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Top 5 worst candidate questions, and how to respond



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As a seasoned HR professional, you have had plenty of practice when it comes to conducting interviews. You know how to prepare, what you’re looking for, which questions to ask and which ones to skip. In short, you are an interview expert.

Your candidates, on the other hand, are not. Especially those who are fairly new to the workforce may not have much experience with the interview process, which can result in some odd situations.

In an attempt to help candidates out, U.S. News gathered some of the worst questions job seekers can ask during an interview. We’ve listed our top 5 below, and included some advice on how best to respond.

1. “What exactly does the company do?”

On the surface, this seems like a truly terrible question. When a candidate has applied to a position and made it to the interview stage, you’d expect they know what the company is all about.

If they really have no idea, try to find out what made them apply for the job. Although a connection with the company can help with retention, it’s not vital for someone to be able to do a good job. Proceed with caution, but don’t write them off just yet.

Alternatively, someone may well have done their research and have a good idea of your company’s business, but may just want to hear your summarise or clarify.

2. “Why are your Glassdoor reviews so terrible?”

This can be a tough one. While this is a very direct and borderline rude way of asking, it’s a fair question for a candidate to want an answer to.

If you’re aware of bad reviews, be honest about this as well as the reasons why you expect people have been unhappy in the past. The first step to improvement is recognising the problem, so acknowledging things haven’t been perfect is a positive thing.

If at all possible, and only if true, try to turn things round by explaining part of the reason you’re hiring for this new position is to help improve employee satisfaction. If staff have been complaining about outdated IT equipment, a new IT manager could help address some of those complaints.

3. “How long does it usually take to get promoted?”

Depending on the role you’re recruiting for, ambition can be a good thing. However, a candidate asking this question seems to link promotions directly to the time spent at the company, as opposed to hard work and achievements.

Make a note of this, and try to find out more about their career path so far. If they’re a starter, they may not realise what an odd questions they’ve asked and could actually prove to be a hard worker once hired. On the other hand, if it’s a seasoned professional who has spent several years at companies without being promoted this could indicate they simply do the minimum, yet still expect to move up.

Follow up with their references to get a better idea of the kind of effort they’ve put into their work in the past.

4. “Can I have the job?”

If a candidate expects a serious answer to this question on the spot, they’re clearly out of touch with the recruitment process. Politely tell them you will let them know your decision once you’ve considered all the candidates and make a note of their ‘enthusiasm’.

If they keep pressing, try to find out why they so desperately need an answer right now. It could indicate they have another offer pending and may soon be off the market.

5. “Would you be open to me working half time?”

When conducting an interview for a full-time position, questions about reduced working hours can easily get on your nerves. If the company wanted to hire part-timers, that’s what you would have advertised.

However, asking a bold question like this could indicate this is someone who knows what they want and is not afraid to go after it. Depending on what role you’re hiring for, that can be an excellent employee quality.

If they’re a great candidate and there’s a chance you could offer reduced hours, find out why they’re asking first. If they want to continue setting up their own business on the side, you may not be hiring a very committed employee. However, someone who is simply asking for some more free time to care for their kids could still be a great asset to the company.

ALSO READ: How much do applicants spend on job interviews?

Photo / iStock

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