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3 Questions to Avoid in the Job Interview

Not all interview questions are created equal. And if you’re asking the wrong ones, you could be turning off talent and extending your time-to-hire.

Off-limits questions range from the cliche to the illegal, and you should avoid all of them in a job interview. Here are a few questions to avoid in the job interview — and what to say instead:

1. I just love your accent…what is it?

Asking questions such as, “What are your childcare arrangements if you were to be selected for this position?” or “I just love your accent… what is it?” may seem innocent enough, but are unlawful and could be the basis for a hiring discrimination claim by the applicant.

Questions about family, race, national origin, age, gender, personal health, and other similar questions have been determined to be unlawful, as they may reveal protected-class information that could form the basis of discrimination. In general, unless the question is specifically job-related, avoid asking it. I know that seems harsh, but the reality is that unlawful questions expose the employer to risk.

Instead, rephrase the question to be a lawful one. Replace the question about childcare arrangements to, “Our work schedule is from 7:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily… are you able to work those hours?” Avoid the question about the candidate’s accent entirely since it reveals national origin. Replace “Do you have any disabilities or handicaps that would prevent you from doing this job?” to “Are you able to perform the essential duties of this job as the job description outlines?”

Spark-Hire-Hank-Boyer

Hank Boyer, President and CEO, Boyer Management Group

2. Do you have anything in your past that would cause you shame and maybe prevent you to get this job?

Obviously this is an awkward and out of bounds question. It is being asked to find out if there is something in the applicant’s past that could be suspect behavior.

Instead, tell the candidate that your company policy is to do drug, criminal, and detailed background checks on all potential employees. Tell them that if they have any problem with that or fear it might exclude them for any reason, you can discuss it. 

Spark-Hire-Mike-Smith

Mike Smith, Founder, SalesCoaching1

3. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Avoid the tired, cliché questions such as, “What is your greatest weakness?” or “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

The answers to these questions are always rehearsed and rarely truthful. There is no right answer and you, the employer, set yourself up for a “damned if I do and damned if I don’t” mindset from your potential employee. It also shows little preparation on your side.

You want to ask questions that give you a glimpse into the candidate’s creative problem-solving abilities, integrity, and personality. You also want to show that you took an interest in them, meaning you read their cover letter and resume BEFORE the interview and you are familiar with their background. Remember, they are interviewing you as much as you them.This will help you ask specific questions that will give you that insight.

For example, “Describe a project that failed. What did you do to make it right? What did you do to ensure it wouldn’t happen again? What did you learn?”

This shows that they can think on their feet, and what they come up with will be honest because they haven’t had time to practice a response. If they have no failures in their past, you already know you have a liar on your hands. If they blame others for the failure, then you know they have personal responsibility issues. A superior candidate will not only prove that they are lifetime learners, but apply their solution to the job you’re offering.

Spark-Hire-Melanie-Hope

Mélanie Hope, Professional Speaker and Author of The Snipers Guide to Leadership

What do you think? What questions should hiring professionals never ask in an interview?