Your Interview Questions Are Outdated — Here’s How to Fix It

Here’s a list of questions hiring managers should (and shouldn’t) ask candidates during job interviews.

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8 Signs It’s Time to Overhaul Your Recruitment Process

Here's what you need to know:

  • Consult with hiring team members and evaluate your current job interview process
  • Eliminate antiquated questions during job interviews
  • Learning what you can and cannot ask during a job interview is vital
  • Ask in-depth questions to give the interviewee an opportunity to demonstrate their thoughtfulness
  • Consider implementing a new employment interview structure

The job interview often marks the first time applicants ever meet their potential employers face-to-face. It is an important part of the hiring process because it doubles as a first impression.

Because of that, most recruiting advice that is out there focuses on how applicants can nail their upcoming job interview. What is not discussed nearly as often, however, is what you, the HR manager, can do to improve the questions you ask during these interviews. The overwhelming majority of job sites tailor their advice to the interviewee, not the interviewer.

Helping interviewers improve their processes is just as important because it allows you to craft a set of questions that better fit the scope, nature, and specifics of the job that is up for grabs. When you do that, you optimize your hiring process.

You may be wondering, “That’s all well and good but how do I fix outdated interview questions? What should I do instead?” If that is you, then read on! We have some tips for you.

Evaluate your current job interview process

The best way to start shaking up your interview questions is to evaluate the questions you are currently asking. This is not something you should take on alone, either. You need multiple different perspectives to do this effectively.

Your team may catch something you keep missing or they may offer up a solution that you never would have thought of yourself. Consult with your other team members (especially if you are not the only 1 conducting interviews) and discuss the process. Utilize your team. That is part of why they are there! Push for a better interview process and help your team achieve that goal.

But you can’t improve your hiring process if you can’t see where it isn’t effective. After all, the first step to solving any problem is acknowledging that there is a problem and then identifying it. Fixing your interview questions is no different and is the only truly effective way to kick-start this process.

Eliminate antiquated questions during job interviews

The questions asked during job interviews today are not dissimilar to questions employers asked 50 years ago. Many companies still rely on an antiquated line of questioning that includes the following in some way or another:

  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
  • Why did you apply for this position?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • How do your loved ones describe you?

Yawn. These questions are boring and do not tell you anything you actually want to know. The problem with these types of questions is that they are not specific. They really do not tell you much about the candidate — at least not anything particularly relevant to the job you are discussing.

Write down off-limits questions for interviewing candidates

This is important. Learning what you can and cannot ask during a job interview is vital. Anything revolving around race, religion, sex, or marital status should be avoided at pretty much every cost.

Here are some examples of what the off-limits questions look like:

  • Is English your first language?
  • Do you have any mental or physical conditions we need to be made aware of?
  • Where are your parents from?
  • How many children do you have?
  • Do you own a car?
  • Do you have a bank account?
  • What church do you/did you attend?
  • Have you ever filed a long-term or short-term disability claim against a former employer?
  • How many sick days did you take at your last job?
  • Do chronic illnesses run in your family?

Obviously, these are just several of the many questions you should never ask as a recruiter. Hopefully it is clear why you should steer clear of these types of questions. They are not relevant and they can potentially back the applicant into some pretty uncomfortable corners.

Learning what you can and cannot ask during a job interview is vital.

In many cases, asking these types of questions is just flat out illegal. Not all of the above examples are illegal, but they are unprofessional and may cause some pretty significant issues for you and your organization.

You want your interview questions to center around about the job itself and not the applicant’s personal history. That can land you and your company in hot water.

Remember to keep your questions focused on the job. That will allow you to ask better and more pointed questions.

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Get more specific when asking interview questions!

Unlike what you read above, the following questions communicate specifically what you actually want to know. Where the previous questions were broad and largely unhelpful, this new batch of questions presents the candidate with an opportunity to give better answers and demonstrate their thoughtfulness:

  • Describe your dream role. Tell us specifically what you look for in a job and what a great experience at our company would look like for you.
  • What kinds of professional situations are you most comfortable and competent handling? How do you shine in a workplace setting?
  • Tell us about an instance where you felt proud of how you communicated with a customer or employee.

Notice the difference in depth and tone here. The 1st batch of questions feels perfunctory and lifeless. This set of questions, however, helps give the candidate a clearer idea of what you are actually asking. But the really great thing about these is that they are actually helpful for both the interviewer and interviewee.

In-depth questions naturally weed out the people who will not put in the effort to give you a good answer.

The benefit to you, the hiring manager, is that you instantly get a feel for whether or not the candidate is willing to provide detailed and thoughtful answers to your well-constructed questions. If these questions are met with a dead stare, a nervous chuckle, or a clipped response, it may be time to move on to another applicant.

In-depth questions naturally weed out the people who will not put in the effort to give you a good answer. Obviously, this is not the be-all and end-all but it is worth taking into account.

Shake up your employment interview structure

This goes above and beyond interview questions and implements activities that highlight skills and abilities. It could be a total game changer, too. Not every company wants to change things up dramatically, but we will say this: if it will improve your interview process then it is worth considering.

What some companies have started doing is adding an entirely new section to the traditional job interview. Separating the interview into a “Q and A” portion and an “Activity” portion can be helpful.

The activity portion could involve having the candidate carry out a task using a point solution or even an integrated solution. This would demonstrate knowledge of and proficiency using widely used HR software, which in turn would indicate familiarity with a daily function of the job.

You could then fashion a set of questions from the “Activity” segment. Again, this is not the be-all and end-all but definitely a helpful assessment of where the interviewee is skill-wise.

As we hope the above advice illustrates, updating your antiquated interview questions is essential to a more effective hiring process. You will attract better talent, get clearer and more in-depth answers, and, perhaps best of all, have the satisfaction of knowing that you are optimizing your current systems and getting excellent results.

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