Cliché interview questions – are they really useful?, ASW Consulting

Cliché Interview Questions – Are They Really Useful?

Interviews can be quite challenging because hiring a candidate contributes to the success or failure of a team or company. Reading through their CVs is one thing, but sitting down for a one-on-one is a different thing. First-time hiring managers may not always know the right questions to ask, and they might be unable to extract salient answers from the candidates. As a recruitment agency and talent acquisition consultant in Ho Chi Minh, we think it’s important to ask the right questions during interviews. We realise this might be controversial, but we think cliché questions are very helpful during interviews – what you do with them is what matters.

What are cliché interview questions?

You’ve probably had your fair share of answering cliché questions in interviews, and they’re more or less the preliminary questions that are frequently asked by recruiters and hiring managers:

  • Tell me about your career history.
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What is the biggest challenge facing our industry?
  • Tell me about a work problem and how you resolved it.
  • What recent project did you accomplish and why did it make you proud?


As tedious as it can be to ask these questions because they usually elicit generic, robotic, and hackneyed responses, they actually serve a few important functions.

Equal opportunities for candidates

These first four questions listed above are very common, but are great ‘opening’ questions, putting the candidate at ease and allowing them to tell you a bit about themselves. Even during the first few minutes of an interview, a candidate can answer these cliché questions and display how prepared they are for the position they are applying for. These questions can also show how knowledgeable a candidate is of the industry, their motivations, and what they can offer future employers. Most likely they do have some pre-rehearsed answers, but on the flip side this means they have had to conduct some self-reflection, and this is useful to the interviewers.  Through these questions, you give all candidates the same opportunity to express themselves, and the chance to make a good impression. Think of these questions as a classic and fundamental step to getting to know their education, background, skills or attitude.

However, if they buckle under the pressure of these preliminary questions, that’s a sign that they might not be the best fit for the roles you are recruiting for. While we do know that nerves and anxiety are at play during interviews, candidates should easily be able to explain their working experiences at this stage of the interview process.

Your candidates’ thinking process and behaviours revealed

As you move through the process, ask questions like the last two listed above (competency questions) that are asking the candidate to give you real-life examples of what they have accomplished or how they have worked through a problem. A person’s creative and logical thinking can be determined by asking such questions. You’ll also be able to gauge how quickly they think on their feet to provide details of their work style and behaviours, and how analytical or articulate they are in answering these questions. These questions allow candidates to differentiate themselves from others by answering questions that highlight their strengths and their willingness to be part of your company.

Proof of career experience

Asking competency questions that are related to the competencies (skills and experiences) of the role you are hiring for will help ensure you secure the right person for your vacancy.  Remember that past performance is the best indicator of future on-the-job success.  Do some prep in advance to allow you to think through your top three to five important areas (e.g. teamwork, leadership, customer service or problem-solving). This is the opportunity for candidates to discuss how they handled situations; what they learned from their previous jobs; and how they have moved forward.

Being a recruitment agency and talent acquisition consultancy in Ho Chi Minh we often talk to other recruiters in the market, and everyone agrees: you can often tell early on if a candidate is a great fit for an interview. An applicant’s confidence, skill and mastery of their work, and motivation for the role can be gleaned very early on, and through these very standard interview questions.

Building on top of cliché questions

The secret to getting the best out of cliché interview questions is to ask all candidates the same questions so that you can demonstrate fairness, but also easily compare and contrast between interviewees.

Your job as a hiring manager or recruiter is to then build upon this foundation to further explore your candidates’ qualifications and personality. Delve deeper into their experiences. Try to look for behavioral cues on how they respond to workplace stresses. Probe! Ask for more information when needed, paraphrase for shared understanding and ensure that you always get specific examples. Use the STAR method to structure your probing questions if you get stuck (clarify the Situation & Task, Action the candidate took, and ask what the Result or outcome was. If they are unable to share a specific example to one of your competency questions, then ask them hypothetical questions that can also test how well they might deal with situations. Don’t be afraid to ask challenging questions that will test their mettle, grit, and resourcefulness.

Recruitment agency in Ho Chi Minh

Interviewing is a skill, and is something that can be improved the more you talk to candidates and learn from each discussion. It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t be concerned about asking basic interview questions because information required to create accurate profiles on applicants can be gathered from these alone. Just remember to make these interviews more meaningful by asking the right follow-up questions. Just be curious! Remember that interviewing is a two-way street, so allow the candidate time to ask questions as well and make sure that you take the time to sell your company and role along the way.

ASW Consulting is a trusted recruitment agency  in Ho Chi Minh that can help you find the right people for your company by conducting the kinds of interviews that determine which people align with your company. We have strong experience recruiting all kinds of professionals across a variety of industries. Talk to The Talent Consultants to know how you can benefit from receiving professional recruitment and HR advice today. For a confidential discussion, please email