Stop Stupid Questions. Ask for the Truth

Today Managers need to hire the right people, but when they talk hiring the right people, they usually mean “top skilled people”. So the war for talent is often a war for the most technically competent people.

That’s not the key, that’s the wrong war to be fighting. New hires do not fail for lack of skill but due to attitude.

The question is not whether your candidates have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones.

So, every one of the standard approaches to selecting the right people is dead wrong.

Staffing leaders can’t say that it’s hard to find good employees when their recruiting process is broken. They don’t want to look in the mirror and get very offended if someone says this truth. Often they rather defend their recruiting systems than look at things differently and improve the process.

Therefore It’s necessary to start using a more productive recruiting approach hiring for attitude, not just for credentials and skills.

About 46% of the people about to be hired will fail within the first 18 months on the job. And they won’t fail for lack of skills but rather for lack of attitude. So a study by Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, has discovered in research on 20,000 new hires over a three-year period.

Infact skilled and experienced employees with rotten attitudes fail quickly. Unskilled and inexperienced employees with excellent attitudes succeed in the long run.

Attitude is a reflection of personality, which is unlikely to change, skills can be taught. That is the key.

But Hiring for the right attitude is not easy and Recruiters, HR Managers must learn new skills on how to do it in a correct way.

By doing this, first of all we have to rethink how asking the correct job interview questions to get candidates to tell the truth, assessing their right attitudes.

Infact on the one hand it’s crucial to structure questions that candidates may not be prepared to answer, and on the other hand you should have a list of the critical high and low performer attitudes that predict success and failure in your organisation. After that you can use this to define desirable and undesirable characteristics in potential candidates and then turning the entire interview process focus on those aspects.

Recruiters and Hiring Managers want to identify and hire future problem solvers (high-performers) and not problem bringers (low-performers). When you ask problem bringers about a problem, they will tell you about the problem and nothing more. When you ask a problem solvers about a problem, they will tell you about both the problem and the solution.

So, taking into consideration a part of the conversation between AMA (American Management Association) and Mark Murphy CEO of Leadership IQ, that’s a great starting point to explain how it’s possible to ask for the truth during the job interview and hire for attitude.


1) You should STOP Asking the following common questions !

· Tell me about yourself.

· What are your strengths?

· What are you weaknesses?

· Wher do you see yourself in five years?

· Why should we hire you?

Infact they elicit rehearsed responses.They are too well known, vague, they only allow unintelligent answers, and virtually every candidate has a ready answer.

If you try to think outside the box and take into consideration the classical question “why should we hire you?” on the contrary you can ask a candidate Why shouldn’t we hire you?”.

It works better and it reveals a candidate’s integrity. In this case people aren’t prepared to answer it. The question transformed forces people to try and disqualify themselves from the position, which takes them out of the mindset of putting their best foot forward.

Candidates often interpret this question as, “What’s your greatest weakness?” and attempt to provide generic answers like, “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I get too personally involved with my work, so I work much overtime and it tends to interfere with my personal life.” etc.

This fact confuses a lot of candidates and some people of them are totally caught off guard and refuse to answer, which disqualifies them from being hired.

Another example instead of asking the candidate to describe each job they’ve held before or asking “Tell me about Yuorself”, questions they are no doubt prepared to answer straight off a script, it could be something like: “Tell me what inspired you to become a sales rep.” “Tell me what made you fall in love with it.” “Tell me a story of where it tested you and where it rewarded you.” “Tell me the story of your finest moment in this chapter of your career.”

As Mark Murphy suggest, When you change the structure and tone of the question in this way, you give the candidate an opportunity to tell you their authentic story. You get to hear the real truth. A person’s answer to this type of question will reveal so much about their passion, their ability to persevere, their self-awareness.

2) You Should STOP Asking the following behavioral interview questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to a difficult situation. What did you do ?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to balance competing priorities and did so successfully ?
  • Tell me about a conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it ?

As Mark Murphy teach us, behavioral interview questions are only effective when they prompt a response that reveals the truth about both weaknesses and strengths. And that’s where the interview questions above go horribly wrong. Every one of those questions contains an obvious “tip off” on how to game a response that showcases the good and hides the bad.

They are all leading questions!

The problem with leading interview questions is that they steal your chance to understand if someone is a problem bringer or a problem solver.

If we take into consideration the first question “Tell me a time when you had to adapt to a difficult situation.” The leading word here is “adapt.” It signals to the candidate that you only want to hear the one good example of the time they “adapted.” A solution should be if you ask the question more open-ended. Infact what happens if you had asked them about “a time when you faced a difficult situation.” In this case, a problem solver would still naturally tell you about the time they “adapted” or “solved” the situation. On the contrary all those problem bringer personalities would tell you about a time they “faced” a difficult situation. They wouldn’t tell you how they solved it, because that’s not what you asked. You asked about a problem, and that’s what you’ll get.

Asking about past performance is correct, but the wording of most behavioral interview questions undercuts their effectiveness. To solve this problem the managers, only the brave, are really starting to use textual analysis that’s a gold mine when it comes to assessing attitude. The science of textual analysis tells us that truth-tellers actually speak differently than truth-stretchers, and you can apply that data to make better hiring decisions.

3) You Should STOP Asking Hypothetical Questions:

Most hypothetical questions begin by asking “What would you do if…”followed by some kind of situation such as “you had to make a big decision?” The answers they inspire are usually idealised. You will get a lot of responses that sound like something a high performer would do, but those answers will rarely reflect reality.”

4) You Should STOP Asking Un-differentiating Questions:

An interview question is worth asking only if it differentiates between high and low performers.

In conclusion, Recruiters and Hiring Managers need to hear wrong but honest answer, It is not necessary have the right answer, because they simply want to understand how a person articulate the thought process. And some of them who hear those answers could know instantly that this person does not have the right attitude and is not a fit for their culture.

If you want to hire great people, you can’t treat your job applicants with superficiality using stupid questions like those described before. If you believe in talent, you have to treat job-seekers like equals and with respect asking intelligent questions that allows them to tell the TRUTH and what they really think and how they can or can’t do the best to maximize the benefit of the company.



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