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6 Questions to Never Ask in an Interview as an Employer

dont ask these questions at job interview
Jill Wells
For Clients

There are countless articles out there that are centered around how you should and shouldn’t behave in a job interview and questions to never ask in an interview—for interview candidates. But what about when the tables are turned? What are the Dos and Don’ts for those conducting the interview?

What Are the Worst Questions to ask in an Interview?

If you’re in a position where you’re beginning to have to conduct interviews with candidates but it’s a role you’ve never taken on before, then this is likely something you’re wondering about. Interviews can be nerve-racking experiences for those on both sides of the questioning. However, as the person in control, it will be your job to take charge of the situation and ensure it runs as smoothly as possible.

You can do this by planning your questions carefully—and making sure not to say the wrong thing. Below, we’ll look at what questions can you never ask in an interview and why certain interview questions and answers are better than others.

  1. Overly Personal Information
  2. Anything About their Political Views
  3. Close-ended Questions
  4. What is your biggest weakness?
  5. Any Complex Logistical Riddles
  6. Why Should We Hire You?

Let’s go through this list one by one and see where and how these questions fall short, and where they could do better.

1. Overly Personal Information

You’re conducting a professional interview, and not meeting this person on a social level. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t begin your meeting with pleasantries and chit chat if you wish. Small talk is also a great option if you’re wondering “how do you close an interview?” but you need to be careful about asking any questions that might seem intrusive.

This could include queries such as: What is your sexual orientation? Are you planning on having children soon? or how old are you exactly?

There is a myriad of reasons that you should steer clear of this line of questioning. The first being that it has the potential to make your candidate feel uncomfortable—which you never want to do. But more than this, asking these kinds of questions is actually illegal in the state of Victoria.

2. Anything About their Political Views

Like the last point, Australian law states that employers cannot ask any non-relevant questions that could potentially allow them to discriminate against a candidate. Political views are covered within this scope.

Not only that but asking about politics in the office—in many settings, in fact—with a person you’ve just met can be considered rude. Politics is a polarizing topic that can cause arguments. Furthermore, in all but a few select cases, their political views won’t affect their ability to do their job in the slightest.

3. Close-ended Questions

During an interview, the goal is to keep the candidate talking as much as possible about themselves and their skills. One rookie mistake that inexperienced interviewers tend to make is to phrase questions in such a way that they only require a one-sentence answer.

You want to hear lengthy answers from candidates, and it’s your job to extract them, and to avoid questions that could be answered with a simple yes or no. If they do finish speaking after one sentence, it can be helpful to offer prompts such as “that’s interesting, can you tell me more about that?” or “could you elaborate on that last point a little further?”.

4. What Is Your Biggest Weakness?

This is such a tried and tested interview question that at this stage it’s one that candidates are almost expecting to get. But that is part of the reason that you should never ask it. If you’ve ever wondered what an ineffective interview question is then this is a very good example.

It’s perfectly fine to ask candidates about their weaknesses as they pertain to the role. But this question isn’t necessarily going to tell you anything about how they will perform in the position you have open.

In fact, more often than not, it’s an exercise in how good of a lie the candidate can come up with. When you’ve got limited time with each candidate, there are far more important and revealing things you could be probing them about than this ineffectual question.

5. Complex Logistical Riddles

This is a trend that was first started by Google and a handful of other Silicon Valley tech giants. Unfortunately, it’s now begun to trickle down into interviews for even entry-level jobs at smaller and less competitive companies. If you’re not sure what exactly we’re talking about, here are some examples.

“A birthday cake has to be cut into eight equal pieces in exactly three cuts. Find a way to make this cut possible.” or “How many ping pong balls would it take to fill a school bus?”.

Questions such as these may have their place in certain types of interviews. But in most cases, they’re only going to make your candidate flustered and potentially cause them to perform worse in the interview than they otherwise might have. It’s usually much more important to get an idea of their interpersonal skills rather than if they know “how many piano tuners are in New York City?”.

6. Why Should We Hire You?

At first glance, this might seem like a reasonable question to ask when interviewing a candidate. In many ways it is, however, it’s not the substance of the question that’s objectionable, but rather the way in which it’s delivered.

Again, we have an example of a question that can be intimidating to a candidate. It also puts them in the awkward position of having to “sell themselves” and brag about their achievements, which some people won’t be comfortable with doing.

There are softer and better ways to phrase this question so that both interviewer and interviewee will get more out of it. Instead, try asking “How do you feel your previous roles align with the responsibilities for this position?”.

Questions to Never Ask in an Interview

Ultimately, the aim of a professional interview is to pick the best-suited candidate. This requires knowing which questions to ask and which ones to avoid. We hope this inexhaustive list of questions to never ask in an interview has been instructive in preparing you for future candidate screenings.

If you still have queries or concerns about conducting interviews, it could be worth working with professional recruitment agencies. For assistance with staffing, hiring, and all things recruitment, give us a call today.

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