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Ineffective Interview Questions

by Ralph Heibutzki

A productive interview depends on whether an applicant gets questions that probe his knowledge, skills and abilities. However, the outcome is less satisfactory if one must field ineffective interview questions, which are usually too narrowly-focused -- or too broad -- to answer well. The interviewer may pose overly creative or leading questions that yield no insights about whether an applicant is right for the job, which any interview is supposed to establish.

Close-Ended Questions

Close-ended questions only require yes or no answers, which makes them easy to use incorrectly, according to a guide issued by the University of Oklahoma's Human Resources Department. Asking whether an applicant can work under pressure, for example, doesn't provide a way of comparing him to someone else. This method is better suited for getting commitments, such as asking, "Can you start on Monday?"

Loaded Questions

Loaded questions force the interviewee to choose between two equally unsuitable options. For example, a hiring manager might ask whether a candidate sees forgery or embezzlement as the lesser evil. However, this method also opens the door for manipulation by the interviewer, according to the OU guide. The resulting answer may yield little or no practical insights into a candidate's decision-making abilities.

Off-the-Wall Questions

Sometimes, a candidate gets a question that has no clear relevance -- such as, "What kind of kitchen utensil would you be?," which Bandwidth.com applicants have had to answer. Other variations include asking for the candidate's book, car or film preferences, according to "Psychology Today." Though some managers believe that this technique reveals the candidate's personality, or thought processes, no independent research supports this idea.

Tell Us About Yourself

Open-ended questions require candidates to explain themselves. However, you'll find it hard to showcase your most appealing qualities when an interviewer frames his questions too broadly, "Psychology Today" says. An example is the traditional opening request, "Tell us about yourself." However you respond, there's no single correct answer to help evaluate your candidacy. You may also feel tempted to tell the interviewer what he wants to hear.

What Are Your Weaknesses?

The premise behind this question is ineffective, since you're being asked to describe something that you don't do well, as columnist Liz Ryan notes, in a September 2005 commentary for "Bloomberg Businessweek." The best response is to give one that seems true of yourself, yet could apply to almost anybody -- such as getting bored easily, or preferring numbers over people, for example.

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