When you’re hiring employees for your small business, it’s vital to use the interview process to identify the most qualified candidates for your company.

Successful interviewing is similar to many other “communications” skills – it’s a matter of asking the right questions, listening to the answers, and getting candidates to talk honestly about their abilities and attitudes.
The good news is that candidates are predisposed to be open about themselves, so your challenge is to ask questions that guide them to the information you need to make a hiring decision.

Use the tips below to hone your job interview talents.

  1. Pace your interview
    Use your first few questions to loosen up the candidate and set the tone for the rest of the interview. Questions that deal with a person’s work experience – such as “Tell me about a typical day on your current job. What do you like about it? What don’t you like?” — can get a candidate to open up and start talking…which, after all, is the point of an interview.
  2. Listen more than you speak If you’re spending more than 20 percent of the interview talking, then you’re not giving the candidates a chance to talk about themselves. The purpose of an interview is to help you decide based on how a person responds to your questions. You need to take time to listen to those responses.
  3. Set a schedule
    Put interviews on your calendar and treat them as you would any other business appointment. Make sure you give the candidate your undivided attention – clear your desk; put your phone on “do not disturb;” close your door; let people in your office know you don’t want to be interrupted.
  4. Ask open-ended questions
    Avoid any question that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Instead, use open-ended questions to encourage candidates to talk about themselves. Listen to responses, and ask plenty of follow-up questions such as “Why do you think that’s the case?” or “How did you do that?” If you need more information, ask the candidate for it.
  5. Ask questions before you describe the job
    Avoid providing a detailed job description at the beginning of the interview. A smart person will pick up on your description and start phrasing all responses around what he or she perceives you want to hear. By asking as many questions as possible before you review the job, you’ll be encouraging more honest answers.
  6. Avoid standard questions
    Everyone knows some of the typical interview questions – Where do you want to be five years from now? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Tell me about yourself? The problem with these questions is that many candidates have spent time preparing their responses. These scripted comments are of little use to you.
    Instead, try to come up with challenging questions that force interviewees to think on their feet and give an honest appraisal of their strengths and limits. For example, scenario-based questions, where you ask the candidate to react to a typical on-the-job situation, can paint a more accurate picture.
  7. Consider a two-interview process
    Use a first interview to pare down candidates to the top two or three. Then use a second round of interviews to select the best. The second interview might be conducted by people who will interact with the candidate most closely. Their input is important.
  8. Know what you can’t ask
    The law is very strict regarding questions you can’t ask during a job interview. In general, these forbidden questions are ones where the answer could be used to discriminate against a potential employee. They usually focus on non-job-related information such as age, race, marital status, or disability.
  9. What You Can’t Ask in a Job Interview
    Even though you need to ask a lot of questions to conduct an effective job interview, you cannot just ask anything. Certain questions are legally forbidden and asking them can lead to a discrimination lawsuit.
    Asking questions without the intent of using the answer to discriminate against potential employees is no defence. Furthermore, even if someone volunteers information during the interview that could lead to discrimination, you can still be held liable. For that reason, never write down any information that falls into the categories of questions covered below or into any others you may believe could get you into legal trouble. In these circumstances, state that the volunteered
    information is not relevant to the interview and move on.

Luckily, you can easily avoid legal trouble by avoiding certain kinds of questions. Most of the forbidden questions are non-job related and you can keep yourself within legal bounds by sticking to professional topic in an interview.

  1. Questions to steer clear of including:
    · How old are you?
    People over 40 are protected by state and federal law to prevent age
    discrimination and therefore you may not inquire about a candidate’s age. Because most people graduate from high school at age 17 or 18, you may also not ask the year someone graduated from high school. However, you may ask about year of graduation from college because people attend college at different stages of life.
    · Are you married? Leave this kind of question for getting acquainted after an offer has been extended.
    · Are you a citizen?
    Although you will need to verify that someone is a citizen in order to hire
    them legally, you cannot find out by asking this question. You may ask it
    another way however: “Could you, after employment, submit verification of your legal right to work in our country?”
    · Are you planning on having children soon?
    You may describe job requirements including travel, overtime and hours,
    and ask candidates if they have any reason they cannot meet the
    requirements, but you may not ask about plans for childbearing.
    · May I have your maiden name?
    Because knowing a maiden name may provide information about someone’s national origin, it opens you up to charges of discrimination. Likewise, you cannot ask for the name of a relative to contact in case of emergency. You may ask for someone to contact as long as you do not stipulate that the person be a relative.
    · Are you disabled? Do you have any medical problems? Have you ever filed for worker’s compensation?

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