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Ask These Interview Questions Instead

April 16th, 2015 by Jackie Doherty


Like your own personal genie, imagine how cool it would be to bottle interview questions that elicit truthful answers to identify an applicant’s competency, work ethic, and compatibility with your team.  Unfortunately, no magic bottle exists, but there are rules—especially for questions pertaining to nationality, gender, age, and family status. In some cases, asking the wrong question is not only awkward—it can be illegal. See below for alternatives to some questions you should NOT ask candidates.

Although most HR professionals know questions to avoid in an interview, you would be surprised how many managers don’t. (In a recent CareerBuilder survey, nearly one third of the managers surveyed weren’t sure about the legality of some questions.) Protect your company from negative consequences by sharing information and options with your managers. That way, the focus remains on the candidate’s qualifications--where it should be!

Don’t ask: Are you a U.S. citizen? Instead ask: If you are offered this position, can you provide proof of your legal right to work in the U.S. without visa sponsorship or transfer?

Don’t ask: What is your native language? Instead ask: What languages do you read, speak, or write fluently?

Don’t ask: Do you have children? Instead ask: Are you available to work overtime on short notice if needed?

Don’t ask: If you get pregnant, will you continue to work after maternity leave? Instead ask: What are your long-term career goals? (Although this doesn’t directly address the pregnancy issue—never ask anything related to pregnancy—it does help to gauge a candidate’s credibility and comfort level discussing career vision and goals.)

Don’t ask: How do you feel about supervising/being supervised by younger/older employees? Instead ask: Tell me about your work on teams—what was your role, the number of members, and their experience levels.

Don’t ask: How much longer do you plan to work before you retire? Instead ask: Where do you see yourself in five-10 years?

Don’t ask: Have you ever been arrested? Instead ask: Are you willing to undergo a criminal background and driving records check? Anything you want to tell me about?

Don’t ask: Do you take drugs? Instead ask:  We require a drug-screening test. Do you have any concerns about this test that you want to share with me?

Without a truth serum, no interview question guarantees an honest answer, but thoughtful, open-ended inquiries provide opportunities to observe a candidate’s communication skills along with assessing skills and credibility.  At the end of the day, an effective interview is the difference between the best hire and a wrong hire, so asking the right questions, listening well, and observing the clues are critical factors for making the right decision. JCSI consultative recruiting services can help refine your team’s interviewing skills to get the feedback you need to make the best hiring decisions—contact us to learn more!

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