Do’s and Don’ts of Conducting Job Interviews

When it comes to finding – and hiring – that perfect job candidate, the competition can be fierce. Since a significant part of the hiring decision comes from the face-to-face interview, doing a bit of homework and preparation beforehand is sure to help you, and your company, make your best first impression.

What is the Interviewer’s Role?

As one of the first people an interviewee will come into contact with when applying for a job with your company, you will most likely be representing and making the first impression for your company to your job candidate. This is a wonderful opportunity to create goodwill with your applicant, whether he or she is hired or not.

Make your interviewee as comfortable as possible, depending on your company’s culture. If your organization is formal and wears business attire, then pass that information along. If, on the other hand, your atmosphere is very relaxed and even you, as the interviewer, will be wearing jeans or other casual clothing, let your interviewee know so that he or she will fit in with your company culture and feel comfortable from the start. No matter the attire, always present yourself in a polished manner, including wearing a professional name tag. Your candidate will likely be nervous enough. Being able to glance at your name tag, or even a desk plate, and address you by name will take the pressure off trying to remember it throughout the interview and create a more relaxed, friendly environment.

Create a Relaxed and Welcoming Interview Setting

Conducting the interview at your place of business is a wise choice. When an interviewee comes to (and takes part in a tour of) your office, this provides the best opportunity to see how he or she reacts to your daily work environment. While it may seem like a more relaxing idea to have the interview at the local coffee shop or somewhere over lunch, these places tend to be full of noise and distractions that will hinder both you and your applicant from having the most productive conversation and from learning about one another.

Begin your interview with somewhat casual, yet specific questions. Opening the conversation with an open-ended statement like “Tell me about yourself” probably will not put your interviewee at ease. Rather, ask “Given what you know about our company, what personal qualities of yours would make you a good fit?”

What are Illegal Interview Questions?

As an interviewer, it is unlawful to ask any of the following questions –

  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • What is your religion? Where and/or when do you worship? Do you celebrate religious holidays?
  • Are you a citizen of the US? It seems that you have an accent, where are you from?
  • When were you born? What year did you graduate from high school or college? How old are you?
  • Do you have a disability that has the ability to affect your job performance? (This includes specific questions pertaining to former number of sick days, workers’ compensation claims, mental health diagnoses, or other pre-existing health conditions, including that of family history)
  • Do you use drugs, alcohol, or smoke?
  • Do you belong to a union or do you have an interest in joining one?
  • Are you willing to take a polygraph test? (You cannot be denied employment, disciplined, or fired for refusing to take a polygraph test)
  • Are you pregnant or do you plan to become pregnant, foster, or adopt a child?
  • What does your husband or wife do? Or do you have a spouse or significant other?

Note – When considering an applicant for a position, if your organization’s primary purpose is religious-based, you are legally permitted to favor hiring individuals who practice that same religion.

What are Legal Interview Questions?

  • Have you ever been convicted of a felony or crime other than a traffic violation?
  • Do your religious practices prohibit you from working on weekends (ask only if weekend work is required of the position)
  • Are you legally authorized to work in the US?
  • Do you speak any other languages (ask only if relevant to the position)
  • Are you able to put in the long hours and significant amount of travel this job requires?
  • Are you willing and able to relocate, if the opportunity arises?

What is a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification as Related to a Job or a Career?

A Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) is a specific qualification that will allow a potential employer to make an employment decision based on protected classes of citizens ONLY if it is determined to be necessary to operate a specific business successfully. For example, commercial airline pilots MUST retire at age 65 since studies have shown that older pilots’ production declines and, therefore, becomes a greater public risk.

Key Points to Keep in Mind During the Interview and Beyond

Keep in mind the position you are interviewing to fill. While skills and education certainly are important, many job specifics can be learned through on the job training, apprenticeships, and job shadowing. Things that are more difficult to teach are fitting in with the culture, departmental employees, and generally with the company as a whole.

Refrain from asking hypothetical questions. Most often for an interviewee who may not have an immediate answer, this is cause for a moment of panic and he or she may make up an answer. Rather, ask specific questions that relate to real situations that he or she has most likely encountered in the workplace, for example, “Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict between two employees and how that worked out.”

For more information about federal laws regarding prohibited or illegal employment policies and practices, please visit the US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.

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