Recruiters Guide: What Not To Ask In A Job Interview?

By Rahul Balakrishnan

Hiring talent at the entry level is not an easy task. With no prior work experience by which to assess the candidate, employers often take leap of faith or rely on academic credentials. The same can be said for social sector job interviews. And so I thought why not address the ‘elephant in the room’ by the trunk and list down the questions one could avoid asking in an interview.

Tell me about yourself?

One of the most frequently asked questions in the book when we begin an interview. What do you expect a young 24 -year -old to say? Share their professional goals, enlist their skills or share what they to do in free time. Or do you want a philosophical answer from them – listing down the reasons why they were born?

Instead, how about making the candidate feel comfortable? And starting the interview by sharing something about yourself or the organization or giving a little glimpse of your work. This will allow the candidate to feel confident and inspired for the next 45-60 minutes.

Why are you leaving your current job to join us?

This question is designed to fail. This question often makes it awkward for the candidate, and employers end up adding more elements of bias instead of removing them. The answer could be very personal which means the candidate in most cases will build a wall between you and themselves.

Instead, asking the candidate about the favorite part of their current job and the most significant challenge they’ve faced, would be a good idea.

This will allow recruiters to know more about the candidate, their likes and dislikes, their weaknesses and in some cases how they react when challenged or pushed.

Can you collaborate?

Asking the above question is a good idea, but only if the candidate can comprehend what working alone looks like. In most cases, an interviewer will receive an affirmative answer.

Instead, one can ask what kind of teams has the candidate been a part of in the past and the role they have played. This will not only help in getting a similar answer but assist in understanding their role and attitude towards team dynamics.

What are your weaknesses or Areas of Development (AODs)?

By asking this question, recruiters put candidates in a stressful position.

Instead, ask the candidate about the biggest challenges they faced in their current role and how they overcame it? Now the answer to this question will help get insights that are far more relevant to judge the fit, mindset and overall problem- solving skills of the candidate.

Using Role Plays

Roleplays and elevator pitches have become increasingly common while hiring for external facing roles such as fundraising, business development etc. Usually, most job seekers prepare for such questions on the internet and as an interviewer, you seldom get the understanding of the actual sales/effective communication abilities.

Instead, ask candidates how would they solve a roadblock your team faces on a daily basis. One, it will help you understand the research they have done. At the same time, it will help evaluate their persuasion skills. There are different ways to do this- either through a pre-assignment as the next steps post the interview or it can be a part of the interview as a whiteboard exercise.

Hope these insights were helpful. Do you have more pointers to add to this? Or ideas to share with me? Please comment below, or write to me at

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