At Agile 2009, I had some informal discussions with hiring managers about how to hire for their agile teams. I'm considering writing an ebook. If you think that's a good idea, please leave me a comment or send me an email. In the meantime, I was surprised by some mistakes hiring managers make. These are my top 5 questions never to ask in an interview (for an agile team or any team!):
- Tell me about yourself. This question is too vague for most candidates and wastes everyone's time. You want to know more specifics, such as how a candidate has contributed to current and previous projects, how they've added value to the organization.
- Where do you want to be in 1, 2, 3, 5 years? Can anyone actually answer that question? It doesn't provide you any information. One hiring manager told me he wanted to know how ambitious a candidate was. I asked him why he wanted to know that and he had no answer 🙂 If ambition is something you're looking for, a better question is “Tell me about a time you wanted a promotion. What did you do?”
- Tell me about your strengths or weaknesses. This begs the candidate to turn all weaknesses into strengths and for candidates to tell you motherhood and apple pie stories about themselves. Better questions are: “Tell me about an achievement you feel proud of” and “What areas have you been working on increasing your knowledge of or increasing your skills in?”
- Tell me about your boss. The candidate's manager may not have been the one who hired the candidate into the organization. Without context, it's not clear what you are asking. You might want to know “Tell me how you interact with your manager”although I'm not sure why you'd want to know. I want to know more about the candidate's role on the team and how the team works.
- Are you married/have children/belong to a church/<any other illegal question>? Don't go there. Does it really matter if the candidate is married with two children or single with a dog? Or something else? It matters if the candidate can do the job. You can ask, “Are there circumstances that prevent you from being here 9-5, since we have our daily standups at 9am and we pair until 5pm?” or some other question like that.
Make sure you ask questions about the candidate's ability to do the job, not anything to satisfy your curiosity about tangential facts.