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What questions should you (and shouldn’t you!) ask in an interview?

You've posted your job, have a pool of qualified candidates, and have invited them in to meet. Now what? What should you ask them? What should you NOT ask them (to keep yourself out of legal hot water!)? Good question. Let's dig in-


Let's start with what you should not ask. There are multiple state and federal laws that protect candidates from discrimination. You want to avoid asking any questions that would garner answers related to these protected classes:

  • Race

  • Color

  • Religion

  • Sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity)

  • National origin

  • Age (especially 40 or older)

  • Disability

  • Genetic Information (including family medical history)

  • Criminal Convictions (before an offer in Portland, OR, or before an interview in general)


Now - people overshare. They really do. So what happens if you do all the due diligence to avoid getting answers, and you still get answers?

#1: Do not write anything down on your notes.

#2: Do not make a hiring decision based on that information.


Great! Now what SHOULD you ask?


Questions related to the minimum qualifications of the job.

Really consider your minimum qualifications. Does your candidate NEED a bachelor's degree? Highschool diploma? Some special certificate?


Questions related to the essential functions of the job.

Does your administrative assistant position require being on the phone all day, so you need someone who has experience managing multiple phone lines?

Is one of your job duties managing an Excel document with pivot tables and macros? Ask the candidate about their experience using Excel.

Do they need to run specific machinery? Ask about the types of equipment they've used and their mechanical aptitude. Or better yet, run them through an operation on the machine and gather information about how they learn and how they react to the machine.


Behavioral and Scenario based interview questions.

Describe a situation that the employee might encounter, and ask them to describe how they've handled similar situations in the past. If they can't think of an example, ask how they might handle that situation if the encountered it in the future. Ask how their answer might change if they ran into the situation again.

Ask questions about they've handled conflicts with customers or other coworkers.

Ask questions about how they handle pressure or competing priorities.

Ask them for a situation in which their ethics or morals were challenged.


This position requires...

being in-office Thursday through Sunday, 7:30 am - 4:30 pm. Are you able to meet that requirement?


The salary range for this position is $XX - $XX. Does that fall within what you're seeking?


In many cases, employers are looking for someone with "industry experience". Industry experience is great, but unless they've worked for your company in that job, you aren't going to find the perfect candidate who checks every single box. Search for talent with potential, and train them. That's going to give you a competitive advantage, diversify your organization, and retain your employees longer.


#recruiting #interviewing #hiring #smallbusinesstips #EEOCcompliance #diversity #equity #inclusion #humanresources #breannastephenshrconsulting

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