I was facilitating an employment interviewing workshop the other day and as we were discussing why people were taking the course, one participant said,
“I want to learn why the person I hired isn’t the person who shows up on the first day of work?”
It’s all too common to have the prince or princess of the applicant world show up at the interview, but on the first day of work, a frog is napping at your front desk.
Your employment interview process failed.
Here are five reasons why:
1. Your job description for the position you seek to fill is 20 years outdated.
Therefore, you’ve basically scammed the applicant into taking a position that doesn’t really exist and then are expecting that he or she will just go along with the “all other duties as assigned,” cop-out clause.
2. You’re still asking the same questions you’ve been asking for 20 years.
YOU: “What do you think is your greatest weakness?”
APPLICANT: “I am so dedicated to my job, I sometimes forget to go home at the end of the day.”
Guess what? EVERYONE knows the “right” answer to this question. Don’t believe me? Google it! While you’re there, check out the right answers to these questions as well:
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What’s your greatest strength?
Why do you want to work here?
Why should I hire you?
And for you contrary types, I know you’re thinking, “Sometimes people must answer truthfully.” Yes, you’re right, but not right enough to keep using these questions. Anyone dumb enough to say that his greatest weakness is his inability to get to work on time in the morning will likely weed himself out of the interview process on another question.
3. You’re asking leading questions.
YOU: “This job requires you to work every other Saturday. You don’t have a problem working every other Saturday, do you?”
APPLICANT: (Thinking. . . hmmm, I”ve got a 50/50 chance, but I’m guessing the answer she wants is NO), “Uh, no.”
If I want the job, which answer do you think I’m going to give?
And for you contrary types. . . go back and read the last paragraph of #2 above.
4. You’re asking closed questions.
YOU: “Do you have experience working directly with customers?”
APPLICANT WHO GOT FIRED ON DAY ONE OF HIS ONE AND ONLY CUSTOMER SERVICE JOB: “Yes.”
So what did you learn from the applicant’s answer? Nothing more than when you ask the same question to an excellent customer service provider. In fact, if you ask too many questions like this, both will appear equally qualified at the end of your process.
5. You’re asking hypothetical questions.
YOU: “Imagine you’re walking by a burning building and you see a woman on the fifth floor, leaning out the window screaming for you to save her baby, which she is holding in her arms. What would you do?”
APPLICANT: It doesn’t matter how the applicant answers!
Hypothetical questions aren’t always inappropriate. However, what would you hope to find out about the applicant for your front desk clerk position by asking this question? Even if you get the answer you’re looking for, the gap between the hypothetical and reality is often a big one. What are the odds the applicant would REALLY behave that way?
I’d much rather ask a REAL question about what the applicant REALLY did in a RELEVANT task in one of his past positions.
Now you’re saying to yourself, “Okay, so all my questions are junk. What kinds of questions should I be asking?”