Pointless Interview Questions to Retire in 2014

Year-end wrap-ups and “best of” lists typically give us the opportunity to look back on some of the highlights of the past year, celebrate the big wins, and review what worked. But I also think it’s important for us to take a look at what didn’t, so we can adjust our approach and get off to a fresh, more productive start next year. It may have been with that in mind that Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO of HubSpot, recently shared a list of the most worthless interview questions that you shouldn’t be asking.
It’s a great list and I hope, for once, people outside of Talent Acquisition and Human Resources will take note. After all, hiring is a collaborative, team effort, and asking ineffective questions is a waste of not only your time, but your entire team’s and the candidate’s, as well.
Here are the questions Dharmesh calls out for being worthless, and for the most part, I agree with all of them:

1) What is your biggest weakness?

While we’re at it, let’s toss out, “What is your greatest strength?” as well. Save those questions for the candidate’s references, or, better yet, do some digging with better questions and actually listen to the candidate’s responses. If you’re asking the right questions, strengths and weaknesses are going to come out during your conversation without you having to ask a very basic question that will inevitably result in an overused answer like, “I work too hard” or, “I’m just too organized.”

2) Where do you see yourself in three years?

Be honest with yourself — do you have any idea where you will be in three years? Probably not. This one is tough for candidates because it’s quite simply a trap. Is the candidate supposed to tell you that this job is just a stepping stone? Or do you expect them to tell you they’re in for the long haul? As Dharmesh correctly points out, aside from making them do a bit of tap dancing, you’ll learn nothing from the candidate by asking this question.

3) Tell me about yourself.

While I agree with Dharmesh this is a waste, we have different reasons for not asking this basic question. He believes you shouldn’t ask because you should have already done your homework. I personally don’t want to spend two hours with every candidate listening to them tell me their entire life story. Different candidates will give you very long or very short backgrounds. The bottom line is they know there isn’t a right answer here. Just be direct, ask them the question you really want the answer to!

4) Out of all the other candidates, why should we hire you?

I have to admit, I’ve never thought to ask this question. Quite honestly, it shouldn’t matter much why candidates feel you should hire them. This should be a conversation and a mutual decision. After all, there are two parties involved. Candidates are interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing them, but this question arrogantly positions it as if they aren’t part of the decision making process.

Dharmesh offers some interesting alternatives to these questions. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, but at the very least, they are more engaging and stand to offer you much more insight into the candidate. If you haven’t already, check out his post to see his suggestions.
In the meantime, I thought I’d add on two more questions I’d like us to retire for good:

5) Brain Teasers

Please stop asking candidates how many windows are in NYC or how many speeding tickets are issued in the state of Massachusetts. You’re wasting valuable time with a candidate that you could be using to learn something valuable about who they are and what they bring to the table. As an interviewer, it’s your job to identify and discuss their skills as they relate to the role and how they’ll fit in at your company, not to stump them and make yourself feel smart.

6) What was your GPA?

Unless you are speaking with a candidate who is graduating/just graduated from college, please stop asking for GPA. Or SAT or ACT scores, while we’re at it. GPA doesn’t correlate with job performance. It is a narrow record of success in a very set, controlled, four year environment. In my opinion, there are so many other data points to determine success that disqualifying candidates based on one number alone is ineffective and outdated.

These are just a few of the many questions candidates were asked to suffer through during the interview process in 2014. I’d love to hear from candidates and hiring managers — what others have you asked and what have you had to answer?

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Photo by: Leo Reynolds

Katelyn LaGarde
Katelyn LaGarde
Recruiter, Sales & Marketing

Katelyn Lagarde is a recruiter at CloudHealth. She was previously a Talent Specialist at OpenView.
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