Story by: Liz Ryan, Forbes Contributor
Too many organizations cling to outdated beliefs that damage their employer brands and drive the most talented job-seekers away. Here are some of those archaic beliefs:
1. In the hiring process, employers make all the important decisions. Job-seekers need to impress job-seekers — not the other way around.
2. It is perfectly right and appropriate for employers to ask job-seekers to expose their inner thoughts and fears, including asking the questions “What’s your greatest weakness?” and “What are you working to improve in yourself?”
3. Because employers hold all the power in the hiring equation, it would be outrageous for a job-seeker to ask their interviewer any of the questions they’ve been asked to answer themselves.
4. “Trick” questions like “What kind of zoo animal is most like you?” are wonderful interview questions because they show you how the applicant sees himself or herself.
5. Job-seekers who don’t want to jump through the hoops you set out for them are simply unworthy of working in your amazing company. They show their unworthiness by leaving your interview pipeline before you’ve had a chance to dismiss them!
Employers who cling to these ancient beliefs hurt themselves, their customers and their shareholders.
The smarter and more capable job applicants are, the faster and farther they will run away from organizations that treat them like dirt.
Smart employers actively sell job candidates on their opportunities — not just in their job ads, but all the way through the recruiting process.
Here are five new questions — new to me, anyway — job applicants heard on job interviews in 2016, along with a sample answer for each question.
These questions spring from the same “Grovel, Knave” school of thought that inspired every previous crop of obnoxious interview questions, like “What’s your greatest weakness?” and “With so many talented candidates, why should we hire you?”
1. What are you better at than anyone else in the world?
2. What’s one thing in your life you would have done differently if you could do it over again?
3. What is your ideal job – in detail?
4. What’s the most significant thing that has happened to you so far in your life?
5. Studies show that twenty percent of employees do eighty percent of the work. What makes you part of the twenty percent?
Let’s tackle these brainless questions one by one.
Employers ask “What are you better at that anyone in the world?” to see how confidently you describe yourself. They forget that truly confident people don’t brag in the first place.
They don’t brag of their own volition and they don’t let other people make them brag, because it’s beneath them to trumpet their own fabulousness at a job interview or anywhere else.
You will have to assume that the interviewer who asks you this question has been brainwashed by another interviewer who was also brainwashed, and so on down the line.
You can answer this way: “Well, the one thing I know I’m better at than anyone is being me, and I guess that is a mix of being passionate about digital marketing and comic books, playing the trombone in my jazz quintet and playing with my dogs. That’s my strong suit because that’s what I do all the time.”
“What would you have done differently?” is an intrusive, very personal question that is none of an interviewer’s business.
You can choose a relatively harmless event like a powerful learning experience at work: “I would go back in time and never enter into the vendor agreement that ended up costing me and my department time and money last year. Powerful learning! Now I know the right questions to ask.”
Job-seekers may rightly feel that the question “Describe your ideal job in detail” is a trick question in the sense that you don’t know a lot about the job you’re interviewing for, and you might describe an ideal job that is very different and thereby cast doubt on your suitability for the vacant position.
To avoid describing an ideal job that is the opposite of the job you’re applying for, you can talk about your ideal job this way:
“My ideal job is a job where I’m working with smart people to solve one of our company’s top two or three biggest problems. I want to be able to see the impact of my work on the organization’s challenges, and I want lots of creative collaboration with my co-workers and my boss. My ideal job could be in a highrise or a loft or almost anywhere as long as the energy is great.”
I was horrified to hear from three job-seekers in three different cities who were all asked “What’s the most significant thing that has happened in your life so far?” on job interviews. Maybe this question is making the rounds at HR or recruiting conferences, but it is a terrible question to ask a job-seeker.
This is another very personal and presumptuous question — too personal and presumptuous for a job interview.
Some people have seen war and famine. Some people barely escaped with their lives to get wherever they emigrated to, and some people lost family members. Obviously these would count among any person’s most significant life events.
You cannot blithely ask someone to revisit horrible events in their past as they interview for a job. It is the height of rudeness to do so.
You can answer this misguided question with “It was very significant to me to finally receive my Master’s degree after years of study, and of course I will never forget the day I got married and the day my son was born.”
The twenty/eighty percent question may be the most pathetic of all the five horrendous interview questions on our list, because it says flat out “Here in our company, we can’t manage our way out of a paper bag!”
If twenty percent of your employees are truly performing eighty percent of the work, then your managers are out of their depth! It’s nothing to be proud of.
You can answer like this: “I haven’t paid attention to my co-workers’ output at jobs that I’ve held so far because I’ve been focused on my own work and also because I’ve had tremendous co-workers who always supported me. I would expect to find the same situation here, and I enjoy helping people catch up if they fall behind so our whole department is on schedule.”
Should you get up and leave a job interview when you hear a volley of ridiculous questions like these? You will have to consult your gut to get that answer, but I hope you will keep this in mind: only the people who get you, deserve you!
Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap. She is also a regular contributor to forbes.com.