Plus: The Single Most Important Question to Ask In an Interview

Do you hate the interview process? Are you tired of feeling misled by the people you interview? You’re far from alone.

misled-by-job-intervieweeRegardless of profession, every employer wants the same basic character qualities in their key positions. You want workers who are honest and trustworthy, have the right experience, work hard at producing quality work, get along with others, and take initiative. They need the right skillset too, but these relational and personality traits are usually what end up determining whether the person fits into your company’s long term plans.

And yet, so many employers continue to struggle during the interview process to identify people who have these traits, and to weed out the ones who don’t.

Are you frustrated about getting stuck with another terrible new hire who sounded great in the interview but then turned out to be a disaster? Are you tired of feeling misled by your job interviewees?

Apply these 7 tips to your job interview process, and you will start catching toxic job candidates earlier so you avoid getting stuck with them.


7 Tips to Getting What You Need from the Interview Round of the Hiring Process

1. Have a list of interview questions – and stick to it

You can’t compare candidates if they all answer different questions. This doesn’t mean you don’t ask follow up questions, but those fall under the planned ones, and once the follow up is finished, you always return to the plan.

2. Don’t let the interviewee take over the job interview

It’s your interview, not theirs. It’s good if they have questions for you. But you need to learn what you need to learn. This goes hand in hand with having a pre-planned list of questions and sticking to it.

What kinds of questions should you ask your job interviewees? Keep reading. We’ve got some gems.

3. Use a grading system for your most critical skills (soft skills and hard skills)

You must have a quantitative way of comparing job candidates in their interviews. Otherwise it’s too easy for it to devolve into a situation where you’re comparing how well they shook your hand and made eye contact, and what that says about them (not much, as it turns out).

4. Ask negative interview questions that force honesty

This article from has some great interview question ideas. Here’s one of the best: “Why shouldn’t I hire you?”

Now, you don’t have to use that one if it doesn’t work for you, but it gets you thinking about a different line of questions you might want to add in to your plan. A negative question catches someone off guard who prepared for all the standard questions they’re used to getting.

Some more negative questions: “What’s one of your more challenging weaknesses?” “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made at work?”

These questions force self-reflection, which itself is a critical soft skill you should be looking for in any leadership level position.

5. Ask situational questions that can’t be made up

How did you handle this? What could you have done better? What made that project such a success? Get them talking about specific situations, and then start digging. Get into the details so you get past all the generalizations and platitudes. Get them to start talking off the cuff.

6. Listen for ‘we’ (and listen!)

You want someone who values the contributions of others, not who takes all the credit themselves. If they’re always talking about me, I, mine, and how great I did, and never credit anyone else, that’s a red flag.

Going along with this though, you must be sure to listen more than you talk. Getting them talking is square one to avoid being misled by a job interviewee.

7. Don’t give much weight to quality of conversation

Great conversations happen with people who are great at conversation. But that has little to do with actual job performance or the qualities that foster productive collaboration.

Some employers feel misled by interviewees partly because they let an emotional connection from a good conversation or a charming personality interfere with their objective judgment. This again speaks to the necessity of using a grading system.


Great Interview Questions to Ask:

1. What Is Your Long Term Goal?

This is the single greatest question you can ask an interviewee.

Your most important positions need to be filled by people who have an idea of where they’re going. This applies to life in general, career, family, and even unfulfilled hopes and dreams.

What do they really care about? What are they working toward? How have they followed through on achieving that goal? You’ll learn so much about them as a person with this question, and they can’t fake it. If you feel like they’re misleading you by speaking in platitudes and clichés, just keep digging, and you’ll find out if their goal is really their goal. It won’t be hard.

2. What Have Been Your Best Moments at Work?

You don’t want a superficial person who cares more about the perks and benefits of the job than the actual work. This interview question works well because if an interviewee’s best moments were when they got a bonus, or the great time they had at a staff party, that reveals where this candidate’s priorities lie. And those priorities are not focused on the quality of their work.

And again, this is a terrific situational question that allows you to dig deeper if you see some value in what they’re saying.

3. Talk about a Difficult Situation and How You Handled It

The two red flags you’re looking for here are blame and the inability to self-reflect. If they can’t think of a single situation that was difficult at work, then they aren’t reflecting on their performance or productivity, and that’s not a good sign.

In addition, if their story about a difficult situation gets punctuated with blame and annoyance about all the other people who made it hard, but they take no responsibility themselves, or can’t find the nuances behind their co-workers’ behavior, this is likely a person who won’t own up to their mistakes.

That means they’re not teachable or coachable. Again – a major red flag for a person in leadership or another position of influence.


Stop Being Misled by Job Interviewees

Use the three questions above as inspiration for reworking your entire interview plan, as well as any other insights you gathered from the seven tips. Then, the next time you have to conduct interviews for a new position, stick to that plan and develop a grading system to go with it.

If you need help with any of this or other hiring challenges, feel free to speak with a hiring consultant.


More Resources:

5-step soft skills hiring guide

3 research-backed methods for hiring great leaders


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