RANT: Can we please retire “Tell me about yourself…”?

Holland Dombeck McCue candidate experience, Holland Dombeck, Interviewing, Uncategorized

I hopped on a panel yesterday with the fine folks over at Recruiting Blogs and Lever where we covered the ‘ins and outs’ of improving interviewing internally through training, resource development and measuring the candidate experience. One of the topics the team covered was good vs. bad interview questions, where I had a bone to pick with “Tell me about yourself…”

“Tell me about yourself…” is an objectively terrible interview question.

Regardless of the amount of prep put in, the interviewee is always immediately paralyzed when asked to just talk. They freeze, try to recall the perfect mix of personal anecdotes and professional accomplishments they prepared, and always end up rambling.

To me, this question signals that the hiring manager didn’t do their homework before I walked in their door. Which is not fair. You have my resume and LinkedIn profile, you should generally know “about me.” Candidates are expected to have performed research about the company and the team they’ll be joining prior to their interview and I feel interviewers should be held to the same standard.

An interview should not be a question and answer session. It should be a two-way dialogue to determine fit – both from a skills and culture perspective – and both the candidate and hiring manger should put in their leg work to ensure a two-way conversation takes place.

Additionally, lack of prep can make the candidate feel dismissed or as if their time is not valued. This negative perception is then either going to be amplified by word of mouth interactions with their network, or possibly result in a negative Glassdoor interview review. While one interview hiccup isn’t going to impact your employment brand, consistently poor experiences certainly will.

Ten Options to Use Instead:

  1. Describe the work environment in which you will most effectively be able to contribute.
  2. Tell me what motivates you.
  3. How do you make decisions?
  4. What do you do to relax?
  5. How do you stay relevant in your field? (Hat tip to FOT’s Kris Dunn.)
  6. What is your work style?
  7. On the whiteboard behind you, sketch your idea to approach solving ______.
  8. How do you build relationships?
  9. Tell me about a time you screwed up.
  10. What questions do you have for me?

Hump day rant over.

What questions do you love and which questions do you feel should be put out to pasture?