Job interview questions are terribly designed. This is what I realize after conducting several qualitative research interviewing customers.
The most terrible job interview question of all time, I believe, is “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” The reason is strengths and weaknesses are relative and happen in context. Most people ignores context of things. A person might think oranges are great for dessert, but a no-no for breakfast. Similarly, what situations are you putting me in when asking about my strengths and weaknesses? Are you asking about the situation when I pitch to the clients or the negotiation moments or the working-alone office time?
The even more terrible question than this is specifically tell us to “Name your 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses”. The mindset of this question is strengths and weaknesses exist separately, not as a whole. This is like seperating the yin and the yang. (Many people thinks yin and yang are different things, like female is yin and male is yang. This is dangerous thinking. Yin yang always co-exists.) This is similar to the conversation with our friends or family members about their personalities. “You have a very tough character.” This is not enough, because I don’t know in what context you are tough, in what context you aren’t tough and to how much extent.
Research questions must designed to meet the objectives. General, misleading questions such as “strengths and weaknesses” don’t do the job, because it is too open-ended. Just like research questions, job interview questions should be tunnel-shaped. They must be able to tune in the mindset/ thinking/ capabilities of the candidates.
The next interview questions I hate similarly is situational interview questions. “What would you do if you discovers that a man who has a relationship with your boss’s ex-wife is having an affairs with your bigger boss’s sister in the CEO’s office room?” Those kinds of situational interview questions are terribly wrong. It does not yet provide a complete situation. It’s like practising martial arts and thinks if a person throws a punch in this technique, I will defend and attack like that. It’s bullshit because there are so many variables to think about. A punch of a tall, strong person will be different from a short, weak one; a punch of male will be different from a female; or that same punch technique but two people standing on different terrain. So many variables we can think of to take account in. No way, there’s no way to spot out that situation, the exact description of the situation, everything. Again, situational interview questions do not mention about the context, which can vary widely.
To end this blog post, I would like to quote Dave Trott in his “Creative Mischief” wonderful book.
“Context isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”
Ask in context. Answer in context. Think in context. Do in context.Feel in context.