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What NOT To Ask A Candidate In An Interview

What NOT To Ask A Candidate In An Interview

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Chances are the top candidates you have short-listed for an interview are smart and will do their research. 

In an effort to prepare for the interview, many of them will browse ‘commonly asked interview questions’ online and prepare answers to repeat verbatim when they are inevitably asked.

As a hiring manager, you want to avoid soliciting rehearsed responses and instead try to ask questions that provide a deeper insight into the candidate’s abilities and fit for the role.  

Avoid the questions candidates have heard a hundred times before.  Be original, be unique and avoid the pitfalls of so many that have gone before with Fuse Recruitment’s guide to What Not to Ask in An Interview.


Tell me about your background

Any hiring manager who has selected a candidate for interview will have done their research.   You have seen their resume, and most likely have it sitting in front of you during the interview.  Asking the candidate to repeat this will take valuable interview time that could be used for more in-depth questions relating to their specific abilities. 

Instead, you can quickly go over their previous work history then ask the candidate specific questions relating to their previous work experience. For example, "During your time at ABC Company,  what has been your biggest success story relating to [skill] and your biggest failure relating to [skill]? "; or "Can you tell me about a difficult time at XYZ Company,  how you handled the situation, and what you learnt? ".


What's your salary history?

You aren’t likely to go into details of your company’s financial situation at a first meeting, so it’s unfair to expect a candidate to do the same.  Asking this question can be off-putting for candidates who don’t feel comfortable discussing their previous salary with a prospective employer. Asking the candidate their "salary expectations" for this role can make the candidate feel more at ease answering this question, rather than asking their previous history. Both your company and the candidate will have a figure in mind, and both figures wil need to align to proceed with the recruitment process.


Tell me your biggest weakness

This question sits at the top of the ‘most clichéd interview questions to ask’ list.  Candidates never like this question but know it will almost certainly be asked and will have a prepared answer ready to reel off.  The answer will almost definitely involve turning their weakness into a positive, like ‘I’m a perfectionist’ or ‘I’m too organised’, which gives you no insight into their personality or ability.  An effective interviewer can instinctively tell a candidate’s weaknesses by gauging their responses to other questions that promote indepth answers.


If you were a biscuit what kind of biscuit would you be?

Or any variation of this question, including animals, trees or automobiles.  Although light-hearted, you’re unlikely to gain any useful information on a candidate from asking a question like this.  You want to know about their work ethic and how they could contribute to your team, not whether they feel they’re more of a Tim-Tam or a Lamington.  These questions can alienate candidates as they feel put on the spot, without anything sensible to say as a response.


How many kids do you have? 

Do you follow a religion?  What's your sexuality? What does your partner do for work? Any plans on having children? Personal questions are completely inappropriate for job interviews.  Questions should focus on the candidate's ability to do the job, and their personal life isn’t a factor.  Stick to questions that assess their fit for the job and avoid asking about their personal life.


If I offered you the job, would you accept it?

This question is simply unnecessary and falls into the same category as ‘Do you think you can handle the workload?’  Asking a candidate, a hypothetical question is unlikely to gain any useful information, and most of them are smart enough to say "yes" anyway.


The interview process is your chance to get a more in-depth look at a top candidate’s personality, values and skills.  Don’t waste the opportunity - compose your interview questions in an original way that is unique to the position you are looking to fill.  Prepare questions that are likely to create indepth and inspiring responses that allow you to get deeper insight into what your candidates work ability and ethic is really like.