Following on as the next part in my series of posts on marketing agencies and me, this time it's the actual interviews in the spotlight. Why? because the interviews I've been involved with seem massively disconnected with their own companies, and seem massively disconnected with the 21st Century.

Ever seen a company which runs an advert like this?

"Hi, we're a cutting-edge, dynamic, exciting, disruptive, full-service organisation changing the face of our industry. We're growth hackers looking for highly motivated digital superstars to join our thriving and vibrant team.........."

And the list of hyperbolic buzzwords goes on. You visit their website and its the same thing. It's quirky, creative and everything you'd expect from a business hoping to emulate Facebook. If your business is genuinely like this, and I mean really like this; if every fibre of your company is tailored towards these aspirations then congratulations. But in many cases when you get through the doors into an interview it just seems like a lot of bluff.

You get to the interview, sit down to start talking and get asked...

  • Where do you see yourself in five years time?

  • What would you say are your biggest weaknesses?

  • Can you give me five words that your friends would use to describe you?

What I cannot fathom is that these very same organisations who are genuinely hoping to change the landscape of their industries still rely on such drab, uninspiring and antiquated interview questions. I'm sure the answer is that they are tried and tested questions which can effectively evaluate a candidate, but frankly it don't seem to provide you or me with a chance to get to know the other.

Remember that those first impressions count. If you can't produce a forward thinking recruitment process, then how forward thinking are you in the rest of your business?

It reminded me on the excellent LinkedIn post on stupid interview questions. So, why don't the above questions work?

5 Years Time

In 5 years time I have no idea where I see myself. But I do know one thing, I'll be doing a job which I find fun, engaging and something that keeps developing my skills. The last 5 years of the UK recession have shown that no-one, and I mean no-one, can forecast the future; especially in the digital sector.

Head back 5 years into 2009. Would you have foreseen Instagram? Pinterest? Snapchat? Google+? Google Glass? Hell even One Direction? 

The world was a very different place 5 years ago, and it will be a very different place again in 2019. So, trying to see where I'm going to end up is frankly a fruitless task.


By asking about weaknesses it's automatically inferring that something needs improving. Why? I'm not good at a lot of things, I'm also great at some things. This whole question has become so stale and so repetitive, Do you honestly think I don't have a preprepared answer? Is it going to be an honest appraisal of my inner failings? I'd rather focus on what I was good at and if I do have a weakness that might affect my work, you should be able to pick it up without having to directly ask about it.

Descriptions from friends

I'm different when I'm with my friends. I'm different when I'm at work. I'm different when I'm shopping, on holiday, driving. People aren't the same people all the time. What my friends see of me is probably far different from how I work, I don't think any of them have ever seen me at work anyway. So, if I answered truthfully, those answers are irrelevant to my job. And don't you think I've got a pre-prepared list of adjectives ready to list off anyway?


I'd much prefer to talk about what you think of the latest algorithm updates to Google, the current state of social in the markets you're targeting, or what your content strategy is. What am I currently reading up on? What's your favourite email marketing software?

Some of things I've discussed in really useful and engaging interviews have been:

  • The advantages of TAGFEE at Moz.

  • The uses of connecting Mailchimp and Twitter for advertising.

  • The need for responsive web design in tourism providers websites.

  • Creating relevancy in content marketing.

This isn't to say get rid of all questions and just make it an informal chat. I'm happy to tell you about successes and failures, campaigns and clients but the same stagnant questions just take up valuable time, giving you little in the way of useful information. Even throw in some curveball questions, just something - anything which means you're not regurgitating the same interview questions that have been asked for decades.

Taking on a new employee is a big commitment from both sides - but in this day and age there are much better ways to do that than leaving in these sort of questions.