Interviewing Do’s and Don’ts: A Hiring Manager’s Guide

Interviewing is a sensitive area of business—and it can be stressful for hiring managers as well as job seekers.  As an interviewer, it’s important to keep in mind that you must both provide information to the job seeker about the open position and also gather it.  A successful candidate is one who is a MATCH for the position, your organization and you.

To that end, it is important to use an interactive approach, glean insight by observing the candidate’s overall approach, and identify questions you should and should not ask.

Use Interactive Approach

Issues have the potential to arise even for the most experienced or prepared interviewer—especially if one’s guard is let down.  In order to make your interviews as productive as possible, consider these tips:

  • Ask questions that elicit constructive responses.  Have questions prepared ahead of time, but remember to be flexible if the opportunity for an unscripted question is presented.
  • Avoid asking for information that you already have in your possession.  Use this time to obtain new information or expand upon the data in the job seeker’s resume or employment application.
  • Allow the job seeker the opportunity to speak and ask questions.
  • Do not gloss over the requirements of the job.  It is necessary for the job seeker to know what the position will entail.  Keep a copy of the job description at hand for easy reference.
  • Watch your body language and tone of voice—you want to put the job seeker at ease and make them comfortable.

Candidates Approach to Interview and You

It is important to focus on the fit of the candidate during the interview without asking pointed questions that could be claimed to be discriminatory.  Therefore, be on the lookout for red flags related to personality characteristics such as:

  • Beginning the interview by asking about salary, benefits, vacation days, etc.;
  • Exhibits an entitlement attitude;
  • Badmouths former employers;
  • Lacks curiosity about the position or organization;
  • Constantly interrupts other speakers;
  • Acts immaturely;
  • Displays a propensity toward procrastination;
  • Evades questions; and
  • Cannot or will not respond to appropriate questions.

What You Should Ask

In getting information from a job seeker, always make sure that the questions you are asking are really needed in order to judge the candidate’s competence or qualifications.  Even if there is no specific legal requirement that you must uphold, asking irrelevant questions may offend the job seeker, damage your business reputation, and also be a waste of time.  Here is a list of sample questions that work in many business situations:

  • Why are you leaving your current job (did you leave your last job)?
  • From the job description, what did you take away as the most crucial responsibilities?
  • What parts of the job would you find the most challenging? The most difficult?
  • What would you most like to accomplish if you obtained this position?
  • What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
  • What one accomplishment has given you the greatest satisfaction and why?
  • Can you give me an example of how you have used your organizational skills?
  • What would you like to know about this organization?
  • Why did you seek this position?
  • What criteria do you use to evaluate the kind of organization you’d like to work in?
  • What duties did you think that you did best in your last position? Least well? Why?
  • What sort of employer-employee relationship do you prefer?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strength? Your greatest weakness?

What You Should Not Ask

Unfortunately, in our litigious world, even the most innocent questions can result in legal action.   This is because of Title VII and other anti-discrimination legislation that restricts the type and scope of pre-employment questions you can ask.  For instance, stay away from questions that:

  • Relate to the age, ancestry, native language, marital status, or religion of the applicant;
  • Are already answered on the application form, such as the need to prove their “right to work” in the US;
  • Force an applicant to reveal his/her national origin;
  • Mention social clubs, fraternities, lodges, etc., to which the applicant may belong;
  • Relate to the housing status of the applicant, i.e. renter or homeowner; and
  • Do not directly relate to a job requirement or that are not asked of all applicants.

Finally, as you wrap up the interview, be very clear as to how and when you will follow up with the job seeker to notify him or her of a job offer (as well as if they should move on).  Even if you cannot give an exact date, try to give an estimated range for when you plan to make a choice.  Moreover, if you tell candidates that you will contact them either way, make sure you follow through on that promise.  Not getting back to a job seeker is more than bad manners—it’s bad business and news of this type of treatment has the opportunity to spread.

I am happy to help you get more out of your interviews and feel more prepared when looking for the right candidates.  For more information, visit