Written by Nathan Hewitt

5 terrible job interview questions, and 5 science-backed alternatives

5 top job interview questions | Sapia Ai interview software

Not all interview questions are created equal. If you’re a veteran recruiter or talent acquisition manager, this may sound obvious, but the reality is that many companies (and their hiring managers) run interviews like an informal conversation, in which so-so questions are selected at random, and candidate responses are recorded haphazardly. 

This has led to a general lack of confidence in interviewing as a practice: An Aptitude Research and report from 2022 found that 33% of companies aren’t confident in the way they interview, and 50% believe they’ve lost talent due to their processes. Statistically speaking, it’s likely that your company or clients fit into these cohorts.

There are two proven fixes to shoddy interviewing: The right structure, and the right questions. Before we share our list of interview questions as recommended by our personality scientists, let’s quickly cover the structured interview and its benefits.

Why you should only be using structured interviews

Many (if not most) of us believe that resumes and past experience are the best indicators of future employee performance. Surprisingly, that’s not true: The best way to find top candidates (with 26% of predictive success) is the structured interview; conversely, past job experience accurately predicts just 3% of an employee’s on-the-job performance.

When you run structured interviews, you devise a consistent set of questions that are asked to all candidates without any variation. Responses to questions are generally entered into a rubric, and are then scored against a consistent criteria. The benefits of structured interviews are numerous, but the crucial reason for using them is that you’re minimising variables; all candidates are compared fairly to one another.

Check out this quick video to learn more about the benefits of structured interviewing.

Our steadfast belief that past experience dictates the future, while understandable, has led to the proliferation of academic questions that trap and stymie candidates, mainly because they’re based on difficult concepts that are near-on impossible to articulate without preparation. 

For example, it’s not uncommon for marketing candidates to be asked something like, “Tell me how you’d adjust ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) numbers to compensate for unexpected reduction in impression share”. Should the candidate know what ROAS and impression share are? Sure. Can you reasonably expect them to solve an unexpected puzzle while you stare them down? No.

Instead, you want to ask questions that speak to behaviours. And, ideally, you want a reliable framework for assessing responses so you can adequately analyse behaviours (more on this later).

  1. Don’t ask: Tell me how you’d respond if [specific situation] occurred.
    Instead, ask: Tell me about when something went wrong at work, and you had to fix it. How did you go about it?

    This is similar to the marketing example above. Although it’s tempting, you want to avoid questions that attempt to gauge technical proficiency. Such questions are best saved for pre- or post-interview assessments.

  2. Don’t ask: Why do you want this job?
    Instead, ask: If you could do anything in the world, what might it be?

    No one has ever had an original response to the question of ‘why’. Responses are laden with bias, and most hiring managers expect some grandiose (and frankly, sycophantic) response. Conversely, the question of ‘if’ is far more telling – it speaks to a candidate’s openness, which is a valuable (and measurable) trait for problem-solving.

  3. Don’t ask: What would your former manager say about you?
    Instead, ask: Describe a time when you struggled to build a relationship with someone important. How did you eventually overcome that?

    Former managers are not reliable character witnesses when their feedback is relaid second-hand by the candidate. You’ll never get a true response here. Instead, try to understand how a candidate overcomes difficult relationships. Answers will clue you in to a candidate’s levels of emotionality, extraversion, and empathy.

  4. Don’t ask: What is your biggest weakness?
    Instead, ask: Tell me about a situation in which you have had to adjust to changes over which you had no control. How did you handle it?

    Candidates will not accurately describe their weaknesses to you. As with the questions above, you’re asking a question that will result in a biased sample. Instead, ask about a common point of pressure that we all experience in working life. If someone is adaptable and flexible to change, their responses will show you – and you’ll have learned something much more valuable.

  5. Don’t ask: What is your biggest strength?
    Instead, ask: How would you change an institutional “this is always how we do it” attitude, if you felt there was a better approach?

    These questions don’t seem interchangeable on the face of it, but it’s far more valuable to know how a candidate can use their skills and behaviours to propel your company forward, than to know how they’d big-up themselves. Legacy thinking is a company-killer, and you want people who can think laterally to solve problems with new solutions. So find out if they can do that.

Go beyond great questions

These questions will serve you well in your interviews, but at a certain point, they’re only as good as your interview structure and analysis capabilities. Sapia’s Ai Smart Interviewer is designed to ask these questions – plus hundreds of others – and assess candidate responses to build accurate behavioural profiles. This means you get high quality candidates without having to bother with a long and inconsistent interview process.

Want even more questions designed by our people scientists and proven in the field? Download our HEXACO job interview rubric for free, here.


Kallidus and Sapia = Faster, fairer hiring

An ‘unfair’ advantage is obtained for Recruiters by adding Sapia’s interview automation to Kallidus with faster, fairer and better hiring results.

Make a difference

As the first gate to employment, the hiring team has a huge influence on candidate experience, diversity and inclusion and overall business success. The way you hire can make someone’s day. It can set your business up to overtake the competition. It can be one step towards designing a fairer world for everyone.

Hiring is more complex than ever

There’s a lot expected of recruiters these days. Attracting candidates from diverse backgrounds and delivering exceptional candidate care whilst selecting from thousands of candidates isn’t easy.

Recruiters are expected to:

  • Find the right people, ensuring a diversity of candidates
  • Fill roles quickly and efficiently
  • Interrupt bias in hiring and promotion
  • Ensure every person hired amplifies the organisation’s values
  • Create a candidate experience that is engaging and rewarding

Technology is more powerful than ever

The good news is that technology has advanced to support recruiters. Integrating Sapia artificial intelligence technology with the powerful Kallidus ATS facilitates a fast, fair, efficient recruitment process that candidates love.

Now is the time to:

  • optimise recruiter time spent by 90%
  • increase candidate satisfaction to 99%
  • achieve interview completion (the equivalent of application fill) rates of 90%
  • reduce bias

Your advantage: Sapia + Kallidus

Gone are the days of screening CVs, followed by phone screens to find the best talent. The number of people applying for each job has grown 5-10 times in size recently. Reading each CV is simply no longer an option. In any case, the attributes that are markers of a high performer often aren’t in CVs and the risk of increasing bias is high.

We’ve created a quick, easy and fair hiring process that candidates love.

  1. Create a vacancy in Kallidus, and a Sapia interview link will be created.
  2. Include the link in your advertising. Every candidate will have an opportunity to complete a FirstInterview via chat.
  3. See results as soon as candidates complete their interview. Each candidate’s scores, rank, personality assessment, role-based traits and communication skills are available as soon as they complete the interview. Every candidate will receive automated, personalised feedback.

By sending out one simple interview link, you nail speed, quality and candidate experience in one hit.

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Interview Automation

To see it in action

Watch this 2 minute video to see how Sapia works inside Kallidus for Iceland Foods.

Start today

Get ahead with Sapia’s award-winning chat Ai available for all Kallidus users. Automate interview, screening, ranking and more, with a minimum of effort. Save time, reduce bias and deliver an outstanding candidate experience.

To keep up to date on all things “Hiring with Ai” subscribe to our blog!

You can try out Sapia’s Chat Interview right now – HERE. Else you can leave us your details to get a personalised demo

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Hire Better People Faster

Do you wish you could harness the very best attributes of your people and just hire more of them, quickly, without bias? Do you spend more time recruiting than you would like? Have you ever gone against your better judgement and hired hastily only to discover the whole process has cost your business greatly?

The fact is, in retail, staff turnover is a whopping 2.5x higher than that of other industries. And if every bad hire costs your business 1.5x their annual salary, the costs mount up. Not to mention the lost sales from not having a full team on the store floor every day … bad hire costs, add up – fast.

Know which staff will fit, perform and stay – before you hire them!

You’ll love this. Built on robust psychological and data science, PredictiveHire’s technology compares tens of thousands of data points specifically attained from retail staff based around the world.

Your applicants will be compared to this powerful data to predict their likelihood to stay with you – creating really powerful candidate shortlists. The results speak for themselves.

Superdry are already experiencing the value today

Simon Amesbury, Superdry’s Resourcing Manager sums it up by saying:

“PredictiveHire ticked all the boxes: Cost savings. Time efficiencies throughout the process – less time on screening, sifting, interviewing, assessing, the list continues. A simpler life for store managers by speeding up shortlisting. And a way to boost the number of long-lasting, productive staff.”

Simon says: “Start now. The savings are there to be taken and the benefits are yours to gain!”

To get started and experience smarter hiring with no upfront costs, contact us for a discussion on how PredictiveHire can help you resolve your retail hiring issues.

Suggested Reading

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Research shows that automation can make recruitment more human

To find out how to use Recruitment Automation to ‘hire with heart’, we also have a great eBook on recruitment automation with humanity.

New insights from Aptitude Research suggests Ai can play a much greater role in talent acquisition than just improving efficiency for hiring managers,  it can also make the interview process more human for candidates, something Sapia has long advocated

Aptitude Research has published a new paper showing that when you shift the focus in automated Talent Acquisition from an employer-driven view to a candidate-first then it is possible to reduce bias in hiring,  and improve the overall human element of recruitment.

The research, sponsored by Sapia , an Australian technology company that has pioneered transparent Ai-assisted hiring solutions, shows that humanistic automation creates a personal connection at scale, and works to reduce bias, something no other technology or even human-centred solution can deliver.

Madeline Laurano, CEO of Aptitude comments “The misperception that candidates do not want automation and prefer to keep the current talent acquisition is one of the most significant misperceptions in talent acquisition. Candidates want a fair recruitment process and consistency in communication. Automation can support all of these initiatives and enhance the humanity of the experience.”

There are four main ways that talent acquisition is made more human with automation when the candidate is the focus, rather than  simply moving candidates through the process:

  1. Automation can understand what candidates want: Ai considers the unique expectations and experiences of candidates and adapts to them as it learns. Collecting feedback about the recruitment experience and continually improving the candidate journey can help candidates feel connected and heard.
  2. The correct data can interrupt bias early in the process: By creating a consistent and fair experience for candidates early in the process, and not relying on CV data as the determinate of job suitability,  companies are more successful at reducing bias and increasing inclusivity.
  3. Trust can be built through transparent data: Both employers and candidates need to trust the data and methodologies for the technology that they are using, something that can be achieved through transparency. Companies looking at automation should consider providers that will partner with them and provide transparency.
  4. Provide feedback to every candidate:  Though natural language processing every candidate receives personalized feedback and messaging. Leaving unsuccessful candidates feedback they can use for future job searches is empowering and a big leap from ‘ghosting’ or a standard rejection email.

The research can be downloaded here

About Aptitude Research
Aptitude Research Partners is a research-based analyst and advisory firm focused on HCM technology. We conduct quantitative and qualitative research on all aspects of Human Capital Management to better understand the skills, capabilities, technology, and underlying strategies required to deliver business results in today’s complex work environment. 

About Sapia

Sapia has become one of the most trusted mobile-first Ai recruitment platforms, used by companies across Australia, India, South Africa, UK and the US, with a candidate every two minutes engaging with their unique Ai chatbot Smart Interviewer.

What makes their approach unique in its a disruption of three paradigms in recruitment -candidates being ghosted, biased hiring and the false notion that automation diminishes the human experience.

The end result for companies – bias is interrupted at the top of the funnel, your hiring managers make more objective decisions empowered by Smart Interviewer their co-pilot, inclusivity is enhanced, and your hired profile starts to look more like your applicant profile.

Media contacts
Barb Hyman, CEO Sapia

Madeline Laurano , Researcher Aptitude Research

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