Why The Traditional Q&A Job Interview Should be Done Away With for Good

It’s time to get this confession out in the open. After 6 years of being in the hiring business, I’ll admit right out in the open: Traditional Q&A job interviews are ineffective and outdated.

For reasons I’m unaware, the traditional Q&A interview is hardly questioned and is just widely accepted as part of the hiring process. In fact, I did a Google Search for negative articles on the practice of traditional interviews and didn’t see too many results.

So allow me to submit the case that same hiring process is broken in the digital age. The manager asks the questions, the candidate gives the answers. The hour is up and the interview is over. Is this the best way to communicate ideas? Is this the best way to find out more about a candidate? Just asking questions? Not allowing for proper feedback from the job candidate?

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In my Recruiting experience, there’s been one common theme of the best candidates I’ve sent to interviews: they have been frustrated. Not frustrated they couldn’t answer the questions properly. Any competent job candidate can answer questions. Unlike the average candidate, before the interview, they are researching the company, exploring great ideas to share regarding how their experience relates to the job they are seeking, they are coming with great questions and discussion points. Their excitement only gets squashed when they are asked “what is your greatest weakness?” and alike questions. Notice the disconnect?

What’s worse, traditional Q&A interviews are too often left unresolved. The solution? More interviews that the candidate and employers alike do not have time to conduct. This exceptional candidate I mentioned in the previous paragraph is typically highly sought after by other companies. They will not be on the job market long and will feel left out in the cold by the process.

The solution: A real and actual conversation pointed to the position. As an interviewer, you’ll want to keep the conversation focused without letting it get off-track (which is the downfall at times to these types of interviews). However, I discovered having a real and actual conversation is ultra-productive for the following reasons:

A) An employer will be working with these individuals on a daily basis–why not get to know them by encouraging dialogue vs. just asking a bunch of questions? You’ll be seeing them each day, why not find out if they have the right personality to fit in with the team?

B) The traditional Q&A interview favors those who can BS their way through the templated questions–no good. Instead, I begin an interview by asking “what questions do you have for me?” and let that be a guidepost to how the conversation goes. If the candidate says “I don’t have any questions,” I’ll know right away without wasting time they are not prepared–I can cut the interview off in 15 mins and move on.

C) By having a pointed and honest conversation, the best candidates are satisfied all their research and preparation did not go down in flames. Again, nothing is worth than a job candidate walking out of the interview without getting to any talking points they researched. As an employer, it’s not good to let those candidates get away.

D) Efficiency: Like I said, I prefer to “cut the crap” and have a detailed conversation about the job and the company. I can usually find out in 5-10 minutes if they are not right for the job by opening up the conversation. Why waste time?

I understand the traditional interview apologists will fault my lack of structure, and they might think why give free reign to the job candidates to speak freely? Unless this position involves a very high level of scrutinization (like a high-level security job in the government etc), there’s no need to make candidates feel like they are under a microscope answering a bunch of unrelated behavioral questions. This is an employees market (at least in the US) and you want the best candidates. Make your interviews accommodating without getting off track.

I hope this article is helpful to both job seekers and employers.

Good day!