A job interview is a weird experience. Sometimes you to go a job interview and meet wonderful, sparky people you could talk with for hours. Other times you show up and your first thought is “I wouldn’t work in this toxic waste dump for ten million dollars.”
The traditional interview format is a big part of the problem. Somebody came up with the standard, lame interview script sixty or seventy years ago and it’s still going strong.
The standard interview script is brainless and insulting and it doesn’t even do a good job of separating the best candidates from the worst ones. Still, people who are afraid to try new things don’t dare deviate from it.
You know the script I’m talking about. It’s the one with these three stupid interview questions in it:
- What’s your greatest weakness?
- With all the talented candidates, why should we hire you?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
It isn’t the interviewer’s fault that they ask such thoughtless and uncreative questions. Somebody told them to. I wouldn’t count out an entire organization just because somebody uses some of these dog interview questions, but if everybody in the joint is stuck in the same sixty-year-old interview-script time warp, you may want to keep looking.
As a manager, you don’t have to ask the standard, stupid job interview questions when you interview candidates. Here are ten smarter questions you can use instead.
As a job-seeker, you get to decide how to answer stupid job interview questions when they come up. You can go the good-little-sheepie route and give the standard answer, like this:
THEM: With all the talented candidates, why should we hire you?
YOU: Well, I’m hard-working and I’ve got a lot of experience, I’m loyal and thrifty and never come late to work, and besides that I walk old ladies across the street.
People tell us all the time “I went to the interview and the words that came out of my own mouth horrified me. I felt like a brown-noser and a suckup. I don’t talk that way in real life. I fell into the script and I couldn’t climb out!”
We’ve all been there. You’re likely to fall into the good-little-sheepie job seeker script by accident if you don’t prepare yourself in advance. You can get off the script and stay human in a job interview, and you’ll be happy if you do.
For starters, if you shake up the script and give your interviewer an answer s/he wasn’t expecting, you’ll force him or her to think. That’s good. You’ll be more memorable that way, and if the interviewer is horrified that you’d step out of the box, what does that tell you?
It tells you that you don’t want that job anyway.
Here are our three stupid interview questions and a choice of two answers for each one. The first answer is the standard sheepie answer, and the second one is for use when your mojo is high and you feel like busting a frame and growing your muscles a little.
Stupid Interview Question: “What’s your greatest weakness?”
SHEEPIE ANSWER: ”I’m a hard worker, and I can be too hard on myself and other people when I think that either me or somebody else could give a little more to a project.”
HIGH-MOJO ANSWER: ”I used to obsess about my weaknesses. I used to think I had a million defects that needed correcting, and I read books and took classes to try to improve on them.
Gradually I learned that it makes no sense for me to work on things that I’m not great at, and it makes no sense for me to think of myself as having weaknesses. These days I focus on getting better at things I’m already good at — graphic design, especially.”
Stupid Interview Question: “With all the talented candidates, why should we hire you?”
SHEEPIE ANSWER: ”I’ve been working in this arena for sixteen years and I’ve got a great track record.”
HIGH-MOJO ANSWER: ”That’s what we’re here to figure out, I guess! I can’t say that you should hire me.
There might be somebody else who’s perfect for the job - you’ve met the other candidates or will meet them, and of course you know more about the needs here than I do.
I can say this - if this match is meant to be, both of us will know it.”
Stupid Interview Question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
SHEEPIE ANSWER: “Working hard here or in another Financial Analyst role, with luck moving up to Senior Financial Analyst and being more involved in strategic investments than I’ve been so far.”
HIGH-MOJO ANSWER: ”Exploring one of my passions, undoubtedly — maybe in Finance, or my interest in ecommerce or in an international role. I have a lot of passions!”
You get to decide how far to turn the mojo dial in every interview. You already know how it feels to sit in the chair and play the Good Little Job Seeker. What would happen if you stepped out of the box on your next job interview, and played yourself?