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After you've spent resources onboarding your new employees, the true task becomes retaining them. Finding top talent and keeping them around is what makes most growing businesses competitive. New technology and the changing workforce is shifting the age-old processes HR managers have relied on.

Interview Questions, Anyone?

08 December 2017
Author :  

Preparing for and anticipating interview questions is great. But what if employers are asking the wrong things?

If you speak to people about how they landed a job, the responses will vary. Some enthusiastically describe the process they went through, while others shudder at the idea of sharing that information with anyone. Why would some shudder? And why will others wax lyrical about the steps they encountered in their applications for a position? There’s a pivot point that all job seekers can reach: the interview. Job interviews are enjoyed by some candidates and feared by others. What’s the difference? Preparing for the interview is paramount – and that holds true for both sides of the table.

Let’s Start at the Beginning

Most likely, the first job interview was held when civilization grew enough to have a merchant class. It started during the Renaissance, which began in the 1500s throughout Europe. The “job posting” was simple: Can you sell my products? Today’s interviews are, on a certain level, as straightforward as the earliest interviews. Only the baseline has broadened. Now it’s about selling goods and services, or providing support to what is being purveyed.

In 2017, how interviews are being handled is as rich and varied as the types of jobs people hold in the world. It’s no longer necessary to put on a suit and walk into an office, waiting with other jittery job-seekers in the lobby until one’s name is called. Interviews can be done over Skype. Job posters and job seekers may use social media to reach out to one another, with companies using it as a screening tool. The employment landscape is evolving, but interviews are still important. So what can a Human Resources manager do to make the interview questions the right questions for a job?


HR has conducted the initial screening of individuals who’ve answered an advertisement for a position. The initial screening of applications may be followed by a telephone or email interview, which will further narrow down the field of eligible applicants. According to a 2016 report by SHRM, you need a long checklist to narrow down candidates. A sobering thought to remember is that for every corporate position advertised, a company will get 250 resumes. Of those, only 4-6 people will get an interview, and only one person will get the job.

Questions That Don’t Work

The very large task facing an interviewer is asking the right interview questions. Candidates are assessed through a combination of questions about his/her qualifications, the specific requirements of the job and the behavioral characteristics necessary to do the job well. There are also some awful questions to ask. Here are five examples of bad questions to ask:

  • Anything to do with race, religion or creed
  • Where a person lived growing up
  • How old the person’s children are
  • The person’s age
  • What the person’s spouse does for a living

Not asking these questions might seem self-evident, but people have and will ask them. Avoid them like the proverbial plague.

Questions That Work Very Well

The flip side of the coin is determining what are the good interview questions to pose to an applicant. The “basics” of an interview remain the same: seeking out the person with the best qualifications, an understanding and skill set that matches to specific nature of a job, and the behavioral characteristics best-suited to the open position.

Dona DeZube cites in her article for the ten best questions an employer can ask a candidate. Behind every resume is a human being whose talents, skills, and abilities may be more fully revealed when s/he responds to the questions.

The Top Ten Interview Questions

  • From everything you’ve learned about this role, me and our company, tell me how you feel you’d make a contribution.
  • Why should we hire you?
  • If you could start your career over again, what would you do differently?
  • When I contact your last supervisor and ask which area of your work needs the most improvement, what will I learn?
  • Describe the best boss you ever reported to.
  • Tell me about what motivates you.
  • What frustrates you?
  • Tell me about the toughest negotiation you’ve ever been in.
  • How do you involve your staff when an important company strategy decision needed to be made?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Whatever answers the candidate supplies to these questions can give HR a clear picture of the person’s abilities to understand and embrace the company’s mission and the position’s particulars. As in the Renaissance of the 1500’s, it was, and still is, about asking the right questions to find the right employee.

Joetta L. Wagner

Joetta L. Wagner is a researcher, writer and editor extraordinaire with over 20 years' experience. She absorbs information like a sponge absorbs water, and has been known to dazzle cocktail party patrons with an endless array of collected factoids. Her ruthlessness as an editor is an acquired skill.

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