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4 outdated interview questions you need to stop asking candidates

Here are better questions to help you hire your next team member

bad interview questions outdated interviewing interviews ask candidate

It’s summer, and for a lot of businesses, it’s slow season – but that’s actually good news when it comes to your hiring strategy! If your startup isn’t stretched too thin over the next few months, now is a great opportunity to do an employer branding refresh.

Ask yourself – when was the last time you updated your careers page, refined your values and voice, or worked on your social presence? If it’s been a while (or hasn’t been touched…ever), don’t worry. We can help with a holistic revamp of your recruiting strategy… even down to your interview technique.

Last year, 41% of recruiters identified “assessing candidates during the interview” as their biggest challenge, so it’s safe to say that many companies just aren’t making great use of that meeting time. Let’s change that!

When speaking with a candidate, you need to be strategic with your words to A) receive valuable responses, and B) earn respect from top talent. That means eliminating inefficient interview questions and replacing them with impactful ones. To get you started, here are some Qs to avoid in your next interview (and better ones to ask!).

1️⃣ Tell me about yourself?🙊

This question is always asked, but it’s not always answered well. Why? Because it’s completely vague! Due to the open-ended nature of this question, you won’t always get the information you’re looking for.

Plus, job seekers say that “being asked for the same information twice in one process” is their #1 annoyance – so if you’ve already asked them to describe themselves in a cover letter, in their application, and then again in the interview, you might be starting things off on the wrong foot.

Even worse, you might be wasting precious time. It’s better to be direct if you want to know details about a candidate’s personality, background, or work style – so after the initial small talk, launch into specific questions. For instance, ask your candidate for a quick recap of a project from their portfolio. If you want a more personal answer, ask for a fun fact about them besides what was written on their resume. Just be specific; tailor your question to receive desired information about job-fit or culture-add.


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2️⃣ We have tons of applicants. Why should we hire you?😵‍💫

We get it, you want to hire top talent– but framing the question this way can come off aggressive or condescending. Remember, interviewing is a two-way street; candidates are assessing your communication methods, too.

In fact, 69% of job seekers would share a negative candidate experience to dissuade others from interviewing with your startup… so it’s time to retire this bad question before equally bad candidate reviews trickle in.

Instead of asking an open-ended question that puts the job seeker on the spot, focus on a situation to differentiate this candidate from the others. For example, describe a real challenge that the team is facing right now, and ask the candidate how they’d approach it. This could be a personal or professional matter – regardless, the authenticity of your question will encourage a thoughtful, unique, and telling response about the interviewee’s soft or hard skills.

3️⃣ What’s your greatest weakness?🤬

There are some big problems with this question: it’s been overused, which means it isn’t likely to get an honest answer. It has a negative connotation… and it’s also one of the most hated interview questions out there.

Don’t believe us? Just check out our TikTok on this question for proof – it’s full of comments like “I just lie,” “interviewers should focus on asking actually good questions,” “I don’t do jobs where questions like that are asked,” and so on.

For more value, ask the candidate how they’ve displayed self-awareness about their personal growth. In other words, flip the question to “what’s your latest professional accomplishment?”! For instance, have they taken any courses, completed training, or done research to upgrade their skillset lately? Have they solved any problems recently by demonstrating a “core value” of your company? What was their biggest lesson from their last project? Ask them to talk about their goals, where they came from, and how they’re making them happen.

candidate interview where do you see yourself in 5 years bad outdated interviews

4️⃣ Where do you see yourself in five years?🔮

This is another popular question and another Q that leads to canned answers! Many candidates don’t know exactly what they want in the next half decade. If COVID taught us anything, it’s that plans can change and priorities can shift at any moment.

What’s more, this question can get overly personal or intrusive. Due to its open-ended nature (are you sensing a trend here?), candidates might respond with irrelevant info (EG: plans to have kids) – which can either cause bias or discomfort for one or both parties in the interview.

Not everyone plans out their next move for dinner, let alone their next promotion. However, most candidates should be able to speak to their metrics for success in their next role. Try asking what they hope to accomplish in the first three or six months at your company. What attracted them to this role or startup in terms of growth opportunities? Are there any duties listed in the job description that they’re excited to explore?

So there you have it: 4 bad interview questions to stop asking! We hope we’ve convinced you to retire these outdated questions and replace them with some better alternatives – but remember, this is only one piece of employer branding! Keep following us for more tips on how to refresh your EVP this summer.

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