A Better Approach to Common Interview Questions

Interviewing is a philosophy not a science; theory, not fact. Like philosophy, there is a fine line between the very good, and the utterly awful. Unfortunately, we all tend to develop interviewing ego.

We become poisoned by the power of judgment. We’re twisted by the notion that every question asked is without fault.

Even worse, we’ve settled into the belief that our questions have only one “right” answer. We dupe ourselves into listening for it, shutting off to any ludicrous idiocy that falls outside the lines we’ve drawn. But like philosophy, the problem doesn’t often lie in the answers, but with the questions.

Common interview questions – What is the perfect job for you?

Honest answer: Ideally speaking, I don’t really care what the job is. But, I would love to make as much money as possible for doing the very least amount of work required.

Admit it, if you’ve ever been asked this interview question, you’ve chuckled to yourself and some variant of the answer above flashed through your mind.

It’s okay. Truthfully speaking, there is no perfect job, at least not in this world.  Every career requires hard-work, sacrifice, and continuous improvement. What we really want to know is whether the job on the table will provide a sense of satisfaction to the person interviewing.


A better approach:  Ask, ‘What are you passionate about?’

I’m a big fan of being politely direct. If you’re curious about a candidate’s interests and passions, ask them directly!  Encourage them to let down their guard and answer openly. Then, connect with the person. Discuss how the position may offer benefits that would allow the freedom to pursue their passions.  Provide the candidate the power to decide how the position fits into their desired lifestyle.

Can you walk me through your resume

Honest answer:  No. That’s why I created my resume, which you’ve had for a week. If you would have prepared for our meeting prior to sashaying in here like the second coming, you wouldn’t need to ask redundant, time-stalling questions, would you?

Remember, an interview is a two-way conversation.  Both parties, the company and the candidate, need to be represented well. Talented individuals have a lot of decision-making power, and as a company representative, you’re being sized-up. We expect the candidate to come prepared, they expect the same.

A better approach: Come prepared.

Do your homework.  Review their Linkedin profile. Research their former companies. Compile a group of questions relating specifically to the work they’ve performed. Discuss achievements, and goals met. Learn about what makes them better. The best want to work for the best, an interview is a first impression. Make the most of it.

Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?

Honest answer:  As your boss.  Pucker-up chief.

Who doesn’t want to advance their career, have more responsibility, and make more money? It doesn’t matter where someone sees themselves in the future. What matters is what they’re doing to ensure it happens.

A better approach:  Ask, ‘What are your long and short-term career goals?’ Then, as a follow-up: ‘What are you doing to ensure you’ll achieve those goals?’

By asking a more open-ended question, you’re revealing how the candidate defines long and short-term. You’re also discovering if they’re a proactive planner or someone who may need more guidance.

Why do you want to work for this company?

Honest answer:  If you say and live the things I want to hear, I don’t care what the name on the building reads.

As a company, you can’t be everything to everyone. But it’s important to truly understand your culture and be able to clearly articulate the costs and benefits of being an employee there. In order to attract the best talent, you need a defined and focused sense of being.  Then, build an employee base around people who share the same mission and values. As a candidate, we’re hoping to find a company we can believe in. We strongly desire being a part of something bigger than ourselves. We need to feel like the work we do matters. As we plunge ourselves into the job hunt, each interview is approached with hopeful optimism. Working is like dating, sometimes finding the right one, takes a lot of wrong ones. We’re searching for a mutually beneficial partnership that can grow with time.

A better approach:  Ask, ‘What type of culture and environment do you work best in?’

You’re trying to discover if you’re a match on a deeper level. Could you imagine if on a first date, someone asked you; why do you to want create a long-lasting relationship with me? I don’t know, because you’re hot?  We’re searching for genuine compatibility, not a one night stand.

This job requires overtime, are you willing to put in the extra effort?

Honest answer:  Sure.  Are you willing to make it worth my extra effort?

Okay, you require overtime. Why? Do you run super lean? Are you strategically misaligned and unable to operate efficiently? Or, do you simply accept burning people out as a cost of doing business?

Occasional overtime is understandable, but if you use this question to test commitment, you better be able to live with the consequences. The days of command and control, ignorant and blind obedience, are over. Gone are the pension plans and gold watches. In today’s marketplace, we all watch out for ourselves. If you’re going to require overtime, we expect to be provided with other benefits to balance the equation; paid time off, bonuses, etc.  Bottom line, if you won’t appreciate my hard work, I’ll find someone who will.


A better approach:  If you’re trying to test commitment, ask, ‘What would we need to commit to you in order to keep you committed to us?’

Where we work is a choice.  We make it based on what a company offers in return for our results.  Comparing a candidate’s candidate’s expectations to the company’s culture and historical performance is a solid indicator as to whether or not someone will stick around for the long haul.

Agree, disagree?  Leave me your comments.  Like any philosophy, interviewing is a journey to discovery, learned through shared experience.



Photo Credits: People-Results.com, Urbanette, Small Business Trends, The Clever Consultancy, Workmeter-en.blogspot.com

With an educational background in entrepreneurship, Travis Baker’s views tend to build from a broader business perspective.  Born in 1985, he’s a true millennial.  He believes we’re all citizens of a global community, and we have a shared responsibility to society.  His experience as both an agency and corporate talent acquisition professional has taught him that people are the real drivers of business.  Learning how to effectively communicate and collaborate is the key to success. Born in South Bend, IN, currently residing in Charlotte, NC, working hard to relocate to Austin, TX.

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Travis Baker With an educational background in entrepreneurship, Travis Baker’s views tend to build from a broader business perspective. Born in 1985, he’s a true millennial. He believes we’re all citizens of a global community, and we have a shared responsibility to society. His experience as both an agency and corporate talent acquisition professional has taught him that people are the real drivers of business.
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