Fix These 4 Timeworn Job Interview Questions

When working with clients on their talent management processes, I often have the opportunity to observe interviews. During this time I have am able to assess the effectiveness of the process as well as the techniques used by the interviewers.

Core to the interviewing process are questions that are being asked and responses from the candidate. Most interviews I sit in on are average at best. Preparation and good questions can turn average interviews into great ones that will deliver better hiring results.

Here are the top four outdated interview questions and how to transform them into great questions that will provide the information you are looking to gather. These questions will uncover the behaviors you can expect from the candidate in the future and are more effective in today’s business environment.

1. What is your biggest weakness?

So what is your point in asking this question? No one wants to talk about their weaknesses. If the real reason in asking this question is to determine how self-aware the person is, then the question should be something like:

  • How do you self-assess your capabilities? Tell me what conclusions you came to recently.
  • Whom do you look to for honest feedback?
  • Tell me about some negative feedback you were given in the past year and what did you do to turn around the feedback.

2. Are you a team player?

If you ask this question, do you ever get a “no” in response? Again what are you trying to find out about the candidate? More than likely you want to know what specific experiences they have had and how successful they have been working as a team member.

Here are some better questions to ask:

  • When you have been asked to join a new project team, what are the steps you have taken in the first week to integrate yourself?
  • As a team member, describe a time of team conflict and how you helped to resolve the conflict.
  • Describe the most successful team you have been a member of and what was your contribution to the success.

3. Would you consider yourself a people person?

Oh, please. Really? What are you expecting: “No, I’m a robot person”?!  What is your goal for asking this question? This question is often asked when the interviewer believes that the job requires a person with extroverted behavior. So what behaviors are you really interested in uncovering?

Try these questions instead:

  • What parts of your current job do you enjoy the most and why?
  • Name two people you currently work with, first names only. Tell me more about them as people, their work isn’t important.
  • What professional associations are you actively involved in? How are you active in the association?

4. Where do you want to be in five years?

On the surface this actually sounds like a good question, yet with the rapid external changes being experienced today, many people would have difficulty honestly answering this question. The better question would be:

  • What do you plan on accomplishing in the next five years?
  • What makes this plan important to you?
  • How will this position help you to accomplish your long-term goals?

Remember to prepare your questions first by focusing on what information you are really trying to obtain about the candidate. Doing this first step in the interview process will increase the effectiveness of your interviews and provide you with better hiring results.

About the Author: Beth Miller is CEO of Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. Beth’s insight and expertise has made her a sought-after speaker, and she has been featured in numerous industry blogs and publications.

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Don’t Let Bias Affect Assessment Of Employee Performance

Leaders are always influenced by their personal preferences, biases that are a product of an individual’s personality, work style, and work history. A manager who spent 20 years working in startup environments might have a very fast-paced approach, while a manager with an engineering background will have preferences that lean toward detail and process.

Those preferences and biases aren’t necessarily good or bad—they just exist. People are a product of their environments, and there are successful leaders with a wide range of preferences. While it is important to embrace the uniqueness of your individual leadership style, it is critical that you do not let those preferences and biases influence the way you assess employee performance.

When Personalities Collide

Checking personal preferences at the door is far easier said than done. A leader who values process and detail will have a hard time assessing the performance of a sales rep. Why? The core competencies of a salesperson may have less to do with detail and more to do with big picture. Likewise, leaders can have an equally difficult time conducting an objective assessment of an employee who is similar to them. This “halo effect” leads managers to see these employees in a positive light, even if job performance is less than stellar.

So what should leaders do? Teams are made up of diverse individuals. There will be employees who have similar personalities, preferences and work styles to yours, and there will be employees who fall on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. How can you conduct truly objective performance reviews of these types of employees, without letting your personal biases influence the outcome?

Data: The Great Equalizer

The key to objectively assessing employee performance is diversity of input. The more data points you collect, the clearer the picture. Peer reviews are an excellent tool for helping cut through some of the bias. Peer reviews also give employees the chance to see themselves through their colleagues’ eyes, and it gives them a greater understanding of how their job impacts others.

Self-assessments can also be valuable in reducing bias. They allow employees to think introspectively about who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Throughout the course of the performance review process, you, as a manager, can circle back to those self-identified strengths and weaknesses and work to see how strong and weak performance relate.

Personal preferences and biases can’t be avoided—but they can be neutralized. In order to approach performance reviews and assessments objectively, leaders must be willing to collect data from outside sources to ensure that they can conduct the kind of reviews that will help their team members grow.

About the Author: Beth Armknecht Miller is CEO of Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm.

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