Why do interviewers ask non-job questions?

Updated on : December 8, 2021 by Aaron Dean



Why do interviewers ask non-job questions?

I've done a lot of interviews, a lot of interview coaching, and a lot of interviewer training. People on all sides want to do a good job, but they often have a very silly idea of ​​how to get there. They may also have silly ideas about what really constitutes good work.

I have seen, for example:

  • A hiring manager who repeatedly scheduled interviews for the same candidate and then canceled them at the last minute. You want to make sure the candidate is truly committed to the job.
  • Interviewers who made critical comments towards the candidates in order to stress them out. They want to see that ability to
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I've done a lot of interviews, a lot of interview coaching, and a lot of interviewer training. People on all sides want to do a good job, but they often have a very silly idea of ​​how to get there. They may also have silly ideas about what really constitutes good work.

I have seen, for example:

  • A hiring manager who repeatedly scheduled interviews for the same candidate and then canceled them at the last minute. You want to make sure the candidate is truly committed to the job.
  • Interviewers who made critical comments towards the candidates in order to stress them out. They want to see that the ability to handle stress is important, because work is stressful.
  • Companies that place multiple interviewers in a room specifically with the aim of puzzling candidates. They felt the candidates had too much "practice," that they already knew the solutions to the problem-solving questions, and they wanted to shake them up a bit. They felt that this would move away from the "practiced" situation.

These are all absurdly bad ideas. But, gruesomely executed as they may be, the goal in all cases was to select people who could be good employees.

You can trust that when an interviewer asks a question that seems unrelated, they are right. It's probably to select particular skills and sometimes it's just to make you feel comfortable (which you still have to select for good employees).

Remember that when an interviewer is interviewing, they are almost always operating outside of their basic skill set. More or less, the only people who have interview skills are recruiters. Your interviewer is trained in marketing, coding, design, or finance, and now you are being asked to hire him. It is not what they are employed for; it's just a side effect of their jobs.

And, for the most part, they aren't even trained to conduct interviews. The company may offer legal-style training ("Don't ask if they're married!"), But most don't even do it. Very few interviewers, even in large, well-known companies, have been trained in how to conduct a good interview for their position. And in the rare event that your company offers job-specific interview training, it's generally poor training.

So why do interviewers ask non-job questions? Because they think so, and no one has ever told them how to do a good interview.

It's okay to be frustrated by this. But also, give your interviewers a break.

Here's a question I asked a junior candidate today:

Look at these two strings:

AABB and BBAA

How would you determine that they are anagrams of each other?

The candidate then proceeded to tell me that he would "trade" As and Bs.

So I wrote:

ABCDEF : CABDFE

And he asked the same question: How do you know that it is or is not an anagram?

He couldn't answer that one. It is not as easy as exchanging A and Bs.

This problem is really simple. If you can't explain it, you can't program.

With such a stupid problem as this, I can evaluate many things:

  • Did you understand the problem?
  • Did you miss your first solution?
  • Ho
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Here's a question I asked a junior candidate today:

Look at these two strings:

AABB and BBAA

How would you determine that they are anagrams of each other?

The candidate then proceeded to tell me that he would "trade" As and Bs.

So I wrote:

ABCDEF : CABDFE

And he asked the same question: How do you know that it is or is not an anagram?

He couldn't answer that one. It is not as easy as exchanging A and Bs.

This problem is really simple. If you can't explain it, you can't program.

With such a stupid problem as this, I can evaluate many things:

  • Did you understand the problem?
  • Did you miss your first solution?
  • How do you react when you are told that you are not correct?
  • Can you think and express your ideas clearly?

I also purposely posed even simpler questions that I know any student has solved during their curriculum. They always make a little mistake and I point it out and ask how it can be corrected.

He told me how they accept criticism and how they integrate feedback. (I give a counterexample to show why they made a mistake)

Today the question was: find the minimum and maximum. Candidate initialized with "the maximum value of int" and "0". (So ​​say "-1" as a counterexample)

So there is a question that you can hardly finish. I don't really care about the completion. The only interesting question is: "How did it go?"

I also have ways to downgrade the questions. As an example, there were 2 SQL questions. He did not have a chance to test them. So, I asked "how would you do it?", Then I asked "what keyword would be involved?" .

So even when it doesn't seem like a job-related question, they are!

If you are left alone to answer the questions, it is to give you space to think. It's never fun to be examined while fighting.

Then we walk through their solutions together and discuss them. At that point, you are confident enough that we can troubleshoot or put in a little twist to see how you think.

Today's candidate failed in logical thinking, but will be hired for a test in the hope that the "real problems" are a better evaluation. (It solved 50% of the questions based on "knowledge". It was not an option for me, but apparently our company has an "fairness" policy)

Most of the questions that recruiters can ask that aren't directly job-related are hopefully at least tangentially job-related (pay, commute, reason you left your last job, etc.).

Other questions could be just building a good relationship. It is important that the candidate and the recruiter trust each other and get to know each other (especially so that the recruiter knows the candidate, as we will represent him in some important situations).

Some recruiters and hiring managers ask silly questions in interviews (see Rob Starlin's answer here) because:

  1. They have the mistaken belief that the
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Most of the questions that recruiters can ask that aren't directly job-related are hopefully at least tangentially job-related (pay, commute, reason you left your last job, etc.).

Other questions could be just building a good relationship. It is important that the candidate and the recruiter trust each other and get to know each other (especially so that the recruiter knows the candidate, as we will represent him in some important situations).

Some recruiters and hiring managers ask silly questions in interviews (see Rob Starlin's answer here) because:

  1. They have the mistaken belief that they can interpret your answer and predict your performance, see "how you think" or "guess" something about who you are or what your motivations are, through these questions (they cannot, reliably, in everybody); and
  2. Asking these absurd questions further consolidates their position of power and authority as you struggle to find answers for them in your position as a humble job seeker (you are not, they need you as much or more than you need them!).

Some recruiters may also ask some questions that do not seem to be related to the job at hand at first, but may still be. (There may be internal or interpersonal political situations that a recruiter is experiencing, without specifically mentioning it in the interview.)

Often it's because they want to watch you solve a problem. Example:

How many quarters do you need to stack to be as tall as the Empire State Building?

Will you be creative? Will you be analytical? Will you give up quickly or will you persist?

Many companies use intuitive and unproven methods to try to see the real you in an interview. Asking her an odd question, which she didn't prepare for, is sometimes an effort to get her to put her party manners aside.

Honestly, I'm not a big fan. There are many legitimate questions that make candidates uncomfortable and have to do with the job.

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Often it's because they want to watch you solve a problem. Example:

How many quarters do you need to stack to be as tall as the Empire State Building?

Will you be creative? Will you be analytical? Will you give up quickly or will you persist?

Many companies use intuitive and unproven methods to try to see the real you in an interview. Asking her an odd question, which she didn't prepare for, is sometimes an effort to get her to put her party manners aside.

Honestly, I'm not a big fan. There are many legitimate questions that make candidates uncomfortable and have to do with the job.

Examples:

Tell us about a time when you failed.

What did you do when you and your boss couldn't agree?

Here's a really lousy side of work, or working at this company. How do you see yourself dealing with this?

I wonder how much Google, and those other companies asking weird questions, have proven the efficacy of the weird interview trend they started.

I wonder what would happen if they asked Group X of candidates those questions but did not ask Group Y.

Would the people hired from Group Y be significantly less creative than the people from Group X?

My suspicion is no, although I would be open to being proven wrong.

Still, if you are looking for work, you should prepare for questions like that, regardless of your personal opinions.

If you mean interviewers asking completely random questions, then I really don't know the answer to that as I wouldn't be doing it myself when interviewing.

However, all interviewers should ask questions to assess whether you would be a culturally good fit for the business or a good fit for the team. The questions may not appear to be related to the specific job tasks, but the interviewers want to check if, for example, you have good negotiation or conflict resolution skills.

If you have any specific questions that are not job related in mind, please feel free to message me.

Multiple reasons (rather a combination of these reasons)

  1. Five minute interviews look weird - they need to fill out the interview
  2. This gives them time to think about what to ask next.
  3. They are curious about your life, personality, points of view.

Why do you want the job is a key question that all interviewers are likely to ask themselves sooner or later. We assume you want the money ... but why is THIS job? Why don't you go drive a bus? Usually the question is asked neutrally without emphasizing "THIS" job because we want to know if you are at least smart enough to say something that you have researched or learned about THIS job that you (or someone who really wants THIS job) really want to do at work. Often the best answer is some variation of "I'm dying to learn this job, to learn more about your industry, to advance in

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Why do you want the job is a key question that all interviewers are likely to ask themselves sooner or later. We assume you want the money ... but why is THIS job? Why don't you go drive a bus? Usually the question is asked neutrally without emphasizing "THIS" job because we want to know if you are at least smart enough to say something that you have researched or learned about THIS job that you (or someone who really wants THIS job) really want to do at work. Often times, the best answer is some variation of, "I'm dying to learn this job, learn more about your industry, move forward, contribute to getting promoted and earn EVEN MORE money."

I once asked a woman who was referred to judge whether she 'fit in with our organization'. The IT director wanted her as his No. 2, with a huge salary, bigger than we had paid anyone in the position before. I only asked this first. She said, “Well, I've been out of work for eight months, totally exhausted by the last bunch of male jerks I set up a new system for. They had no idea and they were sexist, but I eventually forced them to see the need, but then I was exhausted and gave it up. So I was hiding in my cabin trying to get over exhaustion and last week my girlfriend said to me, look Stella, you really have to start looking and get out of bed. She pointed to this job and I saw that it was in a retail company and I thought 'retail,

Well, we were a large retailer here where work was continually extremely busy and stressful and people were afraid to take a week off in case, as we used to say, we found our desk again in the parking lot. ' And by the way, he would be trying to force OUR male sexist idiots to accept his system (sorry to say, but they were like most then). I tried to get him to say more about "why he wanted the job" but to no avail. I didn't speak ill of her, I just repeated the answer to the guy who wanted to hire her, who said, 'Why did you have to ask her that? Now I can't hire her 'her words, her words of decision, her sad mistake. And then he added 'HR always ruins things for the rest of us' low blow, I thought, from one of the biggest idiots on the staff she would have been working for '. Oh and by the way,

The moral: you may want to be careful what you answer to this.

You have reached the last 5 to 10 minutes of the job interview and the interviewer says "Do you have any questions for me?" If you say no, you are missing the easiest way to make an unforgettable impression. You want to be unforgettable right?

An interview is about connecting with people, the company, the job, and you. You absolutely should ask questions at the end of the interview, but some questions are better than others.

Impact - Ask how it will have an impact here. Companies want to hire those who want to own the problems, not cause them or walk away. Get excited about it

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You have reached the last 5 to 10 minutes of the job interview and the interviewer says "Do you have any questions for me?" If you say no, you are missing the easiest way to make an unforgettable impression. You want to be unforgettable right?

An interview is about connecting with people, the company, the job, and you. You absolutely should ask questions at the end of the interview, but some questions are better than others.

Impact - Ask how it will have an impact here. Companies want to hire those who want to own the problems, not cause them or walk away. Go ahead and solve their problems and they will not be able to resist at least considering you and the ideas you can contribute.

Growth: Visualize yourself in the company and, more importantly, have the interviewer visualize you in the company. Managers want to hire people who will grow, not back down, so demonstrate the ability to do so. Identify areas of opportunity that you will continue to work on, but also trust your strengths enough to show them front and center. Don't forget to be humble.

Your experience: people like to talk about themselves. Find out why your interviewer joined the company and not others, why this team, and what their career path has been like. Make your interviewer open up about himself and state what matters to him.

People - Learn what the team composition looks like, what their background is, why they joined, what motivates them to do this job every day, and if you have a chance to network with a current employee using this question, bonus points for you .

The plan for the next X years: ask questions about the future and include yourself in the question. “This sounds like a great opportunity and I am happy that I was able to chat. What will the next 2-3 years be like? What are the goals? "Companies want to know that you are involved in the long term. Not only because it is very expensive to replace, but hiring and recruiting is difficult. Especially hiring good and talented people. If you are one of those people, companies will do their best to keep you. and others will do their best to woo you.You want to be that person.

What does an ideal candidate for this position look like? - This is one of my favorite questions because it helps you position yourself as the right employee, IF you do it right. When you ask this, the interviewer will likely go over what is important to have or know for this position, and here's a pro tip: the things they say first are probably the most important (most of the time). If you hear something that you do not have, now you have the opportunity to give an answer on how you will learn it. If they mention something that you do have, it's a great opportunity to remind them that you are skilled in that area.

Can I tell you more about me? - This is a great question to give your interviewer a chance to ask you directly and frankly about any concerns you may have. This gives you the opportunity to address those concerns.

Mission: Align with the mission of the company by telling a story. For example, I joined Facebook before other big tech companies because I felt personally connected to the mission. My mom uses almost all Facebook products to stay connected with family and long distance friends. Why does this matter to me? She is also my dad's main caregiver and without Facebook, she would find it difficult to connect, smile, and most importantly find happiness thanks to family.

Asking all of these questions is a surefire way to help others think about you more, but as Andy mentioned, it will also help you know if the opportunity is right for you.

The Ladders and TechRepublic have published articles listing strong and interesting questions to ask interviewers. In fact, I have two of those items on my hard drive; here is the first one:

These are your questions for the interviewer

Date: October 5, 2010

Author: Toni Bowers

The first few times I interviewed for a job, I found myself speechless when the tables turned and the interviewer asked me if I had any questions.

My silence was due in part to the fact that the question was unexpected. But sometimes I didn't have any questions because I clarified points during the interview and had all my questions.

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The Ladders and TechRepublic have published articles listing strong and interesting questions to ask interviewers. In fact, I have two of those items on my hard drive; here is the first one:

These are your questions for the interviewer

Date: October 5, 2010

Author: Toni Bowers

The first few times I interviewed for a job, I found myself speechless when the tables turned and the interviewer asked me if I had any questions.

My silence was due in part to the fact that the question was unexpected. But sometimes I didn't have any questions because I clarified points during the interview and I already had all my questions answered. And, I admit, sometimes I just wanted the interview to end so I could go to my car and breathe again.

But the truth is, interviewers want you to ask questions and they want to see what kind of questions you ask. Here are the types of questions you shouldn't and shouldn't ask:

  • Do not ask about salary, vacation time, employee benefits, time allowed for lunch, etc., in the first interview. Although these areas are totally relevant to the job, you don't want to give the impression that you are primarily concerned with them.
  • Don't ask when you can ditch the job in question and move into an influential position. You may be thinking that, but there is a better way to ask. Ask how success will be measured. Ask the interviewer what he sees you doing in six months or a year if he joins the company. Ask about training or career development opportunities.
  • Be careful that your nerves do not make you ask a question whose answer has already been provided earlier in the interview. There is nothing worse than explaining the history of a company and then having a candidate ask you what exactly the company does. Listen to the interviewer and ask questions about what they are saying.

Here are some more suggested questions:

Can you describe the culture of the company? This is a good way to get to know the company and its employees informally.

What employees and departments will I work with most often? Interviewers appreciate the broader view than just "what will I do?"

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the company? In addition to feeling vindicated by returning this dreaded question to an interviewer, you can also gain interesting information. If the interviewer says that he personally doesn't care about the mandatory participation in the company's bowling league, well, that's it.

What attracted you to this organization? This shows your interest in the interviewer as a person and also implies that you respect that person enough to want their personal opinion. The unspoken meaning is "If someone as cool as you were drawn to this company, I'd be interested to know what."

Describe what a typical day would be like for me. Interviewers will often highlight the duties of a job. You can get a little more information if you have to describe a normal day.

And here is the second article:

10 ridiculously smart questions to ask in a job interview

By Rachel Weingarten, The Ladders, August 1, 2017

In a crowded job market, the last thing you want to be is forgettable. Yet people do it every day with this one mistake: not asking questions in a job interview.

The error is understandable. You've been so busy preparing to answer questions that you forget to show the curiosity that allows interviewers to see what you really want to know. After all, even if each and every one of your answers is flawless and on time, if you don't ask your interviewer a question or two, you risk coming off as generic.

On the other hand, you don't want to ask terrible questions. That is even worse.

Here's how to show the person interviewing you how you are different and why you stand out from the crowd.

Why did you join the company?

Mark Phillips, who runs a major office for Sanford Rose Associates, one of the largest recruiting networks in the US, had a simple question that could be quite complicated. If the interviewer tells you it was for vacation days or benefits, chances are there isn't much below the surface. However, if they inform you about the creativity or integrity of the brand, you know that you are potentially going to work for a winner.

How does this role promote the mission of the company?

Kelly Lavin, chief talent officer for Canvas, the world's first text-based interview platform, suggests you ask this because “While it is important to understand job duties and company culture, determining why a company exists and a role is the same. if not more important. "It will also allow you to better understand if you" align with the mission of the company and will have a sense of purpose in your new role. "

Tell me about your most successful employees. What do they do differently?

Believe it or not, this is almost a trick question for potential employers, Lavin says. "Answering this question will help the candidate understand how a company defines success and what specific behaviors can lead to that success." In one fell swoop, you will find out what success means to this company and how you can best achieve it.

What do you expect someone in this position to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?

University of Richmond Career Advisor Anna Young says, "Great candidates start right away, find out how they're expected to get involved, and start contributing to the organization from day one." And in case you're wondering, it's okay to tweak the question for an internship and ask about expectations for the first few weeks.

What, if there is something, in my background does it give you a pause?

Roberta Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, says this is pretty much the question job seekers should ask themselves in an interview. She says, "By asking this question, you will be able to overcome any objections the interviewer may have before leaving the room." And if you're smart, you can find a way to combat any preconceived notions by addressing them in a follow-up note.

What is the turnover in your company, in the executive suite and in the department for which I am interviewing?

Dave Arnold, president of Arnold Partners, says that as a leading independent CFO search consultant for technology companies, you've had hundreds of people come out to interview clients and think that's a question worth asking. While people no longer expect to stay in a certain job for decades or more, it's good to know how long you can expect to stay if given the opportunity. If the interviewer is uncomfortable or shares the fact that the change in your company is greater than that of Dancing with the Stars, you may want to think twice before accepting the position.

What are the opportunities for growth and advancement?

Young says, "This can help you understand the structure of the organization and whether there are opportunities to move up and advance in your career." It's also a great way to learn about various ways to progress or move into different roles. "Also, it could help you learn if they offer ongoing training or professional development for employees."

If you had the opportunity to re-interview for your company (knowing what you know now), what questions would you ask next time?

Ashley White, executive director of Human Resources for APQC, a member-based nonprofit that produces benchmarks and research best practices, suggested this difficulty.

This one is a bit sneaky because it also allows you to surreptitiously monitor the interviewer's hidden signals. Do they suddenly look uncomfortable before launching the company line? Do you receive this with a giant smile? You may have more answers to this question for what they don't say than even what they share.

What have I not asked most of the candidates?

Phillips also suggested asking this question, which sets him apart right away. On the one hand, you are pooling all the other applicants and showing a confidence level; on the other hand, you are getting information about your potential competitors - they asked this, but it didn't even occur to me.

One last thing: in order not to spend the next few days or weeks with pins and needles, it is always a promising idea to ask the following question.

What are the next steps in this process?

Young says, "If they haven't shared this information yet, it's important to ask about their schedule so you know when you might be notified of a second interview or a possible offer."

What to ask you

Shannon Breuer, president of the Wiley Group, was one of 800 laid off at her previous job. Shannon now draws on her own personal experience to provide clients with career counseling and transition services. She offers a list of questions to ask yourself before an interview and, if necessary, you can flip them over and ask the interviewer.

· What level of work-life balance do you want to enjoy?

· How casual do you like to dress?

· Is your ideal employer a promising small business or a century-old corporation with time-tested values ​​and a clear path for future promotions?

· Do you like the management style of the leadership team?

· What are the company initiatives you can support?

That's what I have on file. You don't have to ask everyone, but asking a few will rank you as a better candidate.

He usually praised him when he did interviews. These are just a few of the greatest hits collection.

"Tell me what you think this job is about." All applicants imagine themselves in the position they seek to fill. They're already imagining themselves behind that desk, running that machine, launching the product, maybe hanging out after work ... mentally, they're already on the payroll. If what you are imagining is not close to reality, this marriage is probably not working. The best answer: "Whores and alcohol?" I got the job.

“There is something that I have never fully understood. Maybe

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He usually praised him when he did interviews. These are just a few of the greatest hits collection.

"Tell me what you think this job is about." All applicants imagine themselves in the position they seek to fill. They're already imagining themselves behind that desk, running that machine, launching the product, maybe hanging out after work ... mentally, they're already on the payroll. If what you are imagining is not close to reality, this marriage is probably not working. The best answer: "Whores and alcohol?" I got the job.

“There is something that I have never fully understood. Maybe you can explain it to me. "If the candidate has a master's degree in economics, for example, invite the applicant to educate him." I've always wondered, what is the difference between M1 and M2? "Did you just spot a movement? Did your future employee relax and perk up a little more? Does your interview now look more like a conversation? And did you know the answer? You had an economics graduate who didn't. Worst answer of all. I didn't get the job .

"What question did you expect me to ask?" Followed by "What question did you hope I wouldn't ask?" The best answer to the second: "What is the capital of South Dakota?" I got the job.

"So, have you ever been to jail?" It works best for administrative jobs. The best answer: "Is that one of the requirements?" He also got the job.

"What's the worst car you've ever owned?" You can learn a lot about people from the cars they drive. The best answer of all: "The one that is parked in the front, the one that I am going to replace with the money that you are going to pay me." I got the job. And the car.

Hmm, as a recruiting professional, let me respond to the phrase "prove yourself" with a resounding "ew!" - What are we talking about here, slave trade? Stupid. As a result, you might be tempted to say something like "I'll do it if you want." The reason for my initial reaction is that this question seems to validate the notion that the company has all the power here and would be doing you some kind of favor by hiring you. This is a wrong concept. Actually, I would respond by explaining that in order to show how qualified I am for the position, I need to know more about

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Hmm, as a recruiting professional, let me respond to the phrase "prove yourself" with a resounding "ew!" - What are we talking about here, slave trade? Stupid. As a result, you might be tempted to say something like "I'll do it if you want." The reason for my initial reaction is that this question seems to validate the notion that the company has all the power here and would be doing you some kind of favor by hiring you. This is a wrong concept. Actually, I would respond by explaining that in order to show how qualified I am for the position, I need to know more about it first. How can I provide details of all the reasons why my skills meet the needs of the job if I don't know much about the job to begin with? I would need to understand what would be expected of me. What are the job tasks? What are the central hours / shift? What is the salary or salary range? What are the benefits? What is expected of me in the first 30/60/90 days? What is the size of the team? Are there mostly employees who are early in their career or later in their career? After all, one of the best ways to learn is to work with smart people. You see, in order for you to prove that I am "worthy" (again, ew), I will need to know more about the job. I will need a clearer picture of the job first so that I can then show how the things I have done in my career and the knowledge I have will meet the needs of the job.

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