Small talk is a core component of our everyday interactions, it’s a convenient ice-breaker we can use to start a deeper conversation. Even in formal occasions, such as job interviews, starting out with small talk is acceptable and common, but that should be the only moment of the interview you’re asking questions whose answers, you already know, will be generic, per-packaged, and, very likely, not true!
Considering how precious the job interview time is, you should only ask questions you really care about and those answers can effectively help you select the right candidate(s).
Let’s take the infamous “What’s your greatest weakness?”, for instance. You don’t really care to know what a person biggest weakness is, do you? Even if you were curious about it, you’d unlikely hire someone who bluntly reveals their most outrageous flaw. Your interviewees know that utmost honesty won’t get them the job, and therefore they lie. Questions like this get you nowhere. They don’t help you know the candidate any better.
The same goes for another great classic, “Why did you leave your last job?”. You won’t hire someone who frankly admits “My boss was incompetent”” Rather you’d be more likely to give a chance to someone who uses the trite and per-packaged “I was seeking growth and development; your company seems like the ideal place for this”, but after all did you really care for this answer? Did it tell you anything about the candidate’s fitness for the position? The answer is no.
So, let’s start by refreshing your list of questions, discarding all those questions that may lead interviewees to give you untruthful, hence uninteresting and useless, answers. It is time to revamp those old, rhetorical questions: ask questions that really give you the chance to test a candidate’s creativity, trouble-shooting skills, and dedication to being a team player.
Instead of asking about the past, ask about the future. Forgo questioning candidates about their biggest failures, and ask them how they will solve a specific issue or perform a specific task relevant to the position you’re interviewing them for.
Stop looking for perfect matches: chances are that no candidate will have the same exact skillset and work experience. Be practical: try to find out if a candidate is a fast and pro-active learner instead. So, rather than asking them to identify their greatest weaknesses, ask them to explain how they address their flaws and what they do for self-improvement.
Asking the right questions—those you really care about knowing the answers to, those focusing on what a candidate can do for your company in the future will improve your chances to find the true good fit.
Nexxt is a recruitment media company that uses today’s most effective marketing tactics to reach the full spectrum of talent – from active to passive, and everything in between. Learn more about hiring with Nexxt.
This article was written by Alex Cherici.
Alex Cherici is a PhD candidate in Chinese Linguistics at Indiana University. She’s currently writing her dissertation and teaching undergraduate courses. Before resuming her academic studies, she has worked as a language teacher and school manager for eight years.