Those “Stupid Interview Questions”
I recently saw a post on LinkedIN which garnered a fair amount of attention. The author, a former VP, HR for a Fortune 500 company some years back said interviewers should “stop asking stupid questions” during interviews and have a conversation, as friends would, over a coffee. She referenced the dreaded, ‘ What are your weaknesses?, Why should we hire you?, What are your greatest accomplishments?” questions, among others you’ve come to expect. Dozens and dozens of readers applauded “Way to go!”, “Hallelujah!” and “Amen!” most of whom, based on their LI profiles, appear to be ver early on in their careers.
It sounds so much more fun to meet for a cup of coffee like you would with a friend and let the “conversation flow”. I’d rather do that than go through the interview process, but I’m not here to interview new friends for my client. They need to solve a business problem and vet candidates that have demonstrable, successful track records solving those business problems, similar in scope and industry. As a candidate, you should expect to be treated respectfully and yes, the interviewer should be selling you on their company.
I’m the first to admit that the Executive Search industry is not rocket science. Yes, it requires diligence, intelligence and tenacity, but it is not rocket science. Successfully marrying culture with candidates is more of an art, but it is still not rocket science.
I wholeheartedly disagree that “those stupid interview questions” are stupid. It’s not about the question at all. It’s all about the answer. The beauty of this is the insight garnered from the candidate’s answers. If a candidate tells me his greatest weakness is simply, ‘working too much and I need to have more patience with my team’, that’s a lazy answer. If the candidate responds with, “It’s definitely pushing too hard and developing patience. I want things done. Sometimes I want to push really hard, but sometimes you have to wait for the data to form. Sometimes I get so obsessed with getting things accomplished and I keep pushing and pushing. You have to keep in mind how the team is responding and make modifications accordingly. It’s something I’m aware of and am working on.” Typically, we find the more senior the executive, the more complex, thoughtful and interesting answers.
These type of questions and behavioral questions still hold up because in today’s market, companies want to hire based on candidates’ metrics and performance records. Companies are typically slower to hire than they were pre-recession. More stakeholders are brought in to participate in hiring and gaining consensus from the group is expected.
When hiring is done among a team of multi-national executives, working across various remote offices, you need a structured, metrics based process in place to vet out the best candidates. If the executive you hire doesn’t work out, are you going to tell the CEO you hired him/her based on your gut feeling or would you rather say you’d done your due diligence and hired the best person for the job based on the data?
The next time an executive search consultant asks you one of those “stupid questions,” please remember it’s just part of the process and there is a good reason behind it.