The consequences of a bad hire go beyond wasted time. Customer service, workforce morale and productivity may drop, while associated costs deplete resources. The human resources (HR) manager must guide the interview process to minimize the organization’s risk exposure. Before questioning any candidates, the HR manager identifies the job's core competency requirements and prepares an objective questionnaire with a checklist for each open position. HR Magazine sees the consistent use of a prepared list of questions as a way to avoid discrimination charges and to make comparing finalists more simple.
Human resource managers typically conduct screening or telephone interviews of applicants to determine who will be invited for face-to-face interviews. Screening candidates whose qualifications appear to fit the job saves time and eliminates travel expenses. The screening policy of Vassar College offers sound advice for this key first step in the selection process: consistency. The HR manager's question list will ensure evaluation of each applicant against the same criteria. The preliminary nature of the screening interview requires questions that probe for confirmation of the information in the candidate’s resume, interest in the organization, how the job fits with the applicant's goals and salary expectations. Suggested questions offered by the Society for Human Resource Management include “Why do you want to change jobs?,” “What are the top three duties in your current or most recent job?,” “What types of decisions do you normally make and why?” and “Is the salary range for this position acceptable to you?”
Interviewers learn about a candidate’s problem-solving ability, leadership approach, situation assessment style and other skills related to the open position through behavioral questions. The interviewee answers these questions with concrete examples of past experiences. The philosophy behind this line of open-ended questioning, according to “High-impact Interview Questions," is that past actions can predict future, on-the-job performance. Also known as competency-based behavioral interviewing (CBBI), it keeps the focus on skills and reduces the tendency for interviewers to judge by personal impressions. Behavioral questions begin with phrases such as “Tell me about a time...,” “Describe a situation when...,” “Please give an example of how...,” “When have you...,” and “What do you do when...” The Human Resource Executive Online website notes that this interview technique requires considerable upfront preparation to ensure that questions relate to the specific knowledge, skills and abilities needed to succeed in the position.
Asking the wrong questions can carry serious legal ramifications. Federal and state legislation imposes restrictions on the types of questions that an interviewer may ask. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) views “information regarding race, sex, national origin, age and religion as irrelevant” in the pre-employment stage of hiring. Interviewers also must avoid any inquiries or comments about disability, workers’ compensation, marital status and physical attributes, add the legal experts at HREOnline.com. Hiring criteria must relate to qualifications needed to perform the job successfully. For example, while a candidate may not be asked to name a native language, the interviewer may ask questions about the applicant’s speaking, reading and writing ability in a language required for the job. When hiring minors, confirming the candidate’s possession of a work permit would be acceptable. While no federal restrictions exist regarding pre-employment questions about arrests or convictions, notes the EEOC, some state laws prohibit this line of questioning. Employers, however, must give applicants an opportunity to explain their circumstances.