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Common Interviewer’s Errors

This article does not deal with whether or not a question is legal.
Rather it touches on those kind of questions we’ve probably
been asked, or have asked, in our past. We must avoid wasting
our time, or that of the interviewee, with questions that will not
provide real answers or guidance in the selection process.

So, if you feel the temptation to ask kinds of questions or make
the kinds of comments listed below—don’t!

Questions that can be answered yes or no. Such questions will
shorten the time spent in the interview, but will reveal very little
and leave little room for exploratory or follow up questions.

Run-of-the-mill questions for which an alert interviewee has
ready answers
. A typical such question is, “What is your weakest
point?” to which an all-too-ready answer is, “I’ve always been
told that I’m impatient and want to get the job done.” This may
be an honest answer, but without other questions to set the stage
and against which to measure this response, little is learned.

Below are some leading questions or comments that suggest the
“proper” answer, followed by a sample question that will evoke
the interviewee’s own answer:

  • Working with general contractors or other can be aggravating
    at times, can’t it? (What has been your experience in working
    closely with homeowners?)

  • I suppose you left your last job for more money. (What
    prompted you to leave your last employer?)

  • You like physical outdoor work, don’t you? (Which type of
    work—indoor or outdoor—do you prefer? Why is that?)

  • We don’t approve of people who are late; how do you feel
    about this? (How do you feel about working for a company that
    requires you to be on time every day?)

Asking questions already asked and answered on the application.
The reason you provide the interviewee with an application
is to avoid such questions. By asking them about things
that are already answered on the application, you are revealing
your failure to read the application, your negative attitude
toward the interviewing and hiring process, or your indifference
toward the interviewee-in other words, a lack of professionalism.

Responses that inject the interviewer’s personal judgment
rather than divining that of the interviewee.
For example:

  • You don’t really mean that, do you? (Would you please
    explain what you meant when you said “X”?)

  • Arguing with your boss at your last job wasn’t smart, was it?
    (What provoked the argument with your boss that you mentioned?)

  • If you faced that situation again, you’d handle it differently,
    right? (What did you learn from that situation? How would you
    handle it if it occurred again?)

About the Author

L. Douglas Mault is president of the Executive Advisory Institute,
Yakima, Wash. He is a consultant and trainer who specializes in
working with the owners and/or senior managers of construction-
related companies.

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