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Why You Should Retire These 5 Common — and Unnecessarily Stressful — Interview Questions

By | Samantha McLaren | Content Strategist by Day, Horror Critic by Night

Interviews are naturally a little nerve-wracking, but an unnecessarily stressful experience can permanently damage a candidate’s perception of your company. It can also make it harder for you to evaluate their fit for the role, since an overly nervous or uncomfortable person may struggle to show everything they could bring to the role. 

While you probably take steps to put every candidate at ease, some of the standard questions you may ask could unintentionally leave them squirming. 

Digital marketing agency Reboot conducted a study in which candidates were asked to wear a health and fitness tracker during an interview. They were then asked common interview questions while their heart rate was measured. In some cases, their beats per minute almost doubled. 

Here are the interview questions and scenarios that were found to raise candidates’ heart rates the most — and some tips for getting the answers you need, without making your candidates sweat.

1. “We’re going to give you a quick test”

Hearing that they’re about to be tested is enough to make anyone’s heart pound. Reboot found that this announcement causes, on average, a 93% increase in a candidate’s heart rate — up from around 80 beats per minute to 154. 

Sometimes a test is the best way to evaluate and compare candidates’ skills accurately and fairly

But there are still things you can do to make tests more productive and less stressful. Letting candidates know in advance that there will be a test component to the interview gives them time to mentally prepare, so consider mentioning this when you send the agenda. Giving them an idea of when this assessment will take place — for example, between meeting different interviewers or at the very end of the day — also means they won’t spend the entire interview wondering when it’s coming.

Unless the role will absolutely require your new hire to complete tasks within a set amount of time, it may be best to avoid time-bound assessments. Indeed, you may want to make your test a take-home assignment. Keep in mind that some candidates may take longer to read and process instructions or perform certain actions, despite being entirely capable of performing the job. So while it’s OK to let candidates know the test won’t be too time-consuming, assuring them that they can take as long as they need may help you to assess their abilities more accurately. 

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