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'What are your weaknesses?’, ‘What motivates you to succeed?’, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’ are the standard tried-and-tested questions that crop up in nearly every job interview.
The problem with these questions is exactly that: your candidates have likely heard them a hundred times before, and will proffer the same, tired answers that have either been rehearsed meticulously or pilfered from the internet.
The catch 22 is that these questions are classics for good reason- as an employer, you need to know the info that these questions should illicit e.g. where your potential employee sees themselves in five years, and whether their weaknesses are likely to affect their performance in your job etc.
By tweaking classic interview questions you’ll be able to glean the information you need, whilst keeping candidates on their toes and staving off those dreaded robotic, clichéd answers!
‘Where do you see yourself in the next five years?’ is usually greeted with a long-winded answer about how the candidate wants to be doing something which makes them happy, or that they just want to be successful in whatever they’re doing; this alternate question forces them to be specific.
Asking for professional achievements will enable you to bring to light what really matters to your candidate; if all of their three achievements centre around training you’ll know that this is really important to them, if they focus on leading a department or promotion, you’ll know this is where they’re motivations lie.
Forcing the candidate to define just three things also gives the answer a finite end-point which prevents it from becoming too convoluted.
This question requires the candidate to think; rather than just reeling off reasons they’ve read on the ‘company culture’ section of your website, they are forced to make a comparison- which requires a higher level of thought.
This should also reveal if your interviewee is passionate about your sector. If they are, they’ve probably considered applying to some of your competitors, so should have both a basic knowledge of them and how you differ.
‘What is your greatest weakness?’ will commonly be greeted with clichés like, ‘I’m such a perfectionist- I like things to be just-so’, or the classic, ‘I find it really difficult to switch off from work’.
Asking people for a specific flaw cuts through the waffle and coerces candidates into giving a concrete example of something they’re not great at, meaning you’ll get a more honest and relevant answer.
In at number four is the age-old interview question ‘What motivates you?’. The majority of candidates will retort with a short sentence like ‘I’m motivated by success’, or, ‘I’m motivated by seeing the results of my hard work’.
Asking interviewees for a specific example of how they’ve been motivated in the past requires them to dig a little deeper, and will stop these one-sentence answers in their tracks.
Most people in an interview situation will describe themselves as a hard-working, perfectionist- no one is ever going to say that they are a mediocre candidate who hates overtime and will be unwilling to go the extra mile!
While asking your interviewee what other people think of them won’t single-handedly deliver a more candid answer (candidates can just as easily lie about what others say about them e.g. ‘My boss used to say I was the best employee he’s ever had the pleasure of working with!’), asking what shaped their colleagues’ opinions will.
It pushes the candidate to back up their answers with evidence, which is more difficult to concoct on the spot - e.g. rather than just stating that people think they are articulate, they have to say why people think that i.e. ‘My line manager thought that I was articulate; I had to deliver weekly presentations to senior members of staff who complemented him about how I communicated complex business ideas’.
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