Best and Worst Interview Questions

by Patricia Olsen on February 11, 2011
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How good an interviewer are you? The questions you ask during the interview process are your only real chance to get to know the person you’re about to give tens of thousands of dollars per year to.

With that in mind, here are three of the best interview questions you can ask during the interview process… and three of the worst. Remember, of course, that good interviewers will prepare for all kinds of questions, so you may have to tweak these queries or dig deeper to get a true and natural response.

Best: What’s your ideal job?

A recruiter once suggested that this single question tells a lot about a person. Someone who answers, “No more than 45 minutes from my house and being allowed to telecommute part of the time” indicates one type of candidate. But here’s an answer you might hear: “I like a challenge, so my ideal job is one that challenges me. I like people, so I’d like to work on a team. But I also like being given responsibility for creating something, so ideally I’d like to work on my own part of the time, too.” If you want to find a candidate who will be an asset to your organization, make questions like this a key part of your interviewing process.

Best: What do you do in your free time?

This is a standard interview question, so candidates may be expecting it and have a prepared, half-true response. But, like the ideal job question, the answer (if legit) can tell you a lot about the person, namely whether they’re well-rounded.

Best: What have your colleagues said about you?

This is another question to help you learn about a candidate, but it lets you get away from the overdone and boring “Tell me about yourself.” It’s also enlightening to see stories what the person picks to relate to you. You might follow that question with “Why do you think they said that?” to learn even more.

Worst: What’s a problem you’ve encountered and how did you solve it?

There has to be a business book promoting this question, because it’s a favorite among interviewers. Granted, how a candidate answers this question reveals a lot about him or her as a problem-solver. But not everyone has had a huge enough problem to relate. What is that person supposed to say? A better question is “Tell me about a memorable experience you had on the job.” We’ve all had one of those.

Worst: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Candidates usually know that to be on the safe side, they should answer along the lines of, “I would hope to be promoted during that time as a result of my hard work.”  It sounds as if the interviewer is fishing to see if the person plans to stay around and the answer rarely has any value.

Worst: What kind of animal are you most like?

Some prospective employers actually ask this question (and others like it), probably because they’re trying to be creative or see how creative the candidate is. But it reveals very little other than what exhibits the candidate may like to check out at the zoo. There’s just no rhyme or reason for including this question or similar ones.

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