Many people doubt whether there’s any sense in having job interviews. Is it really possible to determine whether a candidate is the right one for the job or not within a day or two? And on the other side of the coin: can I as a candidate know if I’d like to work for this employer from such a short meeting? Probably not.
It’s unlikely that interview practices will change much in the near future. As long as candidates have to prepare themselves for the standard job interview procedure, it’s important to be prepared to answer stupid questions. In an article for Forbes, HR specialist and founder of Human Workplace Liz Ryan, picked some of the most stupid questions and provided some smart answers. We’re presenting the most interesting of these today.
What is your greatest weakness?
Strength/weakness questions can be quite annoying. All parties involved know that applicants are fully aware of their strengths and, in the case of their weaknesses, have to choose those that can ultimately be presented as strengths. After all, your interviewer isn’t your therapist so your real weaknesses don’t affect them much. Therefore, Ryan recommends to either (a) treat the question with a sense of humour and say something like “chocolate!”, or (b) to reverse the direction of the question, e.g. “ In the past, my weaknesses challenged me, but now I’ve come to realise that I should focus on my strengths instead – like technical writing and instructional design”.
Why should we choose you?
In Liz Ryan’s point of view, this is a stupid question because you don’t know who you’re competing with and won’t know why they should choose you. How would you be able to judge why you’re the most suitable candidate? This is, and will remain, the employer’s responsibility. She therefore recommends the following reply: “That’s a really good question. The advantage here is, of course, on your side since you have either already met or will meet the other candidates. What I can say is that our conversation will be a big step forward in figuring out whether we should work together in the future. If you and I are destined to accomplish great things together, I’m confident we’ll find that out here.”
Of course, a response like this requires a little courage, but it’s so unusual and confident that it will certainly be remembered by the entire interview panel. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to stay on the safe side, you could refer to personal successes relevant to the position and to avoid comparing yourself to the competition.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Nowadays, five years is a quite a long time. The pace has quickened, careers are changing all the time, and we change our jobs much more often than our parents did. The question of a five-year plan is a question out of its place in time. Therefore, Ryan advises to answer it with a sense of humour: “If I’m still alive, I’ll be working hard on one or more things that excite me – maybe software design, music or a combination of the two.”
What was your most recent salary?
This is a particularly stupid (and nasty) question, because most applicants feel compelled to answer, but really, a potential new employer has no right to know. Liz Ryan says that your salary up to that point also has no reflection on your actual value as an employee. She therefore recommends this answer: “I’m currently looking for jobs with an annual salary around the €50,000 mark. Does this correspond to your salary range?”
How can you enrich our team?
According to Ryan, this question is meaningless, because applicants usually haven’t yet met the team and don’t therefore know how they could fit into and complement the team. Of course, you could use this opportunity to talk about your strengths or to highlight special achievements, which would generally justify how you could enrich the team. However, a much more interesting question is where they feel the team needs reinforcement and whether you fit into those niches. Ryan suggests trying this answer: “What’s missing from your team? If you can outline the areas where you need support, I can tell you precisely how my experience and knowledge can help.”
We will never be able to completely avoid annoying interview questions, but with these answers you can turn them around to work in your favour, and to make a lasting impression on the panel.