Just as important as an employee’s qualifications and skills is their fit with the employer. Will they mesh with their colleagues? Do they hold the same values as the employer?
That’s why culture fit interviews have become so popular. These questions are meant to give the interviewer insight into the candidate’s personality, values, work ethic, and more. On the surface, this might seem like a great way of identifying those who are ideal employees for your organization. And sometimes they can be. But other times, interviewers ask questions that not only don’t actually reveal anything meaningful about the candidate but can also make you feel uncomfortable.
Here are two that are major red flags.
Tell Us a Funny Anecdote.
Sure, this sounds harmless. But in practice, this only serves to put the applicant on the spot. When’s the last time you were asked to tell a joke? Even if you’re Jon Stewart, it’s probably awkward to be asked to “be funny” while someone is staring at you from across the table.
There’s also the fact that this probably isn’t relevant to the job. A sense of humor is nice, and it’s something the interviewer probably wants to see in a potential fit, but that should come through during your conversation — without explicit prompting.
Tell Me About Your Background Outside of Your Work History.
This one is a little more dangerous because instead of helping the employer get to know the candidate, this can actually tap into the interviewer’s unconscious biases. Everything from where someone grew up to what their parents do for a living to their favorite foods can affect how another person perceives you.
The interviewee will likely reveal some of this information on their own, but outright asking about their background can even lead to discrimination.
Cultural fit is an important quality or set of qualities to assess, of course, but interviewers need to be cognizant of how, exactly, they are determining this fit. It’s also important to remember that hiring “cookie-cutter” employees is not the best course — employers should seek out a diverse range of views and perspectives.
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Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.