TO ASK or NOT TO ASK, THAT IS THE QUESTION
By Paul Hilton
As a Human Resources Consultant, I am often asked by clients and potential clients, what are some good questions to ask during an interview. After nearly 40 years of HR experience at the Director or Vice President level, I can honestly say that I have conducted thousands of interviews on prospective employees. As a result, I have been able to pick up a few pointers which may be beneficial to interviewers. First, let’s start with the questions which should never be asked such as:
- Never ask a question where you already know the answer (i.e. Are you a good employee? Will you show up for work every day on time?)
- Never ask a question which can be answered in one word such as “Yes” or “No”. Always ask open ended questions which require the individual to think about the answer.
Never ask any of the following questions because they could have potential legal consequences.
- Have you ever been arrested/convicted of a crime?
- Are you married?
- What religious holidays do you observe?
- Do you have/Are you planning to have children?
- What are your child care arrangements?
- What country are you from?
- Is English your first language?
- Do you have any outstanding debts?
- Have you ever declared bankruptcy?
- Do you drink socially?
- When was the last time you used controlled substances?
- How long have you been working? How long have you been out of work?
- What type of military discharge do you have?
- How old are you?
- When did you graduate from high school?
- Do you have a working automobile which you can drive to work each day?
- How many days were you out sick in the past 3 years?
- Have you ever filed a Workers’ Compensation claim?
- Do you have any disabilities?
- Do you smoke?
- What is your sexual orientation?
- What is your gender identity?
- What is your Face book login information?
- Have you ever joined a union?
- What are your off duty activities?
During the interview process, you are trying to determine if the applicant has the necessary skills and aptitude to do the job. You are also trying to determine if the individual will be a good candidate to fit into the culture of the organization. You also want to determine if the individual has the necessary qualities to be successful in the job. Questions can be developed depending on what specific quality the interviewer is trying to find out about, such as:
- Leadership. Tell me about a time when you were able to step into a situation, take charge, muster support and achieve good results.
- Initiative and follow through. Tell me about a situation that you had significant impact on because of your follow-through.
- Thinking and problem solving. Tell me about a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventative measures.
- Communication. Tell me about a situation where you had to be persuasive and sell your idea to someone else.
- Working effectively with others. Tell me about a time when you were able to motivate others to get the desired results.
- Work quality. Tell me about a specific project or program that you were involved with that resulted in improvement in a major work area.
- Creativity and Innovation. Tell me about a situation in which you were able to find a new and better way of doing something significant.
- Priority setting. Tell me about a time when you had to balance competing priorities and did so successfully.
- Decision making. Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
- Ability to work in a changing environment. Tell me about a time when you had to change work mid-stream because of changing organizational priorities.
- Delegation. Describe for me a time when you had to delegate to a person with a full workload, and how you went about doing it.
- Customer service. Tell me about a time when you made a lasting, positive impression on a customer.
Please note that all of the questions above begin with the words “tell me about, or, describe for me”. These are open ended questions which will require the applicant to actually think about an appropriate response which is recalled from past working experiences.
A company’s best defense against the potential expense and aggravation related to federal or state law violations is to proactively review and revise as needed all Human Resources policies, handbooks, hiring procedures, compensation, benefits, training programs, communications tools and other functions. The professionals of PHHR are ready to assist your organization with this type of training as well as to maintain compliance with the latest state and federal mandates.
Paul Hilton, Human Resources Consulting, LLC