How to conduct a job interview

How to conduct a job interview

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Job interviews can be stressful for all parties. The candidate might be nervous because he wants the job or because he has been hunting for work for a long period of time. The interviewer might be on edge because he does not want to make a hiring mistake. Take some of the pressure off of the interview process by coming up with ways to make the interview more fun than expected.

Leave the Workspace

There is no rule saying that you need to conduct the interview in your office or in a conference room. The traditional setting might be intimidating for candidates and they might seem more stiff or uncomfortable. Consider conducting the interview in a public space, such as at a coffee shop or lunch place. Going off-campus might help you both relax and might give you a more accurate picture of the employee’s personality. If you must conduct the interview onsite, the “Wall Street Journal” recommends taking the candidate out for lunch or drinks after the traditional interview to see how he adjusts to different situations.

Make it Interactive

Get the employee on his feet during the interview. If you are conducting an interview for a retail position, give him a chance to try using the register or role play a customer-clerk interaction. Doing so will give you a better idea of how the employee will act on the floor than you’ll get by simply asking him to share past experiences. Other ways to make an interview interactive include asking servers and bartenders to sample foods and describe the way they taste, asking a teacher to give a short lesson, or having a nurse interact with a standardized patient.

Ask Challenging Questions

Brian Libby of CBS News suggests asking potential employees questions that require them to think. These questions are not your standard “describe a situation in which you took a leadership role” questions. A challenging question does not have a wrong or right answer. These types of questions are favored by certain tech companies, according to NPR’s “All Things Considered.” An example of a challenging question is “Which of the 50 states would you remove and why?” Another challenging question might be to ask the candidate why certain things are the way they are — for example, ask why the sky is blue.

Risks and Considerations

Be careful not to go overboard when making an interview fun. There is a very fine line between creative and unprofessional. Also, be careful not to ask employees interesting questions that are too personal. Legally, you cannot ask questions about an employee’s age, gender or disability during an interview. You also cannot make comments about an employee’s race or national origin, appearance or religion. There are exceptions — for example, if you are interviewing a pastor, you can ask about religion, according to Brian Libby of CBS News.

  • NPR: Job Interviews Get Creative
  • Wall Street Journal: Conducting Employment Interviews
  • CBS News: How to Conduct an Interview
  • Houston Business Journal: Creative Hiring Replaces Yesterday’s Staid Interview

Based in Pennsylvania, Emily Weller has been writing professionally since 2007, when she began writing theater reviews Off-Off Broadway productions. Since then, she has written for TheNest, ModernMom and Rhode Island Home and Design magazine, among others. Weller attended CUNY/Brooklyn college and Temple University.

How to conduct a job interview

How to conduct a job interview

Learning how to conduct an interview effectively can be challenging, but hiring the best candidate is a worthwhile reward.

Use this guide and interview checklist for employers to improve your interviewing skills:

How to prepare to interview someone for a job

Modify and use this checklist to help you prepare for an interview:

How to conduct a job interview

It’s a good idea to set aside some time before and after interviews. That way, you can comfortably welcome candidates and avoid having to rush them out at the end of their interviews.

Craft effective interview questions

A big part of your interview preparation is deciding what questions to ask candidates. You can find many interview questions sorted by job and type on online libraries. Here are some tips to assess candidates effectively:

  • Focus on behavioral and situational questions.
  • Find alternatives to cliche questions to avoid canned responses.
  • Look for people who can bring a new perspective to your team, instead of being an exact “culture fit.”
  • Tie interview questions to job requirements. Craft a few questions to assess each skill you’re looking for.
The New World of Work

Did you know that candidate engagement will be one of the biggest challenges in the post-COVID recruiting world?

Experiment with a different interview format

Unstructured interviews that flow like friendly conversations make the process pleasant for both candidates and interviewers. But, they aren’t the most effective way to hire the best candidate.

Structured interviews are better predictors of job performance, more legally defensible and better for record-keeping. During structured interviews, you ask the same questions to all candidates in a specific order and score them with a predetermined rating scale. Your Applicant Tracking System may have built-in checklists or interview scorecards to help you rate candidates this way.

Practice your pitch

Both interviewers and candidates are evaluating each other during interviews. While you assess whether candidates are right for the job, candidates try to determine whether they want to work for you. If they’re not convinced, they might end up rejecting your job offer.

Prepare a checklist to sell your company and the position you’re hiring for. You could include:

  • How your company tries to fulfill its mission.
  • What your company does to keep employees happy and motivated.
  • Any plans that have been announced to expand or improve your company.
  • What challenges someone who works in the role you’re hiring for may face and how your company supports its employees (e.g. training, mentoring.)
  • How that particular position fits into your organizational structure and contributes to your company’s success.

Also, listen to what candidates indicate they look for in a job to personalize your pitch.

Combat your bias

We are all prone to cognitive biases. Just decades ago, those who interviewed musicians to join orchestras were unwittingly making biased hiring decisions, resulting in almost all-male orchestras. They hired more women when they started using blind hiring methods.

Here’s how to fight bias in your interviewing process:

  • Learn more about how biases work. Research biases to spot instances that can activate them. You could watch related videos, like this satirical one by management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which reveals how women face unconscious biases at work:

  • Identify your own biases. Despite good intentions, biases may interfere with your hiring process. Take one of Harvard’s Implicit Association Tests to discover whether you have hidden racial, religious or sexual orientation biases.
  • Learn to discard “noise” (irrelevant information.) Ask yourself whether certain characteristics really affect a candidate’s job performance. For example, how candidates dress may matter for sales executives, who are usually in customer-facing roles, but not so much for developers.
  • Slow down your decision making. Interviewers often come to a decision about a candidate very early in an interview. Take your time and consult your notes afterwards to form an opinion on candidates.
  • Focus on job-related characteristics. If you want to assess Java coding skills, use assignments or ask candidates to solve problems on a whiteboard. Asking which school they attended to learn how to code may not be as demonstrative of their skills.
  • Resist hiring in your own image. Interviewers often end up hiring “mini-mes” who represent candidates similar to them (e.g. who have the same hobbies.) Hiring managers who hire “mini-mes” miss out on the best candidates, build homogenous teams, lose diversity’s advantage and fail to fill team skill gaps.

Seek advice

Hiring doesn’t have to be a lonesome road. Recruiters can be great allies when learning how to conduct an interview. Ask for their advice when you want to:

  • Develop your own employer interviewing checklist.
  • Build rapport with candidates.
  • Review your interview questions.
  • Give interview feedback to rejected candidates.
  • Conduct mock interviews to improve your interviewing skills.
  • Arrange official training courses with professional organizations.

Recruiters can also help you preserve an interview’s legality. For example, it’s illegal to ask an interviewee whether they plan to have children, even if your goal is to make small talk. A good recruiter will advise against asking that question.

Improving your interviewing skills takes time, but the payoff is worth it. Effective interviews bring you one step closer to hiring the right people to reinforce your team.

How to conduct a job interview

Conducting an interview looks easier than it is. And that’s precisely why many hiring managers don’t always prepare as well as they should for this critical step in the hiring process.

Giving little thought as to how to prepare for an interview can lead to costly hiring mistakes. These include missing the opportunity to recruit a talented professional because you didn’t ask the right questions, failing to make a positive impression on the candidate, or both.

It’s even more important now to refine your approach to interviews because you may need to hire some or all job candidates remotely. If you haven’t mastered the basics of how to conduct a job interview in person, you’re unlikely to deliver a compelling performance in a remote interview.

So, don’t wing it. Here are six things to do before conducting an interview:

1. Revisit the job description

Thoroughly review the job description, which will drive the job posting, even if you were the one who originally created it. Things can change so fast in the current business environment, key elements could now be out of date. If you skip this step, you could end up attracting the wrong people for the job.

The job description should describe the desired technical and soft skills as well as outline all current responsibilities and expectations. If you’re unsure about anything, ask people in the organization who have most recently worked with someone in the role for their input.

2. Closely review the candidate’s work history

One mistake hiring managers often make when conducting interviews is asking candidates to repeat information they’ve already provided. This not only makes you appear unengaged with staffing the position, but it also eats up valuable time in the interview. It will leave little opportunity to dig into questions that can help you evaluate whether the potential hire would succeed in the role.

So, prior to your meeting, thoroughly review any information the job candidate has provided to date. That includes their resume, cover letter and online profile. Note any areas requiring clarification, such as puzzling job titles or unexplained gaps in work history. When conducting an interview, you may also want to hone in on non-work activities that may reveal aspects of the candidate that could have a bearing on job performance.

3. Create a general structure for the process

Sketch out a basic schedule that will allow you to cover all the key areas you want to address during interviews. A well-organized process also shows candidates that you respect their time.

As for scheduling the interview, be flexible. You might think, with so many people working remotely now, finding a time to meet during the day would be easy. But for some people, it’s more challenging. For example, a best practice prior to the pandemic was to schedule interviews early in the day, before work would kick into high gear. However, if people are managing children at home, the morning may not be an ideal meeting time.

So, if possible, offer a few time slots for the candidate to choose from. To simplify things further, you might even consider using an online appointment scheduling tool.

4. Prepare and memorize your must-ask questions

Write down the items you know you’ll need to ask the candidate about based on the job description and your hiring criteria. Try to commit these core questions to memory. Then, you can focus on maintaining eye contact with the candidate, whether you’re meeting in person or by video. That can help you create an interview experience that’s more conversational and relaxed.

5. Use a mix of question types

In addition to your must-asks, leave room for other questions that can help you develop a better picture of the candidate overall. Try using some combination of these interview question types:

  • Closed-ended questions call for a simple, informational answer — sometimes just a yes or no. An example: “Have you worked in an industry different from ours?”
  • Open-ended questions require thought and oblige the candidate to reveal attitudes or opinions. For instance: “What interests you most about this position?”
  • Hypothetical questions invite the potential hire to resolve an imaginary situation or react to a real one. Here’s one: “If you had an opportunity to revise your early career path, what would you do differently?”

6. Practice how to conduct an interview

Just as you expect candidates to be polished during job interviews, they expect the same of you, too. The job market may be a bit more challenging for candidates at the moment, but that doesn’t mean in-demand professionals aren’t going to be selective about their next career move. Your tone and degree of professionalism matter.

This can take practice. You could rehearse with a colleague over a video call, practice with a friend or family member at home, or run through a mock interview in front of your webcam or a mirror. This process will help you build more self-awareness of your communication abilities. At the same time, this will clue you in to opportunities for improvement.

Don’t have time for candidate searches or conducting interviews? Robert Half can help. We make hiring easy, whether you need to staff roles on-site or remotely.

How to conduct a job interview

Conducting an interview looks easier than it is. And that’s precisely why many hiring managers don’t always prepare as well as they should for this critical step in the hiring process.

Giving little thought as to how to prepare for an interview can lead to costly hiring mistakes. These include missing the opportunity to recruit a talented professional because you didn’t ask the right questions, failing to make a positive impression on the candidate, or both.

It’s even more important now to refine your approach to interviews because you may need to hire some or all job candidates remotely. If you haven’t mastered the basics of how to conduct a job interview in person, you’re unlikely to deliver a compelling performance in a remote interview.

So, don’t wing it. Here are six things to do before conducting an interview:

1. Revisit the job description

Thoroughly review the job description, which will drive the job posting, even if you were the one who originally created it. Things can change so fast in the current business environment, key elements could now be out of date. If you skip this step, you could end up attracting the wrong people for the job.

The job description should describe the desired technical and soft skills as well as outline all current responsibilities and expectations. If you’re unsure about anything, ask people in the organization who have most recently worked with someone in the role for their input.

2. Closely review the candidate’s work history

One mistake hiring managers often make when conducting interviews is asking candidates to repeat information they’ve already provided. This not only makes you appear unengaged with staffing the position, but it also eats up valuable time in the interview. It will leave little opportunity to dig into questions that can help you evaluate whether the potential hire would succeed in the role.

So, prior to your meeting, thoroughly review any information the job candidate has provided to date. That includes their resume, cover letter and online profile. Note any areas requiring clarification, such as puzzling job titles or unexplained gaps in work history. When conducting an interview, you may also want to hone in on non-work activities that may reveal aspects of the candidate that could have a bearing on job performance.

3. Create a general structure for the process

Sketch out a basic schedule that will allow you to cover all the key areas you want to address during interviews. A well-organized process also shows candidates that you respect their time.

As for scheduling the interview, be flexible. You might think, with so many people working remotely now, finding a time to meet during the day would be easy. But for some people, it’s more challenging. For example, a best practice prior to the pandemic was to schedule interviews early in the day, before work would kick into high gear. However, if people are managing children at home, the morning may not be an ideal meeting time.

So, if possible, offer a few time slots for the candidate to choose from. To simplify things further, you might even consider using an online appointment scheduling tool.

4. Prepare and memorize your must-ask questions

Write down the items you know you’ll need to ask the candidate about based on the job description and your hiring criteria. Try to commit these core questions to memory. Then, you can focus on maintaining eye contact with the candidate, whether you’re meeting in person or by video. That can help you create an interview experience that’s more conversational and relaxed.

5. Use a mix of question types

In addition to your must-asks, leave room for other questions that can help you develop a better picture of the candidate overall. Try using some combination of these interview question types:

  • Closed-ended questions call for a simple, informational answer — sometimes just a yes or no. An example: “Have you worked in an industry different from ours?”
  • Open-ended questions require thought and oblige the candidate to reveal attitudes or opinions. For instance: “What interests you most about this position?”
  • Hypothetical questions invite the potential hire to resolve an imaginary situation or react to a real one. Here’s one: “If you had an opportunity to revise your early career path, what would you do differently?”

6. Practice how to conduct an interview

Just as you expect candidates to be polished during job interviews, they expect the same of you, too. The job market may be a bit more challenging for candidates at the moment, but that doesn’t mean in-demand professionals aren’t going to be selective about their next career move. Your tone and degree of professionalism matter.

This can take practice. You could rehearse with a colleague over a video call, practice with a friend or family member at home, or run through a mock interview in front of your webcam or a mirror. This process will help you build more self-awareness of your communication abilities. At the same time, this will clue you in to opportunities for improvement.

Don’t have time for candidate searches or conducting interviews? Robert Half can help. We make hiring easy, whether you need to staff roles on-site or remotely.

When you are conducting an interview, keep in mind your role as the interviewer includes both conveying and obtaining information. Part of this process is knowing what interview questions to ask and perhaps even more importantly, the questions you shouldn’t ask in an interview.

Conducting an interview is a major step in the process of hiring an employee. The interview is an employer’s chance to obtain information from a job candidate that expands on a job application or a resume. It’s also a chance for the applicant to elicit information about the business and the position to help them make a decision as to whether to accept the job offer if one is made. Therefore, it is imperative that you prepare for an interview, particularly if you’re new to the hiring process.

While conducting an interview does not have to be a stiff and formal sit-down, there are distinct parts to an interview, and each of them is important. The following outline is a guide to handling each part of interview:

  • Establish rapport. Greet the applicant with a pleasant smile, firm handshake, and a casual statement or two. Outline the interview objectives and structure. For example, say “In the time we have, I would like to. “
  • Gather information. Verify specific information from the resume. Be certain to use open-ended questions (how, what, when, etc.), and always follow up a yes or no answer with an open-ended question.
  • Give information about your business and even “sell” the position. Be sure to do this after you’ve let the applicants answer your interview questions. If you tell the applicants exactly what you’re looking for first, they can adapt their answers to fit what they perceive as your needs.
  • Close the interview. Thank the candidate for his or her attention and interest. Indicate what the next step will be and the time frame within which it will occur.
  • Evaluate your notes and compare candidates. Complete an evaluation form or firm up your notes, noting specific information about the candidate wherever possible. Rate the candidate. This is crucial. You may not trust your memory to recall the detail of the interview at a later point in time.

Avoid trouble and do not make any notes about an applicant that could be discriminatory.

For example, a white male applicant for a secretarial position arrives for the interview dressed in a suit. A black female interviewing for the same position arrives wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt. While it is legally defensible not to hire the black female because of her clothing choice, the reason for rejecting that particular applicant should factually describe that “the applicant appeared for the interview in sweatpants and a sweatshirt.”

What the documentation should not be is an open-ended statement that the black female was rejected because she “did not have the proper appearance.” The statement is not specific enough and could be interpreted to mean that she was rejected due to race or sex, even if that was not the case.

In conducting the interview, the most important things to keep in mind are:

  • your role as the interviewer
  • which questions to ask and how to ask them
  • which questions not to ask

The interviewer’s role

Your role as the interviewer includes conveying the following information to the applicant:

  • the nature of the job
  • the skills you want
  • pay, although some interviewers do not discuss pay until a job offer is made
  • benefits
  • working conditions
  • information about your business

Be prepared for an applicant to turn the tables during an interview. Applicants are sharper these days, and most applicants will have some questions for you, too. For high-quality applicants, it may be the employer who has to sell his or her business as the place to work. You have to give applicants information that keeps their interest in working for you high. But don’t oversell — it can lead to employee dissatisfaction or costly turnover or worse .

Pre-employment interviews have traditionally been instruments for eliminating, at an early stage, unqualified persons from consideration for employment. They have also, unfortunately, often been used in such a way as to restrict or deny employment opportunities for women and members of minority groups.

If you have 15 or more employees, you are likely subject to federal laws prohibiting discrimination in hiring. Many states also have laws that mimic federal discrimination laws and apply them to smaller employers, sometimes even those employers who have one employee. Therefore, you are limited in what types of questions you can ask.

What if you’re not subject to anti-discrimination laws? Even if you are not subject to laws prohibiting certain types of inquiries, we recommend that you stay away from them.

Therefore, in seeking information from a job applicant, you should ask yourself:

  • Will the answer to this question, if used in making a selection, have an inequitable effect in screening out minorities or members of one sex?
  • Is this information really needed to judge an applicant’s competence or qualifications for the job in question?

Basically, stay away from any question that concerns:

  • race
  • religion
  • age
  • ethnic background
  • gender
  • marital status
  • national origin

In addition, increasing numbers of states and municipalities have statutes that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual lifestyle or preference, or smoking habits. Remember the rule of thumb is that if it has nothing to do with the position you’re trying to fill, don’t ask.

Some questions that could be considered discriminatory include:

  • Are you married?
  • What is that accent you have?
  • Where is your spouse from?
  • Are you engaged?
  • Do you have children?
  • Where are you from?
  • Were you born here?
  • What is your ethnic heritage?
  • What church do you go to?
  • How old are you?
  • When were you born?
  • When did you graduate from high school?

If an applicant should offer some information voluntarily about one of these areas, we recommend that you ignore it. Don’t respond to it and don’t follow up on it. Don’t even include it in your notes. It could be used to prove you discriminated if there is a notation about the applicant’s protected status.

Tips for assessing skills, experience, and a candidate’s cultural fit

How to conduct a job interview

Want job interview tips to help you select the most qualified employees? These tips will help you assess the skills, experience, and cultural fit of your potential employees. The job interview is a powerful factor in the employee selection process in most organizations. While it may not deserve all of the attention that it receives, the interview is still extremely important.

Background checking and checking references are also key factors in your hiring decisions. Hopefully, you have added these checks of factual information to your hiring arsenal. Recent trends are moving toward favoring test scores and other impartial means of assessment in employee selection, but most companies still rely on a good, old-fashioned job interview.

The job interview remains your key tool in assessing the candidate’s cultural fit. It is also the tool you can use to get to know your candidates on a more personal basis. The interview process helps other employees get to know the candidate, too.

Including additional potential coworkers in the interview and selection process helps the new coworkers own and feel some responsibility for the success of the new employee when they join your organization.

How to Select Candidates for the Job Interview

Your starting point, before scheduling a job interview with a candidate, is to review each candidate’s cover letter and resume.

When faced with 100 to 200 candidates, it’s important to use tools that separate the great candidates from the many. These will help you select the best candidates for the job interview. They will also help you prepare your list of questions to use to telephone screen candidates and then ask during your onsite or online job interviews.

Telephone Screen Candidates Prior to a Job Interview

The telephone interview or candidate phone screen allows the employer to determine if the candidate’s qualifications, experience, workplace preferences, and salary needs are congruent with the position and your organization.

The telephone interview saves employee time and eliminates unlikely candidates. While you will want to develop a customized job interview with customized questions for each position, this step helps narrow down your prospects.

How to Prepare for the Job Interview

The interview team was selected at your earlier recruiting planning meeting, so the interviewers have had time to prepare. You will want to use the list of qualities, skills, knowledge, and experience you developed for the resume screening process.

Use this list to make sure each interviewer understands their role in the candidate assessment. Review each interviewer’s questions, too, to make sure the interview questions selected will obtain the needed information.

Illegal Job Interview Questions

Ask legal interview questions that illuminate the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses to determine job fit. Avoid illegal interview questions and interview practices that could make your company the target of a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit.

Hold a Behavioral Job Interview With Each Candidate

During the job interview, help the candidate demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and experience. Start with small talk and ask several easy questions until the candidate seems relaxed. Then hold a behavioral interview.

A behavioral interview is the best tool you have to identify candidates who have the behavioral traits and characteristics that you have selected as necessary for success in a particular job.

Additionally, behavioral interview questions ask the candidate to pinpoint specific instances in which a particular behavior was exhibited in the past. In the best behaviorally-based interviews, the candidate is unaware of the behavior the interviewer is verifying. This is a much better approach to learning about your candidate then asking the individual to look into a crystal ball and predict probable future behavior.

In addition to the candidate’s verbal responses during the job interview, you’ll want to notice all of the nonverbal interaction, too.

Assess Candidates Following the Job Interview

Provide a standard format for each interviewer to use to assess each candidate following the interview. You should have several candidates who you’ll want to ask back for a second or even third job interview.

When you are conducting an interview, keep in mind your role as the interviewer includes both conveying and obtaining information. Part of this process is knowing what interview questions to ask and perhaps even more importantly, the questions you shouldn’t ask in an interview.

Conducting an interview is a major step in the process of hiring an employee. The interview is an employer’s chance to obtain information from a job candidate that expands on a job application or a resume. It’s also a chance for the applicant to elicit information about the business and the position to help them make a decision as to whether to accept the job offer if one is made. Therefore, it is imperative that you prepare for an interview, particularly if you’re new to the hiring process.

While conducting an interview does not have to be a stiff and formal sit-down, there are distinct parts to an interview, and each of them is important. The following outline is a guide to handling each part of interview:

  • Establish rapport. Greet the applicant with a pleasant smile, firm handshake, and a casual statement or two. Outline the interview objectives and structure. For example, say “In the time we have, I would like to. “
  • Gather information. Verify specific information from the resume. Be certain to use open-ended questions (how, what, when, etc.), and always follow up a yes or no answer with an open-ended question.
  • Give information about your business and even “sell” the position. Be sure to do this after you’ve let the applicants answer your interview questions. If you tell the applicants exactly what you’re looking for first, they can adapt their answers to fit what they perceive as your needs.
  • Close the interview. Thank the candidate for his or her attention and interest. Indicate what the next step will be and the time frame within which it will occur.
  • Evaluate your notes and compare candidates. Complete an evaluation form or firm up your notes, noting specific information about the candidate wherever possible. Rate the candidate. This is crucial. You may not trust your memory to recall the detail of the interview at a later point in time.

Avoid trouble and do not make any notes about an applicant that could be discriminatory.

For example, a white male applicant for a secretarial position arrives for the interview dressed in a suit. A black female interviewing for the same position arrives wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt. While it is legally defensible not to hire the black female because of her clothing choice, the reason for rejecting that particular applicant should factually describe that “the applicant appeared for the interview in sweatpants and a sweatshirt.”

What the documentation should not be is an open-ended statement that the black female was rejected because she “did not have the proper appearance.” The statement is not specific enough and could be interpreted to mean that she was rejected due to race or sex, even if that was not the case.

In conducting the interview, the most important things to keep in mind are:

  • your role as the interviewer
  • which questions to ask and how to ask them
  • which questions not to ask

The interviewer’s role

Your role as the interviewer includes conveying the following information to the applicant:

  • the nature of the job
  • the skills you want
  • pay, although some interviewers do not discuss pay until a job offer is made
  • benefits
  • working conditions
  • information about your business

Be prepared for an applicant to turn the tables during an interview. Applicants are sharper these days, and most applicants will have some questions for you, too. For high-quality applicants, it may be the employer who has to sell his or her business as the place to work. You have to give applicants information that keeps their interest in working for you high. But don’t oversell — it can lead to employee dissatisfaction or costly turnover or worse .

Pre-employment interviews have traditionally been instruments for eliminating, at an early stage, unqualified persons from consideration for employment. They have also, unfortunately, often been used in such a way as to restrict or deny employment opportunities for women and members of minority groups.

If you have 15 or more employees, you are likely subject to federal laws prohibiting discrimination in hiring. Many states also have laws that mimic federal discrimination laws and apply them to smaller employers, sometimes even those employers who have one employee. Therefore, you are limited in what types of questions you can ask.

What if you’re not subject to anti-discrimination laws? Even if you are not subject to laws prohibiting certain types of inquiries, we recommend that you stay away from them.

Therefore, in seeking information from a job applicant, you should ask yourself:

  • Will the answer to this question, if used in making a selection, have an inequitable effect in screening out minorities or members of one sex?
  • Is this information really needed to judge an applicant’s competence or qualifications for the job in question?

Basically, stay away from any question that concerns:

  • race
  • religion
  • age
  • ethnic background
  • gender
  • marital status
  • national origin

In addition, increasing numbers of states and municipalities have statutes that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual lifestyle or preference, or smoking habits. Remember the rule of thumb is that if it has nothing to do with the position you’re trying to fill, don’t ask.

Some questions that could be considered discriminatory include:

  • Are you married?
  • What is that accent you have?
  • Where is your spouse from?
  • Are you engaged?
  • Do you have children?
  • Where are you from?
  • Were you born here?
  • What is your ethnic heritage?
  • What church do you go to?
  • How old are you?
  • When were you born?
  • When did you graduate from high school?

If an applicant should offer some information voluntarily about one of these areas, we recommend that you ignore it. Don’t respond to it and don’t follow up on it. Don’t even include it in your notes. It could be used to prove you discriminated if there is a notation about the applicant’s protected status.

Robert Half | August 27, 2014

How to conduct a job interview

If you’re not properly preparing for a phone interview with job applicants, you could be wasting time and passing up on top-tier talent. Here are some quick tips for conducting a great phone interview.

As a manager, telephone interviews are the go-to method for narrowing your list of candidates and moving on to face-to-face interviews. A phone interview is short and preliminary, so that makes it pretty simple, right? Not so fast. If you’re not properly preparing for a phone interview with job applicants, you could be wasting time and passing up on top-tier talent. Here are some quick tips for conducting a great phone interview.

Preparing for a phone interview

A typical phone screen interview lasts between 15 and 30 minutes, so you’ll need to know exactly what you’ll focus on to be as efficient as possible. Before you call anyone, re-review the job description for the position. Prepare one list of interview questions and use it for every short-listed candidate in order to make fair and accurate comparisons. Then check candidates’ resumes again to see if you have questions about what’s in them and what’s not, such as missing dates in their work history. By having this information at your fingertips, you’ll be able to focus on what candidates are saying rather than searching your computer for relevant files during the phone interview.

During the phone interview

  • Take notes. Even though you think you’ll remember what job candidates say, it’s important to write it down, either with pen and paper or on your computer. This will help later when you’re discussing the interviews with other members of the team. Also make notes of your overall impressions of applicants.
  • Keep a scorecard. Just as asking consistent questions will help you assess candidates fairly after the interviews, keeping a rating scorecard of candidates’ strengths and weaknesses in areas such as experience, knowledge, communication skills and professional engagement will help you maintain your objectivity. This is especially important for candidates you might be prompted to select based on likeability rather than skills and experience.
  • Assess the skills candidates say they have. The phone interview is the time to sniff out and separate the “resume padders” from the “real deals.” For example, if you’re looking for a person to manage complicated projects and the candidates you’re interviewing have that skill on their resumes, ask for specific examples. This is a great way to find out whether this responsibility was a major or minor part of their duties, how recently they managed projects, and what the outcomes were.
  • Don’t dominate the conversation. In fact, you should talk for only about 20 percent of the time. This will ensure you get the most information during the short phone interview. And be patient; don’t think that you have to fill every pause in the conversation. The silence could mean candidates are thinking through their responses before speaking — an admirable trait that you’ll want to notice.
  • Have good phone manners. The candidate is expected to display certain etiquette during the phone interview, and the same applies to the interviewer. Find a quiet place, such as a conference room, to cut down on background noise. For the best call quality, use a landline. Help put candidates at ease with some small talk before diving into the Q&A portion. And since you’ll be on the phone for a while, it doesn’t hurt to have a glass of water nearby. If you need to sneeze, cough or clear your throat while the other person is speaking, put the phone on mute.

A phone interview requires thought and effort if your goal is to learn as much as possible about candidates. Use these tips to save time and make the most out of this key step in the hiring process.