Practice Makes Imperfect: Revealing the Professional Within

So your grandma told you practice makes perfect. True enough. But do you really want to hire a candidate who believes that same principle applies to interviews? Unfortunately, typical interview questions are spouted all over the Internet in reference to interview preparation. This gives them one unavoidable commonality: the responses to these questions have been rehearsed and handed out as many times as the change in your pocket.

The point of an interview is to get real information about the person you’re interviewing. Asking questions to which anyone can provide a practiced and perfected answer won’t get you the information you need and is ultimately a waste of your time.

Wouldn’t you rather learn a natural thought and the motivation behind it than a rehearsed, automated response? So how can you tweak your interviews to reveal the real professional behind the suit and tie.

The trick is to take cookie cutter questions to a new level. Potentially, a candidate can interview with ten different companies and provide the exact same answer to the question, “Why do you want to work here?” Instead, make the assumption that if they truly want to work with your company, they’ll have made an effort to get to know your company. In which case, a more beneficial question would be, “What do you know about our organization?” Are they excited about what they know? Are they merely telling you basic public opinion or tidbits from the homepage of your website? Or, on the other extreme, do they tell you the entire history of the company, all the way back to 1985? How do their answers relate to your needs? Do you need someone to get the job done quickly and simply or meticulously and detail-oriented?

Another common question is “What are you weaknesses?” You already know that answers of “I work too hard!” or “I’m a perfectionist!” are red flags (does this mean their solution is to work less or sloppily?). But even seemingly honest answers are probably rehearsed and liberally handed out. Step it up by asking about those weaknesses as applicable to the work place or position: “What are the main challenges in your current position and how do you address them?” By skewing this question, you’ll not only gain insight into their weaknesses, but also how they aim to improve those weaknesses, as well as their overall attitude toward the situation. Do they complain and pass the blame? Or do they take responsibility and maintain a positive attitude?

You’ll soon see how taking the basic interview questions a step further will provide you with some valuable insight. The candidate’s job in an interview is to present themselves as the next great addition to your team. Wouldn’t you rather learn about the real person instead of the person who they want you to think they are? Spice up your interview questions, and you’ll get the real information you need, not simply the information every other employer already has.

Common interview questions are like bad pick up lines. Here are some classier lines for you to play around with:

• Instead of asking about the candidate’s greatest strength, ask, “What do you consider your greatest success in your life so far?”

• Instead of asking about 3-5 year goal plans, ask, “How do you plan to achieve growth in your current career?”

• Instead of asking if they work well with a team, ask, “What position do you take when working with a team?”

• Instead of asking if they are well organized, ask, “How do you prioritize the day-to-day functions of your job?”

• Instead of asking what they do outside of work, ask, “What is your work/life balance like?”

• Instead of asking about salary requirements, ask, “What are you worth and why?”

The bottom line is that if you turn common interview questions on their head, you’ll also turn the common mediocre candidates on their head. And the ones left standing just might be your golden employees.

Megan Smith – IT Search Executive at Ashley Ellis

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