Everyone knows to steer clear of job interview questions that touch on applicants’ protected characteristics, like marital status and religious practices. They tiptoe not-too-subtly into territory that could trigger claims of bias.
But several common kinds of questions are just as boneheaded, although not for legal reasons. Alison Green, who writes the “Ask a Manager” blog, cautions HR pros and other hiring managers against these six because, at best, they make you appear unprofessional. The worst of the worst just make you look dumb:
- “So, what’s your background?” Did you not read the candidate’s résumé? Jump right in with specific questions about the applicant’s experience.
- “What is your biggest weakness?” Perfectionism, right? A better approach: Ask which professional development opportunities have been most helpful and why.
- “What’s your salary history?” If you want to gauge up front whether an experienced candidate might be out of your price range, simply state generally how much you are prepared to pay. Ask if that is in their ballpark. Otherwise, have this conversation when you’re ready to make an offer.
- “Do you think you can handle this workload?” Most applicants will enthusiastically answer “Yes!” Better: “Tell me how you have handled crunch times in the past.”
- “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” There are hundreds of variations. Sorry, none of them are clever. They’re just annoying. Would you really want to work for someone who thought a riddle would yield useful hiring information?
- “If I offered you the job, would you accept it?” This puts candidates in a real bind. They know you’re looking to hear “yes,” when the real answer is, “That depends on how much you offer me.” If you want this person to come aboard, start the relationship honestly by making an employment offer.