In Part 1 of this series, I analyzed the first six questions from a LinkedIn article on the “Favorite Job Interview Questions” from 13 CEO’s. I used a simple scoring scale, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 and the “total score” for the first six questions was -7. Let’s see how the score changes with the next six questions.
7. Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
This is an excellent question +2. It could be improved slightly by focusing first on the “most significant accomplishment” in the candidate’s current job. Ask the same question again (and again) for each of the candidate’s previous positions. This creates a performance-based track record that, for an outstanding candidate, will show a progression of increased responsibilities and greater achievements (e.g., greater impact, higher sales, larger team, etc). Every candidate searching for a job should be able to provide detailed answers to this question for different positions. The total is -5.
8. What’s your superpower – or spirit animal?
The lowest score I’m using is -2, but this question really deserves something lower. What’s really a concern, but not a surprise, is that the example led to hiring someone that’s “amazing” at the job. That’s either pure luck or something that was based on other valuable information obtained in the interview. The “favorite animal” question is considered one of the bad interview questions by the majority of professionals who take interviewing seriously.
What’s dangerous is when someone seems to think this question “works” and continues to use it. And there’s certainly no objective way to distinguish among the good and bad animal answers! I’m wondering if there’s ever been any objective research correlating animal types to performance. Back to -7.
9. We’re constantly making things better, faster, smarter or less expensive. We leverage technology or improve processes. In other words, we strive to do more – with less. Tell me about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive.
This is a good question +2. I’d suggest making sure the candidates knows it’s OK to “think about it for a few minutes” before answering. A professional interviewer won’t pressure a candidate and will even encourage a few moments of silence. I’d also make the question a little more specific, changing “a recent project or problem” to “a significant accomplishment.” I want the best examples, not just another example. The total is back to -5.
10. Discuss a specific accomplishment you’ve achieved in a previous position that indicates you will thrive in this position.
This starts as a good question but then fades – because it’s not clear what’s required to “thrive in this position” +1. The question would be better if it referred to a particular expectation of the position. I developed “Performance Profiles” for camp counselors several years ago. One of the key objectives was “getting to know the campers personally by the end of the first day.” Stating that objective, then asking this question would be excellent interviewing. The total is now -4.
11. So, what’s your story?
This matches the classic “tell me about yourself.” It’s a bad question, -2, but not completely for the reason most people think. It’s bad because the overwhelming majority of candidates aren’t prepared to give a good response. It’s unfair expecting a candidate to know what you’re looking for – it’s even going to be perceived as threatening by some.
Read that question again. Does it sound like it’s showing genuine interest or even in printed form does read as a challenge? I’ve tested the “tell me about yourself” question with 100’s of candidates. Less than 10% provided answers that were “A” responses. Most were wandering or irrelevant. It’s not looking good – the total is now -6.
12. What questions do you have for me?
This question is standard and should be asked in every interview – it’s a +2. But the person liking this question states that he loves asking it “early in an interview.” I disagree. It should be asked later in an interview, after there’s been real rapport established, after any nervousness has dissipated, after you’ve created a solid sharing about expectations. Time’s running out but the score is back to -4.
13. Tell me about a time when things didn’t go the way you wanted – like a promotion you wanted and didn’t get, or a project that didn’t turn out how you had hoped.
I’m not a fan of the “tell me about a time…” pure behavioral questions but I still give this a +1. If the interviewer is doing a good job of fact-finding around a candidate’s most significant accomplishments, this is a good example of how to “peel the onion” for details. Put into the context of a significant accomplishment will make it much more valuable than just another “tell me about…” question.
The final score over 13 questions is -3 – not the hoped for, but probably the expected, result. In the third part of this series, I’ll provide some specific examples of how to answer these questions.
See more on “Bad Interview Questions” at www.212-careers.com
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About the author
Jim Schreier is a management consultant with a focus on management, leadership, including performance-based hiring and interviewing skills. Visit his website at www.farcliffs.com
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