coaching service. Give me a call on 07765 894040 for a free chat to find out how I could help you secure your dream role.

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