The Best Interview Questions to Not Ask Potential Employees

By Dan Doherty

There are many types of interview questions to ask potential employees to learn more about your potential hire. But if you’re trying to find the best strategic interview questions to ask candidates, there are some types that are better left out.

Before every interview, it’s important to remember the purpose of the conversation: identify who’s the best fit for the job, and get them excited to join your company.  It’s your job to find the best interview questions to help you do this.

Are your interviews structured in a way that enables you to do that effectively? Are you able to dig deeper than what you can learn from reading their resumes or checking with their references for the job?

Consider the quality of the questions that you ask during the candidate interview process. They shape the conversation, determine your ability to suss out potential fit, and have a strong impact on the way the candidate views you and your company.

Don’t Scare Away Potential Employees with Unhelpful Interview Questions

Some interviewers ask questions during the interview that might intimidate candidates. Whether intentional or not, it is important that you understand how the strategic interview questions you ask candidates will impact potential employees’ perceptions of you and your organization, so that you can decide if the questions should be included in the conversation.

Starting the interview process with some light conversation and “soft ball” questions helps the candidate be at ease so they can best represent their abilities. An intimidating demeanor or “gotcha” questions can fluster a candidate that would have ended up being a strong performer in the role.

Each question should have a defined purpose: assess creativity, problem solving, skills proficiency, etc.

Some recruiters view it as beneficial to use the interview questions to ask potential employees as a filter, in order to ensure that the candidates who aren’t a good fit for the job will naturally select themselves out of the process.

The best interview questions can be setup in a way that shows them more about the job expectations so they can determine if the position will be a good fit.

Just be mindful about the questions you ask and how they might impact the perception of your top candidates.

Asking bad interview questions will prevent you from determining which potential employees would be the best fit for the open job position.

Avoid These Questions During the Interview Process

Here are a few common questions that should be avoided during the interview process:

Remind me of ________ (e.g. what your name was)?

If you need to ask the candidate to repeat important details, such as their name, then it shows a lack of interest on your part. Forgetting the small details can be a big mistake, because the employee will feel as though you aren’t invested in them and they are just another number in the line of candidates. Stay engaged in the conversation and make sure that you pay attention to important details so that you don’t have to ask silly interview questions like this one.

If you’re having trouble keeping track of your candidates, consider using an applicant tracking system which will simplify the process to find and hire the best employees.

Where are you currently working?

Even though it might seem like a harmless question, this question shows that you didn’t bother to read the resume closely.

If you ask for details such as the location of their last job or where they graduated, then it will make them feel as though you are unprepared and didn’t take the time to read their resume before the interview. You’re better to focus on strategic interview questions to assess candidate strengths.

What are your biggest weaknesses?

This question is commonly used in the interview process, but it is a tricky one to answer. Most candidates want to answer questions in a positive manner and they are nervous about talking about weak points in their skill set or abilities. It encourages employees to answer untruthfully.

Instead of asking about their weaknesses, change the question to ask about their strengths or their process for identifying areas they need to improve on and the actions they take to do so. This is a much better indicator of how they’ll react to situations if you were to hire them.

How long are you planning to stay with the company? The last person was only here for 3 months, so we are looking for someone long-term.

If the potential employee hears about high turnover and poor retention, then it is likely that they will be a little nervous about the quality of the work environment. Avoid turnover talk, and instead make it clear that you are hiring because of the rapid growth within the company.

No one wants to enter a work environment with poor employee satisfaction, so avoid highlighting this or anything negative about your company or coworkers during the candidate screening process.

We don’t like it when employees _______. How would you handle that situation?

Criticizing staff or complaining about current trends in the company can be a turn-off to candidates. These types of comments reflect badly on you as a hiring manager, because they indicate that you hired the wrong people. Instead of focusing on the negative comments, it is better to skip the topic or highlight something positive about the situation.

Other Candidate Interview Mistakes to Avoid

In addition to asking the wrong questions, you might scare away candidates with a few other things during the interview. Avoid these practices when you are conducting the interview:

  • Inappropriate Language: Even if it is acceptable to swear in the warehouse, you shouldn’t be using that language during the interview. Stay classy.
  • Rushing the Conversation: A person will know if you are trying to get them out the door quickly, and it will make them feel unappreciated for the time they spent to attend the interview. Block off enough time to fully engage with potential employees to get the most out of your interview.
  • Too Much Talking: Do you talk to the candidate too much, without letting them get a word in edgewise? It’s frustrating for a potential candidate and an efficient use of time. If they’re not talking, it means you’re not able to determine candidate fit. Ask open-ended questions and let them elaborate.
  • Asking the Same Questions in a Second Interview: If you drag a candidate in multiple times, 2nd interview questions to ask potential employees should reflect what you’ve learned during phone screenings or the first interview and ask them to elaborate with more specific examples. Asking the same questions during second interviews (or having multiple team members ask the same questions) suggests that you weren’t paying attention and that your interview process needs fixing. Don’t waste candidates time.

Carefully selecting the best interview questions to ask potential employees and being respectful to candidates is mutually beneficial to both parties. The candidate is able to best represent their skills and abilities and you are able to quickly determine their fit for the role.

You want candidates to walk away with a more positive perception of both you and the company, and taking the time to determine strategic interview questions to ask candidates will improve your interview process – and will go a long way to bettering their first impression and getting the most qualified talent into your organization.

Ask the right questions of potential employees and you'll be able to hire better candidates who will help your business succeed.