Interviewing Candidates: Do’s and Dont’s

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking—not just for the interviewee, but for an unprepared interviewer, too. What questions should you ask? How will you know if a candidate is a good fit? Do you come off as too intimidating or too nice? The truth is, conducting an interview is a skill that most of us simply don’t have much experience with. Fortunately, it just takes starting with a structure and a bit of practice.

Interview Question Do’s

Here are a few general questions to help get you started when performing candidate interviews:

  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why do you think you would like to work for our company?
  • Why did you apply when you saw this position posted?
  • What about this particular job interests you?
  • What qualifications do you have which make you feel you will be successful in this position?
  • Explain any experience that showed initiative and willingness to work as a team? Separate from the team?
  • What is one positive thing your previous employers would say about your work ethic?
  • Do you prefer working with others or by yourself? Why?
  • How do you prefer to be supervised?
  • How do you deal with conflict situations on the job? Provide an example.
  • How would you establish a good working rapport with supervisors and co-workers in your area of responsibility?
  • What are your career goals with our company?
  • Are you willing to work in excess of 40 hours a week if the job demands? What is your flexibility to be able to work weekends or evenings if work demands require it?


Interview Question Don’ts

It is unlawful for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, gender identity, national origin, age, handicap, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status, veteran status or genetic history. Therefore, you should never ask questions regarding:

  • Family or living arrangements.
  • Medical problems (individual or family)
  • Prior workers compensation claims.
  • Family situation (whether you are married, partners, children, only working parent, etc.)
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Pregnancy or plans to have children
  • Child care provisions
  • Age, year of birth, or year of graduation from high school
  • Racial, ethnic background, or native language spoken
  • Nature of military discharge
  • Renting or owning a home
  • Arrest record

You can’t ask a candidate if they’ve ever been arrested. However, you may be able to inquire if they’ve been convicted of a felony, within reason. Check local and state Ban the Box legislation for more information before adding this question to any employment applications or interview questioning.


Be Prepared!

Since an effective interview isn’t simply a one-way conversation, candidates will usually have questions of their own about the job you’re offering. Be ready to answer the following questions from your candidate:

  • How will I be trained?
  • What kinds of equipment and/or software will I be using?
  • What kinds of things will I be doing in a typical day?
  • Why is this position now open?
  • What does this position do?
  • How does this position fit into the company as a whole?
  • How many people will I be working with?
  • Who will I report to?
  • What qualities do you look for in a good employee?
  • What type of advancement possibilities are there?
  • What will I be paid? Are there benefits?

General Interviewing Tips

1. Create a list of questions

Utilize the same questions for each candidate you interview for your position. Try to avoid yes or no questions and keep the questions open to allow a candidate to express their thoughts and ideas. This will give you a better understanding of how well they communicate and present themselves under pressure.

Keep in mind, this is not an interrogation, this is a conversation about work responsibilities.

2. Don’t ask personal questions

Be careful of what is discussed in the initial moments of the interview. It is common to attempt to ask about family or area of living and transportation but these questions should be avoided if possible. Let the interviewee bring these items up if they wish to discuss them. If these items are discussed they cannot be considered job-related and cannot be used when reviewing a candidate for the position.

3. Don’t allow false notions to influence your decision

A clean appearance is not an assurance of a candidate’s ability to efficiently perform their job. Age is not always related to maturity, attitude, or dependability. Having hiring standards that are not job-related, such as these, may make your interview invalid. Furthermore, if these standards automatically screen out applicants whose social status, dress, or personal lifestyles differs from that of the employer; the employer is in jeopardy of being faced with a discrimination lawsuit. Also, don’t assume that an applicant who earned a higher salary elsewhere would be dissatisfied with a lower paying job now.

4. Keep the conversations during the interview on job-related items

Appropriate areas of conversation during the interview include the job itself, its duties and responsibilities. The organization, its missions, programs, and achievements are all job-related. It’s also appropriate to talk about career possibilities, opportunities for growth development, and advancement, which the job offers. Other topics such as where the job is located, travel requirements, mobility, equipment and facilities available are also suitable topics of conversation during an interview. Ask only for information you intend to use for your hiring decision. It’s important to understand that it’s difficult to defend the practice of seeking information that’s not job-related.

5. Ask scenario questions

Create a handful of scenario questions that actually happened in your world, to ask the candidate how they would handle the situation. Scenarios can revolve around a customer service issue, a technical problem, or even an employee interaction issue.


It pays in the long run to know how to identify and screen good candidates up front. Likewise, a modicum of preparation for an interview goes a long way—it’ll help you and the interviewee feel more relaxed, focused, and get the information you both need to make a decision. After all, it’s a big commitment for everyone involved, and a candidate should feel excited and prepared for the position you’re offering, even if they don’t end up getting the gig.

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