Questions to avoid when conducting an interview

Being able to interview people well is an acquired skill that takes time to learn. When interviewing candidates  you should try to avoid asking any questions that may lead to perceptions of unfairness, prejudice or direct/indirect discrimination.


You should also avoid styles of question that work less effectively than the more powerful past-tense, concrete format, such as:


Leading questions

These are questions that hint at the answer in the question itself. For instance “Getting on with people is very important here. How well do you get on with other people?” It is safe to say that no one will answer “Yeah really badly actually!”


Closed questions

These questions can be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Often candidates will go on to expand their answer to provide some valuable information, but unfortunately they don’t often do this when the question touches an area they want to avoid. This can lead you into a cul-de-sac. For instance, if you ask “Have you ever got on badly with someone you have had to work with?” and the candidate says “No”, it is difficult to restart the questioning. If you had asked “Who have you found it most difficult to get along with?” the candidate is forced to answer.

Also, people conform to what is known as the confirmatory bias, which means that they like to say yes. Therefore closed questions tend to lead to dead ends.


Multiple choicequestions

Like closed questions, these questions lead candidates by offering a possible list of answers. It is much quicker and more efficient to ask an open question.


Consecutive questions

If you ask several questions together, the candidate will select the question they most want to answer and generally ignore the rest.


Hypothetical questions

These questions ask the candidate to recount what they would do in a hypothetical scenario that you describe. Candidates answer them by describing what they believe theoretically to be the best answer, even if it bears no resemblance to what they would do in reality.

It’s not that these questions never work; it’s just that open, past-tense, concrete questions work better.


By implementing Clevry assessments during your recruitment and selection, recruiters can generate strategic interview questions to ask candidates that are tailored to their personality profile based on the results of one of our personality questionnaires. Contact us using the button below to find out more:

If you want to know more about interviewing candidates then check out our other blog posts; Strategic interview questions to ask candidates, good interviewer skills, structured interviews and how to be a good interviewer.



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