Handle these 6 cringeworthy interview questions like a pro

Cringeworthy questions do nothing to attract new talent. (rawpixel.com pic)

In an effort to find the right candidate the first time, companies are getting creative with their interview questions. These questions are intended to draw out deeper insights about the candidate.

But when you read them, what do the answers to these questions possibly reveal about a candidate’s ability to code, make a sales call, provide great customer service, or edit a PowerPoint presentation?

Skill testing is the best method for assessing a candidate’s readiness to take on a new role. No matter what questions you ask, traditional interviewing doesn’t actually predict performance.

A significant number of interview questions aren’t predictive and don’t allow candidates to provide information beyond their resume. These interview questions fail to glean deeper insight about a candidate.

1. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Truly, does anyone know where they will be in five years? This question implies there’s a right answer: a candidate should prove their loyalty to the company that hasn’t even hired them yet.

A lot can happen in five years, and today’s job market rewards job hoppers. Workers who stay with a company longer than two years are said to get paid 50% less.

Job hoppers are believed to have a higher learning curve, be higher performers, and even be more loyal, because they care about making a good impression in the short amount of time they know they’ll stay with each employer.

2. Among the people you’ve worked with, who do you admire and why?

This question is cringeworthy for a few different reasons. First, what do values have to do with the ability to perform the job description?

Ethics and morality are important, but so is being able to use Adobe InDesign, code in JavaScript, or make a cold call.

Secondly, why would you ask a candidate to glorify someone else’s abilities? The point of the interview is to get to know the applicant to see if they are a good fit.

Asking a person to talk about their role model will only get you good information about an unrelated individual. This tells you next to nothing about the candidate themselves.

3. What are your superpowers?

The word “superpowers” implies some degree of infallibility – and no one is perfect. A better interview question recognizes that people need to be set up to succeed.

Instead of this question, try to understand how you can hire someone supremely talented and give them the tools and support they need.

Questions like, “if you join, how can we invest in you?” and “what needs to happen for you to get the best out of yourself?” are more insightful than asking about some mythical powers.

Skill testing is still the best way to determine suitability. (rawpixel.com pic)

4. If we don’t hire you, what do you think the reason would be?

Why ask a candidate to give you a reason not to hire them? This puts the candidate in the awkward position of having to disqualify themselves from the hiring process.

Along with “what is your greatest weakness,” this question will never lead to an honest response. Not every individual is good at everything, and competence is largely context-dependent.

This question attempts to force a candidate to assess if their skills translate from one context to the next, something a skill test or talent trial can do more accurately and fairly.

5. In five minutes, explain something to me that is complicated but you know well.

This question is so ambiguous, and so demanding, that the candidate is basically guaranteed to stumble.

When, in any other context outside of a TedTalk, have you been asked to provide a five-minute lecture on a complex topic?

A better option is to give candidates the chance to showcase their talents in a real-world scenario or job simulation.

6. When was the last time you changed your mind about something important?

By the time an interviewer asks this question, the candidate is likely to have changed their mind about applying for this job altogether.

There’s no answer a candidate can give that tells an interviewer how well they’ll perform on the job.

If you tell a story about changing your mind, and lay out your logic, you come across as flexible, thoughtful, and responsible.

If you choose to say you stick to your guns and rarely change your mind, you come across as principled, determined and resourceful.

Neither of those soft skill sets is bad. Companies need both types of leaders. So what is the point of this question?

This article first appeared in vervoe.com.

At Vervoe, our mission is to fundamentally transform the hiring process from mediocracy to meritocracy.