And they're right, especially if you insist on asking opinion-based job interview questions.
(Quick aside: Is there really a perfect answer to a question like, "What do you feel is your biggest weakness?" I think there is: "If that's the kind of question you typically ask, I don't want to work for you.")
Asking opinion-based questions is a complete waste of time. Every candidate comes prepared to answer general questions about teamwork, initiative, interpersonal skills, and leadership.
That's why you should ask interview questions that elicit facts instead of opinions. Why? I can never rely on what you claim you will do, but I can learn a lot from what you have already done.
Where employee behavior and attitude are concerned, the past is a fairly reliable indication of the future.
How do you get to the facts? Ask. Ask an initial question. Then follow up: Dig deeper to fully understand the situation described, determine exactly what the candidate did (and did not do), and find out how things turned out. Follow-up questions don't have to be complicated. "Really?" "Wow... so what did he do?" "What did she say?" "What happened next?" "How did that work out?"
All you have to do is keep the conversation going. At its best, an interview is really just a conversation.
Here are my four favorite behavioral interview questions:
1. "Tell me about the last time a customer or co-worker got mad at you."
Purpose: Evaluate the candidate's interpersonal skills and ability to deal with conflict.
Make sure you find out why the customer or co-worker was mad, what the interviewee did in response, and how the situation turned out both in the short- and long-term.
Warning sign: The interviewee pushes all the blame and responsibility for rectifying the situation on the other person.
Decent sign: The interviewee focuses on how they addressed and fixed the problem, not on who was to blame.
Great sign: The interviewee admits they caused the other person to be upset, took responsibility, and worked to make a bad situation better. Great employees are willing to admit when they are wrong, take responsibility for fixing their mistakes, and learn from experience.
Remember, every mistake is really just training in disguise... as long as the same mistake isn't repeated over and over again, of course.
2. "Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months."
Purpose: Evaluate the candidate's reasoning ability, problem solving skills, judgment, and possibly even willingness to take intelligent risks.
Warning sign: No answer. Everyone makes tough decisions, regardless of their position. My daughter works part-time as a server at a local restaurant and makes difficult decisions all the time - like the best way to deal with a regular customer whose behavior constitutes borderline harassment.
Decent sign: Made a difficult analytical or reasoning-based decision. For example, wading through reams of data to determine the best solution to a problem.
Great sign: Made a difficult interpersonal decision, or better yet a difficult data-driven decision that included interpersonal considerations and ramifications.
Making decisions based on data is important, but almost every decision has an impact on people as well. The best candidates naturally weigh all sides of an issue, not just the business or human side exclusively.
3. "Tell me about a time you knew you were right but still had to follow directions or guidelines."
Purpose: Evaluate the candidate's ability to follow, and possibly to lead.
Warning sign: Found a way to circumvent guidelines "... because I know I was right," or followed the rules but allowed their performance to suffer.
Believe it or not, if you ask