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The Dos and Don'ts of Interviewing

Finding new employees for your company can feel like a game of match making. You want someone with the skills and experience to do a good job. But you also want to find a good fit for your company — someone who will be happy working for you and adapt to your company’s culture. Taking the following steps can help you strike the right balance in your employee hiring process.

Clearly define the job
The importance of the application
The do’s and don’ts of interviewing

Clearly define the job

Before you place an ad or start accepting applications, write a job description that spells out the qualities, skills and abilities needed. This helps you think through all aspects of the job and provides a good reference point as you interview people. This first step in the employee hiring process should include:

  • Title — Give the job a title that fits the desired experience level. Don’t use a title that is gender-specific. (For example, say “server,” not “waitress.” Use “salesperson,” not “salesman.”)
  • Skills needed — Will the job require the use of certain equipment
  • or computer programs — or some other specialized knowledge?
  • Minimum experience — What types of jobs will the ideal candidate have held previously? How many years of experience? Remember that more years of experience generally demand higher pay. Never refer to experience in terms of age. (For example, say “entry level,” instead of “recent college graduate.”)
  • Responsibilities/duties — Describe the tasks the person will do routinely on the job.
  • Work schedule — Will there be set hours? How many days a week?
  • What type of flexibility is needed?
  • Education or training requirements — Are specific degrees or certifications required for the job?
  • Setting the right pay — As part of the job description, determine the salary or hourly wage you’re willing to pay. Consider setting a pay range, which will let you pay more for greater experience or skills.


The importance of the application

It’s smart to have candidate complete a standard job application — one that has been reviewed by an attorney to ensure it doesn’t ask illegal questions. The reasons for this are:

  • Resumes can mask or hide facts — Applications help you gather straightforward information that is often disguised in a resume.
  • Resumes are not standardized — Applications help you collect the same information, asked the same way, from all applicants. A standardized approach helps protect you from claims of discrimination.
  • Applications protect you legally — An application contains important legal provisions, including an EEO statement, at-will disclaimer, authorization and release for employment references, and notice of termination for dishonesty. A well written application is one of the most critical hiring practices for protecting yourself from future lawsuits


Your application should meet certain qualifications, such as:

  • Provides details on past employment and asks for references
  • Is free from questions that could get you into legal trouble (e.g., date of birth, disabilities, workers’ compensation history)
  • Is structured to get important information and make it difficult for applicants to “fudge” details
  • Contains equal employment opportunity and at-will language
  • Reminds applicants that you only keep applications active for a limited time
  • States that untruthfulness or material omissions (i.e., leaving out important details) are grounds to terminate the employee hiring process or employment, no matter when discovered
  • Treats questions about criminal history according to federal and state laws


The dos and don’ts of interviewing

Because you have taken the time to define the job and requirements, you should have little difficulty identifying candidates to interview. Don’t be tempted, though, to conduct interviews "on the fly," which can lead to bad hiring decisions.

Schedule interviews only after you’ve reviewed the resume and/or application and taken the time to prepare your questions. You’ll want to refresh your memory on what questions are illegal for an employer to ask. You’ll also want to pick a time in your schedule when you can give the applicant your full attention, free of any distractions or interruptions.

Use common sense during the interview: when you’re deciding what questions to ask prospective employees, questions that don‘t directly relate to the job probably shouldn’t be asked. Avoid talking about personal issues and keep the interview focused on job-related topics. Steer clear of illegal interview questions concerning an applicant’s age, race, color, sex, disability, religion, national origin, pregnancy, and other protected classifications. Off limits, then, are questions like:

  1. How old are you? When were you born? When did you graduate from high school?
  2. Were you born in the U.S.? What is your national origin? Are you a U.S. citizen? (Instead ask if the person is authorized to work in the U.S.)
  3. Do you have any disabilities? (Instead ask if the applicant can perform the necessary job functions, as employers cannot refuse to hire employees with disabilities if the disabilities do not interfere with the job and they would otherwise be offered the position. )
  4. Are you taking any prescription medications? Have you ever been treated for a drug addiction or alcoholism?
  5. Are you married, single or divorced?
  6. How many children do you have? Who's going to care for them while you're at work?
  7. When do you plan to start a family?
  8. Do you observe the Sabbath? (You may ask if the applicant can work the standard job schedule.)
  9. Do you own your own home?