Frequently asked Interview Questions – Standard or Substandard???

There is one thing I hate about the HRs/Interviewers. I am not generalizing all of them. But some HRs/Interviewers mock (Either after the candidate has left or right on the candidate’s face) at the way prospects/candidates answer questions thinking that there is absolutely no flaw in the questions asked by them. This blog is from my experience after attending nearly 30 interviews till now and from my peers’ experiences. The questions that they pose and the answers that they expect really fuddle me.

When you want a concrete/specific answer, then the question asked must as well be specific. Here are some sample questions asked by interviewers.

Tell me about yourself:

There cannot be a more generic question than this. I can talk any crap that comes to my mind. If HRs/Interviewers expect the prospect to tell about his work experience, then the question must be “Tell me about your work experience”. If they expect something specific in ones work experience and if they want to know a little about the personal qualities, the question should be like “Tell me who are your clients, what you did for them and what tools you used in the project. Also, state some of your hobbies, soft skills that you have and your best positive qualities?” Wouldn’t this give clarity to the prospect as to what he should do?

If you ask about the prospect’s work experience, some will try to tell all the things that they have done and some might keep it crisp. The ultimate aim of the prospect will be to sell himself in a way that he thinks will fit the requirement. He just can’t predict what you expect or what is running on your mind.

Some interviewers cut short by showing faces and try to ask them about something else. In reality, how is the prospect supposed to know if the employer is looking for his soft skills, attitude towards things, work experience, mix of all etc. If it was the interviewer who asked the prospect “Tell me about yourself”, he has to pitch in every time and drive the prospect in such a way that he/she answers specific to his expectations.

You want the prospect to be confident. But when such a generic question is asked, the prospect is not sure about what you are expecting and how do you expect him to be very confident about what he is saying. Confidence comes only when there is clarity.

If the prospect is going to beat around the bush even after the question is specific, then that is different. Firstly, the HR/Interviewer has to take the onus of being specific. They just blindly cannot impute the fault to the prospects.

The primary reason why interviewers are not listening in a very involved manner when someone starts to tell about himself/herself is that they ask this question just for the sake of initiating. If the interviewer does some homework on what he wants as an answer to that question, he will surely drive the prospect towards that.

Where do you find yourself 5 years/10 years from now?

Do you know where you will find yourself next moment?

I once told that I want to be a soft skills trainer/child psychologist or I will be striving hard to become one when I was asked “Where do you find yourself 10 years from now”. The HR looked at me bizarrely and asked “how would this role help you achieve that.” “The role as such wouldn’t help me much. 10 years from now is a very long time. That is my aspiration. Now I work to earn to make a comfortable living” I replied.

Of course I didn’t get through the interview. If I were to ask the HR the same question, what would she say? When we see new things in life, we get different exposures and based on that, we might change our desires, aspirations etc. If you were to ask me for the year or so, I can answer your question. 5 years is way too much. Please don’t ask question for the sake of asking it. Do you think you will get any reasonable answer if you ask this? Every answer for this question would be fictitious.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

First coming to strengths – The prospect starts narrating his strengths;

Prospect: My positives are I am optimistic, I have a never say die attitude, I don’t panic in tough situations Bla Bla Bla.

HR: Can you narrate an incident at work to substantiate that you haven’t panicked in tough situations.

Nothing comes to the prospect’s mind immediately as every prospect goes through some degree of nervousness during an interview.

HR assumes that he can’t even state a situation or sometimes the HR would try to trick him. HR would ask “You said that your project manager was bad and unprofessional. Why have you succumbed to a tough situation because you are trying for jobs now?”

Prospects would give their own reasons and it would go on and on. But I feel this isn’t the right way to validate a person’s strength.

Aren’t there ways to judge how a person reacts to situations rather than asking him/her for past situations? Will the HR be able to give 2 instances right away where he has motivated people?

Give the prospect a difficult situation and find out how he tackles it. Give him a problem and check out if he is an optimist. Why can’t the interviewers think of any situations and ask the candidates? Isn’t that their lack of preparation? A good interviewer will try to get the answers from the candidate through different methods. I have seen a few.

Now let us take the weaknesses part: Commonly stated weaknesses – Anger, Perfectionist. Anger is good in certain places and being a perfectionist is good in certain ways. They are context specific. So, people play safe with weaknesses like these. If any other weaknesses are stated like I am unorganized, I am lackadaisical, etc.  then these are correlated to work directly. If HRs just have the intentions to know if someone is confessing honestly, then people would state those. Else, they would wear the mask of a God. It is actually better to avoid these questions. Anyway the answers are going to be fictitious and not the self-realized ones

Why do you want to switch jobs?

Obviously there is a need for a switch right? It might be Salary, Poor environment, Cranky Manager, Politics, Peer Pressure (Salary, role) etc.

I personally know a HR who is in his 7th job in 6 years. He also asks the same question to the prospects.

People definitely have a reason to switch which many conservative Indian HR minds are not ready to accept. So prospects beat around the bush. Why should it always be the fault of the prospect regarding the job stability and why not the fault of the employer for project stability, for misusing the employee saying that there are lot of projects, for not giving hike etc.

I guess the standard questions need to be relooked at to improve the interview standards. Prospects tone, attitude towards the problems given to him in the interview, credibility in his points, conviction in his answers etc and many more are parameters to judge the candidate rather than these stupid generic questions.

Leave your views/suggestions on this. 🙂


One Response

  1. One more – ‘What is your greatest achievement in your career so far?’ It is difficult to pin point just one thing you did as an achievement. Over the years of attending interviews one thing I have felt is, interviewer looks only for the enthusiasm with which you answer such questions and not really bothers about the answers!

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