There are many reasons hiring managers ask convoluted, inappropriate-sounding, or downright dumb questions.

Some interviewers may be inexperienced, while others are working off a tired, well-worn script.

Then, there are the interviewers trying to catch candidates off-guard or those who ask uncomfortable questions to see how agile the interviewees are.

Finally, some want to see if candidates will take the bait on negative questions—for instance, whether a job seeker will badmouth their current employer or expose details about themselves that are often too personal for an interview.

Are interviewers getting the best hiring results by asking these questions? One study suggests the answer is no, and that low-quality interviews can be detrimental to businesses.

Here, we discuss three types of interview questions to avoid, followed by three types we advise interviewers to consider.

Avoid: Hypothetical Scenarios

It’s easy to imagine scripted questions an interviewer might pitch at a candidate, some that sound more like story problems from sociology class than an effective way to judge a candidate’s quality.

Questions like “If you were stranded in a desert and could only choose three items to bring with you, what would they be?”, “When you go on vacation, when do you pack your bags?” or “What does your actual desktop look like compared to your computer desktop?” are a few examples.

These are often questions on standard lists of inexperienced interviewers. It’s best, however, to keep questions practical rather than hypothetical, and relevant to real situations in the workplace.

Avoid: Pop Culture and Pop Psychology

Interviewers have been known to ask candidates to identify the color that best characterizes their personality, what words best define success, their favorite movie, or their opinions on current events.

Here, interviewers may be pushing jobseekers to think creatively or demonstrate likeability. Unfortunately, these questions often result in interviewees nervously responding with false answers. They may be left unsure where the question is leading, and how to make their answers relevant to the job for which they are applying.

Avoid: Negative & Too-Personal Questions

Asking a candidate to identify his weaknesses or what he dislikes about his current or former employer may help an interviewer see how diplomatic a candidate is, or whether the job seeker might speak badly on the way out of their next position. These questions may be relevant to the role. If they are not, however, they can inadvertently disqualify a good-fit candidate on the wrong grounds, and should be avoided.

Personal questions such as asking a candidate’s desire to have children or if they have plans to marry are borderline or downright illegal. Even if an employer believes these questions are relevant to help identify if candidates can meet their expectations, they should be avoided.

General Advice to Interviewers

  1. Be Memorable

So many sample interview questions are available online—along with suggested answers—that candidates tend to sound the same, providing similar-sounding answers and revealing little information that serves to differentiate between candidates or relates to how they will perform on the job.

For these reasons, it is important to spend the time needed to create original, purposeful interview questions, without straying too far from job-relevant subject matter.

  1. Keep It Positive

Lead candidates with questions that offer opportunities for them to give positive characterizations of a previous job or their own performance. After multiple interviews, these responses can be taken into consideration when making a selection.

  1. Focus On The Job

As tempting as it is to depart on a tangent about a movie, favorite animal or preferred vacation destination, it is important to keep questions centered on the job and the relevant characteristics needed for success to connect the right candidate to the role.

The Last Word

Following the direction offered above will help candidates provide answers that are focused on their fit for the job. Well-designed questions can help interviewers navigate the thicket of job prospects and identify their best candidate more quickly.