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Five Interview Questions No One Has The Right To Ask

I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. Full bio

I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com


The question “What will you bring to the job that no one else will?” is another question that makes no sense. How would you know what you can bring to the job that no one else will? The question “What’s so special about YOU?” is just a request for you to start tap-dancing in order to please the interviewer. Don’t do it!

You can say “You have the advantage there, because I don’t know the other candidates, but I can say that if our conversation today doesn’t suggest that I’m the right person for the job, there will be lots of other talented people for you to choose from.” Don’t kiss anybody’s tush on a job interview — you are too smart and capable to grovel.

It takes a lot of chutzpah for someone to ask you “How badly do you want the job?” when they haven’t invested a single calorie or brain cell in selling you on the opportunity. I wouldn’t blame you a bit if you responded to this obnoxious question with “How badly do you need help?” but you could also give a softer answer, like this:

THEM: How badly do you want the job?

YOU: I definitely want a great job with a great organization where I can learn a lot, but I’m too new in the conversation with your firm to be able to answer your question more specifically than that. Can you please help me understand the reason for the question? Are you looking to hire someone who is desperate for a job?

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is the ancient, crusty, brainless question that interviewers used to ask in the days when getting a job offer meant signing on to one employer for five or ten years.

Nowadays the “five years” question makes no sense, because the company is certainly not planning to guarantee your employment for five years or even five weeks.

You can answer “Five years from now I’ll be doing work I love, for sure, among smart and committed people — perhaps here or somewhere else. What about you?”

It’s a new day. The Human Workplace is already here. We can lose the brainless interview questions and interview people as humans. It’s a lot more fun to do that and you’ll  make better hires that way. On the other side of the desk as a job-seeker, you can bring yourself to the job interview and stop feeling that you have to grovel and beg for a job.

Try interviewing like a human next time! Leave a comment and tell us how it goes.

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