As the job market evolves and candidates become savvier, staying on top of your hiring game is essential. One aspect of that is ensuring your interview questions are relevant, engaging, and help you identify the best candidates.

But some classic interview questions are just outdated and ineffective. Here are some interview questions to ditch in 2024 and what to ask instead.

#1 Ditch: “Why do you want to work for us?”

This question is particularly weird when the candidate was headhunted instead of applying actively. In this case, you should not be surprised to hear, “Well, you’re the one who contacted me!”

However, you still want to find out if they are specifically targeting companies like yours or just apply and interview randomly.

A good way to find out could be: “Which aspects of the company and role caught your attention?”

Their answer should also give you an idea of how well they understand the role and your company’s business. Even if they were headhunted, a real professional comes to the interview with at least a minimum of preparation.

#2 Ditch: "Why should we hire you for this role?"

This question stems from a time when there was plenty of fish in the sea, and you could choose from numerous candidates. In addition, it can come across as condescending and doesn't necessarily provide any real insights into a candidate's motivation or qualifications.

When you think about it, there is no good answer to it except a humorous "because I'm the best."

Instead, ask direct questions regarding the requirements, such as:

  • Can you tell me about a product that you built recently leveraging our tech stack (e.g. Laravel / Vue.js)?
  • What were your main responsibilities?
  • Which challenges did you face?
  • Which mistakes did you make / what would you do differently in hindsight?

To get more context, ask follow-up questions that begin with "what," "how," or "Tell me more." The so-called WHO method can be a useful framework for interviewing.

#3 Ditch: "What makes you unique?"

From the candidate’s perspective, this may feel like you are playing mind games since it's hard to know what you actually want to hear. Maybe the candidate can brag about how they taught themselves Python or that they can move their ears and their eyebrows at the same time?

Instead, if you want to hear more about their special skills or passion for the job, ask if they have a side project. Do they talk about it with passion? Do they want to monetize it?

If you are speaking with a more experienced candidate, ask:

#4 Ditch: "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"

This classic question is way too general, which makes it easy to dodge. "I'm a great cook, but I know nothing about wine" might be a perfectly honest answer, but it's completely irrelevant if you're not interviewing a chef.

Instead, ask questions that will help you understand the candidate's challenges, such as “Where do you see your biggest challenges in this role?”

Follow up with questions like:

  • If communicating in English is a challenge, what are you currently doing to improve your English?
  • What would you like to learn in your next role?
  • Have you already started learning about <topic>? Which are your go-to resources for learning?

#5 Ditch: "How do you deal with stress?"

You may get a very standardized answer like: "I go to the gym after work" or "I prioritize tasks." This does not really tell you how they communicate in a stressful situation.

Additionally, the candidate may get the impression that your workplace is extremely stressful, which does not play in your favor. Instead, ask questions that will help you understand the candidate's strategy and communication skills, such as:

  • Can you recall a time when you could not meet a deadline?
  • How did you deal with the situation?
  • Can you recall a situation of conflict with a colleague or client? What did you do to solve it?

#6 Ditch: "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

No one knows where they will be in 5 years, but an honest answer could be, "Ideally on the beach of some tropical island if I win the lottery."

Instead, ask questions that will help you understand the candidate's career direction. Are they more interested in managing people or do they prefer deepening their technical expertise?

  • If we hire you, what role would you like to evolve into within the next few years?
  • Ideally, what would be the next stage of your career?

Ask relevant follow-up questions based on their answer. E.g. if they want to be a Tech Lead:

  • As a Tech Lead, would you still want to write code?
  • What keeps you from already applying for such a role?
  • Which skills do you think you still need to develop to become a Tech Lead?

#7 Ditch: "What does your dream job look like?"

If someone knows how to play the game, they will simply describe the role they applied for. A very honest person may simply tell you that in a perfect world, they would not have to work.

Instead, ask the candidate what their selection criteria would be if they received several offers. This can give you a better understanding of their priorities and what they value most in a job.

Follow-up questions could include asking about their ideal work-life balance or which benefits matter most to them. You can only make an offer that truly stands out if you know what makes the difference for them.

Tailor it to the position

Ditching generic interview questions in favor of more relevant ones can provide deeper insights into a candidate's skills, goals, and motivations. As an interviewer, it's essential to tailor your questions to the specific role and company culture to get the most out of the interview process.

Since good candidates can often choose where they want to work, there is no point in playing mind games and getting on the high horse if you want them to see your company in a positive light.

The best strategy is to ask direct and context-related questions without forgetting to look out for red flags (like badmouthing former employers or blaming others for mistakes) and yellow flags like not recalling any mistakes or conflicts experienced in the past.