While you don't want to instil fear in a candidate, you do want to challenge them in an interview. Avoid hearing the same rehearsed answers over and over again by steering clear of these common and overused interview questions.
Here are some questions that will keep candidates on their toes and give you a truer sense of their character.
Question: Tell me about yourself?
Pitfall: This is too broad and gives no guidance about what you want to know – about the candidate’s personality or why they want to work in your sector.
Instead: Ask them, 'why did you take this career path?'.
Question: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Pitfall: This could be seen as an inappropriate question, unless you’re offering a permanent role or a contract that will cover five years. A candidate may reasonably ask where your organisation will be in five years – and considering the market variables most organisations face, this could be awkward to answer.
Instead: Focus the question on the skills or experience a candidate would like to develop in five years’ time. This will provide evidence of whether the candidate’s aspirations match the organisation’s needs.
Question: What can you do for us that other candidates can’t, and why should we hire you rather than them?
Pitfall: You are asking the candidate for a comparison to other candidates who they know nothing about.
Instead: Question them about their skills and experience, specifically, which are their strongest or most unique?
Question: What’s your greatest weakness?
Pitfall: Candidates all rehearse an answer that turns a weakness into strength, so while originally a good question, it’s now lost its power.
Instead: Ask, 'what’s your greatest achievement?'. This allows the candidate to talk about something they are passionate about.
Question: Why do you want to work for us?
Pitfall: This might be appropriate if you have a strong employer brand. It will highlight which candidate has prepared for the interview – but it doesn’t tell you which part of the organisation they want to work for.
Instead: Be more specific and ask, 'why are you interested in this role?'.
Question: Are you happy to work in a small team?
Pitfall: This is both a closed question (yes/no answer) and a leading question – the candidate will follow your lead, you won’t learn about their real preferences.
Instead: Ask, 'what type of team suits you best?'.
Looking to fill a role? A Randstad recruitment consultant can provide industry-specific advice.