By Marga Salvador on August 8, 2016
Have you ever wondered how much intel you are getting from candidate interviews? We might all agree that the interview is not always the most accurate way to get to know your candidates. They don't know you and you don't know them; your means of bridging the gap is a series of questions in a high pressure situation (for the candidates, mostly). In this case, how much or how accurate is the information you're getting from these interviews? This is an important question to ask as we are assessing these candidates who are also potential employees for the company.
Recruiters often ask these types of questions to catch the candidate off guard and to see how they would react to high pressure situations. While the latter insight is good, the downside to this is that recruiters sometimes have a little too much fun with the hypothetical aspect and use impossible-never-going-to-happen situations. In asking the candidate what they would do if they were aboard the Titanic or woke up in the middle of a burning forest, does not provide relevant insight as to what their reactions and action steps can provide you and your company.
Sometimes recruiters switch hypothetical situations for actual problematic situations that happened to the company in the past. While this is a step up, it's still not digging deep enough as to what the candidate can contribute. You are looking for certain qualities, right? Try asking, "Tell me about an experience in which you achieved [x]." This removes all hypothetical action as you are drawing from actual experience and qualities that the candidate already possesses.
"What's your biggest strength and weakness?"'
It's baffling that interviewers still ask this question because 1) you're giving the candidate too much room and 2) strengths and weaknesses, when they matter, are exuded, not explained. When your scope for strengths and weaknesses is this wide, the candidate will throw an answer for strength that's meant to impress you. But their answer for weakness, while ideally it should reveal and Achilles' heel, is also going to try to impress you. "I'm not great with time management—I work too much." "I'm not very organized but I get the job done."
Switch this out for a question that is more telling of why and how those are their strengths and weaknesses. "Walk me through your highest career achievement." A good follow up question would be to ask next about their lowest point in their careers. As the potential employer, more than knowing these candidates, you want to understand how they work; what (de)motivates them, what they want in life, what they have a knack for, and what still needs work.
"Where do you see yourself in 10 years?"
Again, this question gives them a little too much room to impress and we often fail to realize that 10 years is a long time. A candidate can easily give you the oh, I hope to work my way up to senior manager at this company, and while it's flattering to hear that they are that intent on the company already, it could also be a load of bull. There are very few people who answer this question and are living their answers 10 years later. While it's good to be aware of long term goals, it's even better to take into consideration the goals of the candidate that are in line with or those that can be supported/developed by your company.
Switch the 10 or 5 year question out with "What professional milestones are you hoping to achieve while at the company?" You'll get insights that are relevant to you and the candidate. It's about setting the right expectations. Instead of hearing about their ideal situation years down the line, take note of what they want to achieve with you in the potentially nearer future.
You probably have an interview or two (or twelve) lined up soon but remember that it's never too late to change your questions. The ball is in your court!