Interviewing job applicants is second nature to many hiring managers.  However, how can they be sure they’re doing it right and how can they be sure they’re getting the best information from the candidate?

Hiring managers have to be careful not to ask illegal questions. Sure, employers want to know if the person they’re hiring has ever filed a workers’ compensation claim or if they’re married or if they are a U.S. citizen.  However, asking questions about job-related injuries, marital status and citizenship violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Florida Civil Rights Act and the Immigration Reform and Control Act.  They also leave companies vulnerable to lawsuits under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for sex and national origin discrimination.  Typically, there are ways to rephrase questions so the interview obtains the information he or she needs to make an assessment without violating the law.  Kettering University has posted a list of questions that companies can and cannot ask.

Additionally, throwing in outrageous questions to try to gauge an employee’s “creativity” are, for the most part, a waste of time.  Inc. has posted an article about some of the most off-the-wall questions an applicant has been asked.  http://www.inc.com/adam-vaccaro/25-crazy-interview-questions.html.  As noted in the article, the companies that used them have found that they don’t end up providing valuable information about the prospective employee.

Instead, hiring managers should focus on questions that provide the necessary information to determine if the individual has the skill set and ability to perform the job successfully.

In general, there should be common questions that are asked of all applicants regardless of the job and specific questions related to the job for which the individual has applied.  Rather than asking closed questions (those that only require a yes/no response), interviewers should rephrase their questions to require the applicant to provide more information.  For example, instead of “Do you have a bachelor’s degree?”, ask “What was your major in college and why did you select that course of study?”  That question will require the interviewee to share more about their areas of interest and will give the interview a glimpse of the types of subjects that motivate the applicant.


Behavioral interviewing is a method that is used to identify skills and competencies of the individual based on their previous experiences.  The theory behind behavioral interviewing is that past performance is a great predictor of future behavior.  This method has become increasingly popular over the past 40 years because of the success employers have experienced in using it.  Typically, the interviewer will ask an open-ended question asking the applicant to describe a situation they’ve experienced in the past and how they handled it.  RecruitLoop and Duke University have posted lists of behavioral interview questions arranged by topical areas. An online Google search will yield more questions as well as answers.  Monster.com, for example, has published a number of articles helping jobseekers prepare for and “nail” the interview.


Preparation is a key component of a successful interview and includes:

  • Familiarizing your self with the job description and having a copy of the description with you during the interview session.
  • Preparing a consistent set of questions tailored to the specific job you want to ask all applicants.
  • Thoroughly reviewing the résumé/application for each interviewee and identifying specific items for which you want to obtain additional information, such as gaps in employment.
  • Make sure you have a pen and pad to take notes about the applicant’s responses as the interview progresses.
  • Be prepared to answer questions that applicants may have for you about the job and/or the company.

The ability to know when to keep quiet and when to listen is an important trait for everyone to develop.  However, it’s crucial to develop this skill as an interviewer.  Too often, the hiring manager becomes uncomfortable with the silence as an applicant is formulating.  Remain silent.  The applicant, in his or her discomfort, will likely begin sharing information that can be important to your hiring decision.  Just one caution though: if the applicant begins sharing information about a health condition, their citizenship status, etc., STOP THEM.  Tell them to stop and let them know that that information isn’t necessary or relevant to the interview.

Honing your interviewing skills is a key component to insuring you select the right person for the job.  A lot of helpful information to assist you in improving your interviewing skills, including the e-book created by CareerBuilder “From Q&A to Z: The Hiring Manager’s Complete Interviewing Guide”, can be found on the Internet.

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