The Pitfalls of Home Brewed Interview Questions


The concept of prepping and coaching for interviews has become more prevalent in the business world. The objective of any interview is to match the most qualified person with the position you are attempting to fill. Interview questions are designed to measure a person’s character, work related characteristics, and skill sets. You would be hard-pressed to find any young professional that has not received some sort of resume or interview coaching. In my experience as an HR professional, I have found that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to illustrate an accurate portrait of the candidates that I interview. Similar to most hiring managers, I would like an interview candidate to tell me who they are, but most inadvertently hide who they are under the answers they think will win them the job.


Many of our clients want to move away from the typical interview questions and start developing more unique questions that cannot be answered with coached responses. While I commend anyone that takes initiative, I must warn you of the pitfalls inherent of writing your own interview questions. Interview questions that you find in typical interview question banks are tested, well-developed, and relatively safe, self written questions that seem unique and interesting can also create unexpected liabilities. Here is one such questions I come across frequently:


What hobbies do you have, or what do you like to do in your free time?


This question is always asked with best of intentions in mind and the expected responses are genuine and shed light on a person’s character. However, this question is too generic and the answers could branch into inappropriate subject matter.


Example Answers:


“I’m a single father that likes to take my two sons on fishing trips”


“I enjoy volunteering at the local substance abuse rehabilitation program that is currently supporting me through my substance abuse issues”


“I recently married my life-partner Terry, and a majority of my time-off is devoted to the local church we belong to.”


Each of these answers are genuine, and are packed full of positive characteristics. However, you cannot help but notice that the interview has branched into inappropriate territory (Sexual Preference, Family Situations, Health/Disability, Religion). Should the candidate not receive the job, it would be difficult to answer whether or not one of these elements played a part in the hiring decision.


Our Recommendation:


We recommend taking the initiative to improve the quality of your interviews. However, before putting new questions into practice, be sure to have them reviewed by an HR professional and work out all the potential bugs.



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Michael Chiovitti, Chief Talent Strategist

Eden Resources, LLC