Hey Recruiters, We Beg You To Not Ask These 20 Questions To The Candidates

Asking the right questions to the candidate during the pre-screening is hard. We created this guide with 20 questions which will make you a smart recruiter with your pre-screening questions.

As a recruiter you represent your company and the hiring team. Your task is to find the best and fittest candidate for the job. No doubt about it! But that’s no excuse to ask redundant, ancient or irrelevant questions.

recruitring - avoid oops moment with candidate prescreening call

While you are assessing the candidate in the screening call, the candidate is also judging you and your organization – by assessing the quality and relevance of your questions. So, please avoid asking these screening questions, unless there is a strong rationale to it.

  • What are your weaknesses?

Unless you live in 1960, you shouldn’t ask this question. Or unless you are interviewing for MBA schools. This is such a idiotic question – everyone know they have to make some shit up – something which shows their weakness but makes you go “Awwwww” .. like “I pay so much attention to details, that I end up burning mid-night oil”. BS.

  • Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?

10 years – god only knows what will happen in 10 years. Ask something like, what areas they can make a difference to the company other than they day to day job. Try to learn what’s more about this person you are talking to – probably they are a good teacher and even if they are a coder, could produce really wonderful blogs. Or they are good at breaking ice between team members and foster amazing spirit within the teams and the company.

  • What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?

The candidate can make some shit up – similar to what’s your weaknesses. Instead give a scenario and assess for yourself.

  • Would you work holidays/weekends?

This is giving out a bad impression at the onset. I agree that the job could be demanding, but instead of a question tell them the expectation – and then ask – What do you think? Are you ready for such a life?

  • Who are our competitors?

This question is relevant – but could be made better. Ask about the overall space your company operates in and why the candidate likes that vertical. Or has he/ she seen a similar offering? By asking who are our competitors you just will just get few names. By if you ask about the space and business, they will be able to share few more insights which could surprise you.

  • Who’s your mentor?

Unless you are hiring for a CEO, this is one of the most ridiculous question I have seen. Do you like someone who knows who’s who and can start dropping names and influence you?

  • What is the name of our CEO?

I get it. Unless your CEO is on a mission to save the world, probably there is a better question than this – “What do you know about the current team? Or what do you expect from this team? Or Do you know the mission of our company?”

  • What gets you up in the morning?

Some context will be helpful. Ask, what do you like of your current job or role? Why nursing (if you are seeking a nurse) or why are you a pilot? If you ask philosophical questions, you will get similar answers – no good when it comes to hiring a rockstar candidate.

  • What would your direct reports say about you?

See next question’s answer.

  • What were your bosses’ strengths/weaknesses?

Probably there is a good chance that the candidate is looking for a new opportunity because he/ she is fed up of their boss. Hollywood wouldn’t make two movies otherwise, right?

How does it questions even matter to anyone?

  • If I called your boss right now and asked him what is an area that you could improve on, what would he say?

You are freaking this person out now – you do not know the equation of this person with their boss.

  • Are you a leader or a follower?

Many followers type people know they are having an interview call and just to sound good, would say Leader – because they know that what you want to hear. Give them a situation and assess for yourself if they are leader type or follower type person.

  • What was the last book you’ve read for fun?

How does it matter? The person could be reading 50 Shades – which has nothing to do with Java position (no pun intended). Remember, the candidate probably is in middle of his/ her day (unless you are using Recruitring 🙂 ) – and so they want to get back to their current job.

  • What are your co-worker pet peeves?

Nah. Just don’t.

  • What are your hobbies?

This is very old technique to ask for or share hobbies. So, here’s a note to candidates too – do not write your hobbies on the resume. And you recruiters, kindly do not ask for hobbies in the prescreening interview call.

  • What is your favorite website?

For what? Business, leisure, learning, utility? Also, favorite can also imply the way it got built and grew it’s user base.

  • What makes you uncomfortable?

Context please. There can be many things which makes a person uncomfortable. Without a context, neither the candidate is going to say anything meaningful, not you are going to get any worthy response.

  • How would you fire someone?

Not a great way to ask this – Probably a better way could be, How do you handle non-performing candidates? How will you make a hard choice to … ?

  • Would you work 40+ hours a week?

This is a confusing question. You could say this is demanding job – but upfront saying 40+ hours brings up a lot of other questions and open up a can of worms.

  • What questions haven’t I asked you?

Go prepared. If you did not understood the job description or a specific requirement, spend extra time with the hiring manager or a subject matter expert. Refer to our checklist to get the best out of hiring manager before you start making those calls to the candidate.

Image Credit : goo.gl/s3LXWx

What Recruiters And Hiring Managers Can Learn From Google Hiring Process?

Recruiters at Google Do a Fantastic Job too!

A friend of mine got an email from Google’s Recruiter few months back. Since Google is known to hire the best of the breed, I was curious to learn more about the process. He shared with me an email which he got right after talking to the recruiter and before the hiring manager’s screening call.

I was amazed to see such a quality communication (email below) – it’s like the recruiter is working for the candidate instead of the company – and when I think about it, it makes so much sense as Recruiters’ job is to make two people meet and make them fall in love – The Candidate and The Hiring Manager!

Here’s how Google recruiters makes sure that they do everything they can to make the candidate win – and if the candidate wins, it is ultimately a win for the company. Below is the email. I tried to highlight certain portions of the email to share why I feel it’s important that other recruiters do something similar.

Kindly share with me if you know other company recruiters who do similar communication.

[Recruitring] Even though the candidate knew it's a PM position, the recruiter made sure to describe the position again. Nice! More communicate is +1 than less, especially in early stages. Leaves no room for confusion.

Product Management Position Overview:

As an overview, our PM’s bring to fruition new products and features that genuinely benefit our users while at the same time make good business sense. They act as general managers of our products, providing leadership across functional teams to conceptualize, build and deliver Google‘s next great app. PM’s find our entrepreneurial culture to be exciting and challenging, because they are never stuck maintaining an existing product, but are instead focused on developing new product ideas and strategies.

We have openings across all of our products in areas such as Consumer, Mobile, Apps, Enterprise and Infrastructure to name a few. As a brief outline, we have an agnostic interview process in which we aim to hire PM “generalists”, who may have niche experience but can easily float through our evolving product lines. We find this keeps our Product Managers fresh and with distributed, homogeneous experiences for our project teams. So, in a nutshell, we do not hire for a specific product, but rather, are seeking generalists who can work on multiple products. As such, you’ll interview with PM’s working on any number of our various products. At a later point, our leadership reviews your interests, background and interviews to identify relevant projects that align with business need.

[Recruitring] Since Google is known to hire the best of breed and their interview could get intimidating, here's a great way to reduce the anxiety of the candidate. "What to Expect" written in a clear and concise way which tells the candidate how they should prepare for their next interviews.

What to Expect

There are five components to the Google product manager (PM) interview:

  • Product design. Google PMs put users first. PMs are zealous about providing the best user experiences. It starts with customer empathy and always includes a passion for products, down to the smallest details. They can sketch a wireframe to convey an idea to a designer. Sample questions include:
    • How would you improve Google Maps?
    • How would you reduce Gmail storage size?
    • How would you improve restaurant search?
    • What’s favorite Google product? What do you like or not like about it?
    • If you were to build the next killer feature for Google, what would it be?
    • You’re part of the Google Search web spam team. How would you detect duplicate websites?
  • AnalyticalGoogle PMs are fluent with numbers. They define the right metrics. They can interpret and make decisions from A/B test results. They don’t mind getting their hands dirty. Sometimes they write SQL queries; other times, they run scripts to extract data from logs. They make their point by crisply communicating their analysis. Some examples of analytical questions:
    • How many queries per second does Gmail get?
    • How many iPhones are sold in the US each year?
    • As the PM for Google Glass ‘Enterprise Edition,’ which metrics would you track? How do you know if the product is successful?
  • Cultural fit. Google PMs dream of the next moonshot idea. They lead and influence effectively.  They have a bias for action and get things done. If Google PMs were working anywhere else, they’d probably be CEOs of their own company. Sample questions to assess cultural fit:
    • Why Google?
    • Why PM?
  • Technical. Google PMs lead product development teams. To lead effectively, PMs must have influence and credibility with engineers.  During the final round (aka onsite) interview, a senior member of the engineering team will evaluate your technical competence.  Be prepared for whiteboard coding questions at the onsite interview.  Example questions include:
    • Write an algorithm that detects meeting conflicts.
  • Strategy. Google PMs are business leaders. As a result, they must be familiar with business issues.  It’s not necessary for PMs to have business experience or formal business training. However, they do expect you to pick up business intuition and judgment quickly. Sample interview questions include:
    • If you were Google’s CEO, would you be concerned about Microsoft?
    • Should Google offer a Stubhub competitor? That is, sell sports, concert, and theater tickets?

Also be prepared for behavioral interview questions such as Tell me a time when you had to influence engineering to build a particular feature. Google PM interviewers are relying more on behavioral interview questions in recent months.

[Recruitring] Again, a tough interview also means that candidates could go crazy and in all directions for preparation - and eventually might get burned up or become even more anxious just before the important call. As a recruiter, it's your responsibility to help the candidate also know, what is not expected in the process - you know to get their focus in the right place.

What Not to Expect

Brain teasers, such as logic puzzles, are rarely used in today’s Google PM interviews. Google’s HR department found a low correlation between job performance and a candidate’s ability to solve brain teasers.  Examples of brain teasers include

  • I roll two dice. What is the probability that the 2nd number is greater than the 1st?
  • What’s 27 x 27 without using a calculator or paper?

However, hypothetical questions have not been banned at all.  Hypothetical questions are imaginary situations that ARE related to the job. (This is in contrast with brain teasers, which ARE NOT related to the job.) Examples of hypothetical questions include How would you design an algorithm to source data from the USDA and display on Google nutrition? 

[Recruitring] A set of links making it easy for them to start the preparation! Too bad that the candidate will use less of "Google Search" - their own product :))))

How to Prepare

Here’s what I’d recommend to get ready for the Google PM interview:

Review tech blogs, such as: Stratechery

  • Product design. Practice leading design discussions using a framework. (Need a framework? Try CIRCLES Method™: LINK). Start with possible personas and detail use cases. Prioritize use cases and brainstorm solutions. Many PM candidates (wrongly) suggest solutions that are incremental or derivatives of a competitor’s feature set. The Google interviewers are evaluating your creativity, and they place a big emphasis on big ideas (aka “moonshots”). Inspire them with unique, compelling ideas. Drawing wireframes on a whiteboard will help illustrate your ideas. To practice, download a wireframing tool like Balsamiq. Also study popular web and mobile design patterns for inspiration.
  • Technical. Coding questions are unlikely during the phone interviews. But if you are invited to an on-site interview, you must prepare for programming interviews. The technical interviewer does not expect your programming syntax to be perfect, but you should have sufficient mastery of technical concepts so that you can participate in technical discussions and help make technical trade-offs.  I would recommend going over computer science fundamentals and practicing a couple coding questions.  One of my favorite resources is How to Ace the Software Engineering Interview.  Also be prepared to describe key technologies including search engines, machine learning, and MapReduce.
  • Analytical. Prepare for estimation questions such as How many queries per second does Gmail get? Get well-versed in product launch metrics and A/B testing, including interpretation of results.
  • Strategy. Use a framework to structure your strategy discussions.  If you’re not familiar with strategy or frameworks, Porter’s Five Forces is a good start.
  • Cultural fit. Understand what it means to be Googley by reading Google’s corporate philosophy. Review Google’s Android design principles. Optional readings: Google’s visual asset guidelines and Steven Levy’s 2007 (but still useful) article on the Google APM program.  Another optional, but more in-depth (and recent) perspective, read Steven Levy’s “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives.”
[Recruitring] We are so glad to see such a beautiful piece of communication from such a great company. Even if the candidate doesn't get through the job interviews, they clearly will benefit from all the above wisdom and have a sweet memory.
About Recruitring:
Recruitring is a candidate pre-screening platform making the process faster and productive. It saves time for both hiring managers and recruiters to move through the list of candidates in a smarter way.
Sign up now to get 100 free calls. No credit card required.

This blog post is also adopted by BusinessInsider here.

This blog post contains excerpts from author Lewis C. Lin‘s original work.

Red Flags To Look For During Candidate Phone Screening Interview Call

Normally, the hiring process starts with a phone screen – and here is a complete list of RED FLAGS to look for during phone screening process.

Red Flags during candidate phone screening
Avoid these RED FLAGS in the initial step

The purpose of a phone screening to to look for the following:

  • Describe the role and company to the candidate
  • Make sure candidate is serious to pursue a new opportunity
  • Doubly ensure that candidate resume matches with the job description and their experience
  • There is no confusion with title, relocation, salary expectations
  • Mostly importantly, there are no initial RED FLAGS for the hiring team which will make any further investment with this candidate a complete waste of company’s time.

We have another Checklist for recruiters and hiring managers on how to work together for better productivity.

The Red Flags while Phone screening a Candidate

  • Ghosting

You make sure : you both already agreed about a date/ time to have a phone screening.

It’s a RED flag if a candidate : does not pick the phone. Or even worse pick the phone and have no idea why this call is taking place. No excuse is a good excuse.

  • Initial 30 seconds

You make sure : You do not jump directly into Q&A. The initial greetings are very important to connect and make the other person comfortable.

It’s a RED flag if the candidate : seems to rush! Or do not remember the position/ role they are about to talk.

  • Clarity

You make sure : You describe the role and also share details of your company – even if it’s as popular as Facebook, Twitter. You should be telling this candidate why this company and the team is awesome.

It’s a RED flag if the candidate : asks trivial questions again, like – Can you tell me what this company does? Or what will be my role in the team? If they have applied and have already heard details from you earlier, asking the same trivial question again doesn’t give a good vibe. Probably, if they go one level deep with the role/ company/ question, then that’s not an issue.

  • External noise, unequipped to take the call :

You make sure : Let the candidate know if they will need a computer in front of them. (if that’s a requirement)

It’s a RED flag if the candidate : is in a place which is noisy (a cafe, train station). There could be reasons there is background noise and if the candidate tells you a valid reason (e.g. I apologize for the background noise as I am taking it from my car parked in a garage and there is some constructions going on in background).

  • Compensation expectations :

You make sure : Ask the candidate about their salary expectations.

It’s a RED flag if the candidate : Just throws a number at you without rationalizing it. Or isn’t flexible to work around that number if your offering is in the ball-park range.

Commitment / Team dynamics / Immigration Expectations :

You make sure : You shared team dynamics, relocation expectations, any immigration policy/ requirement etc.

It’s a RED flag if the candidate : First told you that they have H1-B but towards the end ask for a filing of the visa on their behalf. Or, are willing to commute to work everyday but ask for work from home policy. Even worse, seem surprised on the fact that 50% of their team works remotely and express disappointment with remote collaboration.