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My personal interviewing ‘don’ts’

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As a continuation of last week’s post, here are some of my interviewing ‘don’ts’.  These are interviewing techniques that, although common, I have not personally found very effective.   I’m willing to bet a cup of coffee that I’m mentioning one of your favorite, ‘go-to’ questions.  That’s okay.  If these work for you, and help you differentiate a strong candidate from a weak one, keep using them.   Some of these are on my list because they used to be very good questions; so good that everyone started using them and career coaches started prepping people for them, so I found over the last few years the answers are a bit ‘canned’.  You can always re-tweak your question to get a more authentic answer.  Some of these are on my list because they prevent you from finding out good information.  Again, find what works for you and stick to it. 

Talk too much about yourself
This is the worst interviewing mistake, and senior executives are just as guilty of this as novice managers.  While it is important for the candidate to get to know you and your company, it is not okay to spend the whole interview talking about yourself and not ask what you need to from the candidate.  I have noticed that people who tend to do this, also tend to like everyone they interview (because they like talking about themselves)

Ask yes/no questions without follow up
This tends to happen when the interviewer has already decided the candidate can do the job (which can be for various reasons).  They will say things like. “Are you good with Excel?” or “This job requires attention to detail, which I assume is no problem for you given your history?”.  Usually when you ask a yes/no question it’s obvious what the right answer is, so if you don’t ask for follow up, or examples, you’re really leaving a lot unanswered.

Ask ‘greatest strength/greatest weakness’
There are people who are very attached to these questions and nothing I say will convince you otherwise but I personally don’t find them very useful.  I’m not sure most people are accurate on their self assessments and/or motivated to share those honestly with their potential employer.  Furthermore, every interview coaching book I have ever read advises candidates to prepare an answer to this question.  You’d have to be born under a rock not to know to answer this either with a strength disguised as a weakness (I care too much) or as a story of personal triumph (I used to … but now I …)

Ask what animal the candidate would be on the carousel…or what animal they would be period, or what kind of tree
People who ask these believe very strongly it can give you insight into a person’s self-concept and values.  For example “I’d be a mighty oak tree because I’m mighty and strong and resist adversity” or “I’d be a weeping willow because I cry all the time” etc.  I’m not sure I know how to interpret the answer and, as above, whether a person’s self-assessment is true.  And because their job does not require them to be a tree, I am skeptical of the predictive validity. 

Ask situational questions as a predictor of how the candidate would do in that situation
This also is a pet technique for many and if you insist on asking it, that’s fine.  I don’t like these questions because I don’t think they have a lot of predictive validity.  Creating an imaginary situation and asking a candidate how they would respond in it just doesn’t make sense.  People who like this technique insist that it tells them how well people think on their feet, are creative, etc etc.  To me, it just tells me how well they respond to imaginary situations.  If needing to respond to an imaginary situation is a job requirement, however, this should be part of the interview

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Author: Carrie Maldonado

Carrie Maldonado, is an organizational development consultant, author, and speaker. Carrie's eclectic mix of professional interests include writing, speaking, coaching, and consulting on topics ranging from organizational behavior management to spiritual transformation in and out of the workplace. Carrie lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her patient and long-suffering husband and their three children.

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