Ten Interview Questions You Need To Stop Asking Job Candidates

Ten Interview Questions You Need To Stop Asking Job Candidates

by Liz Ryan

I’ve been an HR person since 1984. It’s amazing how many of the tired, pointless HR practices that bugged me in 1984 are still in use today.

The standard interview script was already ancient in 1984. I can easily imagine interviewers asking the same boring interview questions in 1894 that they ask today.

Why are there so many trite, pointless and insulting interview questions in the standard script? Interviewers ask the same old questions because that’s all they know how to do. They learned how to interview from someone who learned from someone before them and so on, all the way back to antiquity.

Many or most interviewers don’t know how to converse with a new acquaintance the way human beings do easily in any other setting. The script gives them structure, even if the questions are nosy, arch and totally unrelated to the job you’re trying to fill.

Many interviewers, including both HR and Recruiting folks and department managers, are brainwashed to believe that they must have an interview script in their hand in order to conduct a good interview. 

They are mistaken. The best interviews are conversations.

In our personal lives we hire professionals to help us all the time.

We don’t subject the plumber or the piano teacher to a third-degree interrogation before we hire them — and why not?

It’s because we are all brainwashed to believe that employment is a special institution where the employer is mighty and the employee is just a cog in the wheel– leaving the lowly job applicant at the bottom of the pecking order.

Many employers expect job-seekers to beg for the job, and nowhere is groveling expected more than in the interview room.

Too many organizations treat the hiring process like a business version of American Ninja Warrior. As a job applicant you have to overcome bigger and bigger hurdles to get a job, even as employers complain about the difficulty of finding great employees.

Recruiting is by far the easiest part of HR because it is a matter of supply and demand.

Product developers are not allowed to design products that make use of imaginary parts. Department managers who design job specs that match reality and that pay well enough for talented people to be interested in the job have no trouble filling their job openings.

If you don’t design reasonable job requirements and pay big enough salaries to attract talent then you can’t blame mythical “talent shortages” for your problems.

Here are ten questions that don’t belong in a job interview.

The use of these lame interview questions marks an organization as out of date and clueless about talent.

It is easy to humanize your recruiting process and all of your HR and leadership practices, and 2018 is the perfect time to start!

A great first step is to review your organization’s interview process. If any of these backwards questions is still hanging around to irritate job-seekers and destroy your company’s employer brand, toss it into the dustbin of obscurity before December 31!

Ten Interview Questions Interviewers Need To Stop Asking

1. What’s your greatest weakness? (None of your business, irrelevant to the conversation and so intrusive that it brands you a presumptuous oaf, sadly.)

2. What’s your five-year plan? (None of your business unless you’re offering me a five-year gig. Irrelevant, unless you’re offering me a five-year gig. Is that what you’re offering?)

3. Why should we hire you? (Don’t hire me if you don’t want to! Why should I work here? Why would you put me in a position to grovel? I don’t even know if I want this job yet, and that question didn’t help your case.)

4. What was your college GPA? (This might matter if someone just finished college. Ten years after the fact, the use of this question is a sure sign that competitive weenies rule the roost in your shop.)

5. What would your last boss say about you? (What makes you think my last boss is an authority on me or my performance? My last boss could be in prison for all you know.)

6. What are three adjectives that describe you? (We have business to talk about â€” or at least I do. Can we talk about that, instead of playing parlor games? Here’s a tip: people don’t boil down to three adjectives. They are complex. Your question is obnoxious and condescending.)

7. What other companies are you interviewing with? (I can easily understand why you’d want that information, just like I’d love to know what you get paid and what your boss gets paid. However, it’s none of your business.)

8. What are you getting paid now? (What are you getting paid now?)

9. Why do you want to work here? (Who said I want to work here? I came to this interview, just like you did. Wouldn’t it be presumptuous of me to conclude that you already want to hire me? Yes it would. Likewise, it’s presumptuous of you to conclude that I want to work here, just because I came to hear what you have to say.)

10. If you could be any kind of animal, what kind would you be? (We are not in kindergarten and I don’t have time to play kindergarten games with you. I have so much to do and no interest in wasting another minute here, so I’ll be leaving now. Enjoy your day!)


While I may not totally agree with all of the “Do not ask questions”, some modification of them does add value to an interview.

~ David


Originally published in Forbes on September 24, 2017.  Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap. Follow her on Twitter and read Forbes columns. Liz’s book Reinvention Roadmap is here.

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