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Do and Don't Interview Questions

Do and Don’t Interview Questions

By MarkD

Do and Don’t Interview Questions

“You can’t get right answers if you’re asking the wrong questions.” – Mark Victor Hansen

So your company is in need of a new employee.  You’re still considered a smaller company, a family business, but you’re getting bigger and it’s time to bring in someone new to help keep things growing.  And it’s become your responsibility to interview potential candidates and determine not only their skill qualifications, but also to ensure that their personality will fit with your company’s values and dynamics.  But you’re not a Human Resources professional.  You don’t know all the things you’re legally allowed to ask and prohibited from asking.  Yet there are things you want to learn about the candidate, things you need to know about the candidate before you can make a decision.

There are many protected groups that are classified in ways to protect potential employees from being discriminated against, and that list is continually growing and evolving.  You know you cannot discriminate based on age, race, or gender.  But those few terms have become much more nuanced and inclusive over the years.  Race is no longer race.  It also includes ethnicity and country of origin.  Gender also includes gender identity.  While protecting an individual’s rights against discrimination is in everyone’s best interests, it can be very tricky for an interviewer, especially one who is not a trained and educated HR professional, to navigate an interview without crossing the line between gathering pertinent information and saying something unprofessional, or even unlawful.

We have collected data from several resources to compile this comprehensive list of questions that you CAN and CANNOT ask during an interview.  You should familiarize yourself with these lists before you engage in a conversation with a potential candidate.  Just as it is your desire to talk with a candidate who exudes confidence and competence, your candidate is also looking for those qualities in you as a potential employer.  Knowing what information it is you’re wanting to get from your candidate and knowing exactly how to correctly phrase your questions to glean that information, not only achieves your goals for the interview, but also puts your candidate at ease so they are comfortable answering your questions.

It is important to note a few things about this suggested list: first and foremost, this is not a legal document.  This list was compiled from many HR and Staffing resources that were written by experts who know the labor and discrimination laws and guidelines; however, it is not our intent to claim that these are the ONLY questions you can ask during an interview, nor is it our claim that this is the complete list of questions you should avoid asking in an interview.  While this suggested list is comprehensive, if you have any concerns about anything you wish to ask in an interview, we recommend that you ask your HR department, look up the laws online, or seek legal advice before your interview.

Questions NOT to ask in any interview:

You cannot ask questions that in any way relate to a candidate’s age, race, ethnicity, color, gender, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, country of origin, marital status, number of children, disability, criminal history.

With that in mind, here are some questions to avoid asking:

  • Are you a US Citizen?
  • How old are you?
  • What year did you graduate high school / college?
  • What is your native language? or That’s an interesting accent. Where are you from originally?
  • What religion / political affiliation do you ascribe to?
  • What religious holidays do you observe?
  • What kind of car do you drive?
  • How far is your commute?
  • Do you have children or plan to have any?
  • Do you smoke or drink or take illegal narcotics?
  • Are you in good physical condition?
  • Do you have any disabilities?

Questions you CAN ask:

There are questions you can ask that will get you most, if not all, of the information you need in order to make an informed decision on your potential candidate.

Here are some suggestions along those lines:

  • Are you legally authorized to work in the US?
  • Are you over the age of 18?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? or What are your long-term career goals?
  • What languages do you read, write or speak fluently?
  • Are there any days or times you would not be available to work on a regular basis?
  • Our expected work hours are (x).  Do you have any obligations that would prevent you from attending work during those hours?
  • Do you have reliable transportation?
  • Are you able to start work at (x) every day?
  • While we put high value on quality of life and reasonable work hours, there may be times when you will be required to work longer than typical workday hours.  Would that be an issue?
  • Have you ever been disciplined for violating company policies regarding the use of alcohol or tobacco products?
  • What are some of your hobbies?
  • The work duties can include lifting up to (x) pounds, walking the facility, conducting inventory audits.  Are you physically able to perform these duties?

Additional Suggestions:

Here are some additional suggestions for questions to ask a potential candidate for your company:

  • Can you elaborate on what ended your relationship with your previous two employers?
  • Can you tell me about a situation in a previous job where you recognized an opportunity to improve an aspect of their operation and how you went about creating and implementing the solution?
  • What is a recent accomplishment in a previous job that you are particularly proud of?
  • Knowing what you know about our company and the role for which you are applying, what would you like to accomplish in your first week if you were brought on board?
  • Assuming I don’t know anything about technology, what are the advantages of working with a cloud-based ERP system versus a legacy platform in general?  What do you foresee the specific advantages would be for our company?

Interviews can be nerve-wracking, not only for the candidate, but also for the employer, especially if you’re not used to being in the position of having to conduct interviews.  It is our recommendation that you use this list and come to the interview prepared with carefully constructed questions that are specifically targeted to tell you what you need to know, legally, about the candidate so you can make the best decision for the future of your company.  Just as a candidate can lose a position by giving the wrong answer during an interview, you are just as likely to lose a great candidate if you ask the wrong questions.  We hope this list helps you on your quest to finding your perfect candidate.

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