Interviewing.com

Editor’s Blog: Are There Really No Stupid Questions?



Someone once said there are no stupid questions.  And, then there have been many people to finish the quote with their own endings involving stupid answers, fools, idiots and the like.  When it comes to the job interview, however, are we often asking irrelevant, if not downright stupid questions of candidates?

Many interviewers don’t know where to start when trying to select appropriate questions for an interview.  We look to others for advice to see what’s been asked before.  And, we often go online to see the most popular or trending questions and lace them into our questionnaires.

But, what many interviewers forget is to take into account who they’re interviewing, their own company culture, and what the role they’re interviewing for is, when making question selections.   If you’re not thinking ahead about these things, then, yes, you can ask stupid questions in the interview.

By stupid questions, I mean questions that can actually hurt the integrity of your interview process, questions that can make great talent question why they would want to work for your company or whether they’re going to be the right fit.  Do you really want to risk having talent walk out the door because you didn’t question the validity of your own questions?

Every interview question should have a purpose and that purpose should fit in-line with one of those three criteria: candidate, company culture, and position/role.  Further, you should always ask yourself when selecting a question why you are asking it.  If you can’t come up with a good answer that reflects one of those three areas, it’s probably one that you should hold off on asking or doesn’t have a purpose in your interview.

For example, everyone has heard of the brainteasers Google likes to ask in its interviews.  Many companies have blindly decided to adopt asking the same or similar questions in their interview process.

For some companies this works because they have company cultures that aspire to be like Google.  They want creative individuals who can think on their feet, problem solve, and where the occasional curveball doesn’t fluster them.  And, Google likes being different and a trend setter.  They choose to do things to set apart and bring innovation to their process.  Some things work, some things work for only a short time, and some things don’t work at all.

But if you’re an accounting firm, asking why manhole covers are round can have candidates wondering what you’re looking for and what your company is about.  Or if you’re asking creativity questions of a data entry role which requires  repeating rote tasks day in and out, you could have candidates puzzled if you even know what you’re hiring for.

The questions you ask can also reflect how much you know about your own business and of the person you are interviewing, which can be especially critical when speaking with executive level candidates.

If you’re asking them why they’re a fit for the job or if they can do it, it can show you haven’t done your homework on their experience or that you’re not sure of the role you’re hiring for and you’re wasting everyone’s time.

Next time you put together your questions for an interview, don’t just arbitrarily select what sounds good or interesting.  Make sure each question you ask has a purpose and reflects the candidate, the company culture, or the role being interviewed for.  Do this and not only will candidates get a clearer picture of the job and the company, you’ll get to a better hire faster by focusing on what’s important.

Have you ever been asked a ‘stupid’ question during the interview?  What was it and what was your impression of the interviewer/company? 

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Robin Rayburn

About Robin Rayburn

Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Interviewing.com. Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog, RestlessPillow.com, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.

View all posts by Robin Rayburn →

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