The first recorded job interview in history took place in 1921, when Thomas Edison designed a written test to help evaluate a candidate’s knowledge. Since then, not a lot has changed.
Recruiters have been submitting candidates to the same set of outdated interview questions for decades. Interviews have become less about finding the best candidate for the role, and more about testing to see how a candidate can perform a series of rehearsed answers. Questions like “why should we hire you?” are not designed to bring out the best in a candidate – nor are they designed to give a recruiter any depth of information that one would need to make a great hire. Isn’t it most important to test a candidate’s skills, technical qualifications, and cultural fit?
It’s time to evolve past the 1920s with a better way to hire candidates. Here are the five most outdated interview questions – and a better alternative to recruiting the best talent for your company.
Why should we hire you?
As a recruiter, it’s your job to know what skills the position requires. The question ‘why should we hire you?’ asks the job seeker to justify why they are the right person for you – and that’s a problem. “You know the job inside and out, or you should if you are interviewing candidates for it – they don’t. It is up to you as the interviewer to ask real-life, practical questions about work that is performed in the role in order to assess the candidate’s suitability for the job,” says one recruitment expert.
Another problem with the question ‘why should we hire you?’ is the premise that a candidate must prove their worth to the company. Instead, an interview should work as a two-way conversation. Is this a good match for both parties? What would it look like for the company and the candidate to collaborate together?
What’s your greatest weakness?
In addition to ‘why should we hire you?’, the question ‘what’s your greatest weakness?’ attempts to learn what an AI-powered skills test can uncover with just a few questions. Not every candidate (or employee) is good at everything – and that’s ok. No one is perfect. But all too often, candidates turn this question around and attempt to highlight a strength. This question will never elicit an authentic or honest response. Instead, use a skills test or a talent trial to really learn how a candidate will fit into their team.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In asking this question, the recruiter seems to suggest what the candidate’s answer should be: with this company, of course. It forces the candidate to be disingenuous (or worse, dishonest). Everyone in the room knows a lot can change in five years, and a candidate may not stay with the company forever. However, answering anything less than 100% confidence you’ll be loyal to the job makes a candidate look like less of a team player.
Tell me about yourself.
According to one recruiter, this question is bad for two reasons. First, it conveys a lack of interest or preparation on the part of the recruiter. Once a candidate is at the interview stage, they’ve likely already submitted their LinkedIn profile, resume, cover letter, and more. Shouldn’t the recruiter know something about the candidate by now?
Second, this question is too open-ended, and as a result, there are two common things that can happen when a candidate tries answer this question. A candidate who has practiced can deliver a shiny, packaged narrative that makes them stand out. Or, a candidate can get nervous and bungle the question, immediately disqualifying themselves in the eyes of the interviewer. Either way, the recruiter isn’t getting any insight into the candidate’s skills or fit for the company.
Tell me about a time when you failed.
Like the “weakness” question, this candidate is asked to show how well they’ve prepared for the interview with a rehearsed anecdote designed to bring out a positive feature, rather than a failure. What does a person’s past failure tell you about their potential for future success? It’s a negative question that can make an anxious candidate feel even more nervous.
How to update your interview questions
What’s a better way to screen candidates while avoiding ‘why should we hire you?’ And these other outdated interview questions? Skills testing is one way to weed out the cream of the crop from the bad apples. Instead of combing through useless resumes or asking the same tired questions, recruiters are using integrated skills and attitude testing to get a 360-degree evaluation of lots of candidate’s talent.
Ask candidates to perform real-world tasks to make hiring more about merit, rather than about interview preparation. Case studies or group interviews are one way to do this, but there are also tools that provide a customizable interview experience for each open position. From quick surveys to rigorous talent assessments, the best interview questions combine psychometric assessments with skills testing. See how a candidate actually performs against the position description, rather than interview questions created last-century.