How to Conduct a Hiring Interview

The interview is the one place most employers fail at the most. No matter how many times you can be told what not to ask or talk about, chances are at some point you will slip up and say or ask something you should not have. Well everyone is human but let us go over what to ask in an interview and see if we can get you to near perfection.


First, you should have a script or list of questions you would like to ask in front of you to follow. If you go into an interview without a program you more than likely will get yourself into trouble or miss a critical point. I have been called after an interview by the interviewer because they forgot to ask a specific question. They even said “I was having such a good time talking with you that I forgot to ask ______”

Have a separate blank page to write notes on, do not use the edges of the application. You can number it or have a system in place to remind you what that answer or note is about. Of course, you want to have the application in front of you to guide your questions and to get the information you ask correct.

You are not allowed to ask any question to force them to reveal their age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status, or sexual orientation. But as we mentioned yesterday there are questions you can ask to get around the ones you can not ask. Many of these were already handled on the application itself.

Don’t ask “How old are you?”. Instead, ask “Are you older than 21 and able to be put on our vehicle insurance?” Only if that will be part of the job, or “Are you older than 18 (or 21) to be covered by our accident/liability insurance or to operate certain equipment?”

Avoid asking “Are you a US citizen?”. You should instead ask “Are you authorized to work in the United States?”

When interviewing, don’t ask “Have you been arrested?” An alternative is “Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor? Can explain you will require a background check for employment?”

“Are you married?” is inappropriate and there is no way around this one. But you could ask if they are able to travel but only if it is job-related.

Don’t ask “Do you have children?” Instead, ask “Do you have any responsibilities that could interfere with having to work late or that could disrupt your schedule?” Example: Not to show up for work.

“What country are you from?” also isn’t a good question to ask and don’t ask about an accent.

Rather than asking if English is their first language, ask “What languages are you proficient in?” Especially if the job requires them to be bi-lingual.

“Are you in debt or have you filed bankruptcy?” Also isn’t a great question to ask. You can ask them to submit a credit check after they are offered the job, as long as it is relevant to the job, ex: will be issued a company credit card.

Don’t ask “Do you have a disability?” You can instead ask if they are able to physically perform certain tasks or job functions.

I wouldn’t ask “Do you drink or smoke?” But you can state that consuming alcohol just prior or during work hours is prohibited and that you require a smoke-free workplace.

Going off of the last question, don’t ask “Do you do drugs?” You can require all applicants to pass a drug screen and if listed in the handbook to accept later random drug tests.

Rather than asking “How long have you worked?” Have them list the years when they attended school or the years they have been performing a certain job.

Lastly, never ask “What is your religion?” But you can ask if they can work on Saturday or Sunday and if they need any certain day off other than the listed company days off.

Now on to questions you could or should ask.

  • Why are you choosing this line of work? or Why do you want this job?
  • What have you liked doing most in your career, or past job?
  • What have you liked the least?
  • Why did you leave your last job? or What was the circumstances surrounding you leaving your last job?
  • Did you give notice? if yes Did you work out your notice?
  • What strengths would you bring to this position or job?
  • What do you feel you may need to learn to do this job well? Or do you think your already know everything there is about doing this job?
  • What would be your dream job?
  • Do you like to work in a team or be a leader of a team?
  • Do you feel comfortable working independently with only verbal instructions and no physical supervision?
  • What three good or bad points would your last supervisor tell me if asked about you?
  • What are you expecting out of this job?
  • Is this the only position in the company you are interested in?
  • What if anything do you think your last employer did wrong for or to their employees?
  • What if anything did a past employer do for their employees that impressed you?
  • Do you know what OSHA is?
  • Have you ever had OSHA training?
  • Do you have any type of certified training even if not in this field or industry?
  • Have you ever been asked to do something you did not believe you should be doing?
  • If so how did you handle it?
  • What are your career goals for the next 3-5 years?
  • How do you see us and or this job helping you reach that goal?
  • Why should we hire you over someone else?
  • Do you enjoy continuing education or training?
  • Are you looking to get continuing education or specialized training while working for us?
  • How have you handled past conflicting interpersonal work relationships? If they do not understand the wording of the question you could also ask
  • If you have not gotten along with a co-worker in the past how did you handle it?

Now I am not saying you should use all of these or if they would even be relevant to the job opening you have available but these are good ones and some I have even used.

Other things to discuss when going over the application.

Ask about any major changes in their career path. Find out why.
Find out about gaps in employment not filled by education or other obvious reasons, such as military service.
Make notes to investigate any conflicts or contradictions you see or hear between the application and the talking with the applicant.
Feel free to discuss if brought up hobbies or how they like to spend their time when not on the job, being clear to not ask about family and personal relationships. They can offer statements but you do not ask. Try to keep and steer the interview conversation back to strictly business points.

Feel free to discuss the duties and responsibilities of the job being applied for.
Any question relevant to the job and the pay itself such as a stipend or per diem.
Questions about the company, the mission statement, programs offered, certifications, achievements, organization affiliations.
Opportunities for job growth, development, and individual advancement.
What physical locations or areas does the company currently cover and if there is a chance or plan to expand or reduce this area?
To discuss the applicant’s qualifications, abilities, experiences, education, and interests.
Any problems the applicant has had with past employers or co-workers.

Be careful not to make blanket statements about your employment opportunities. No comments such as; “We would never fire someone who is working hard to get the job done.” “People can work here until they are ready to quit as long as they are on time and work hard every day.” These can be taken as promises of continued employment if they get the job and are later let go.

This is still not the time for the applicant to ask questions about specific perks and the cost of things like health insurance, and 401 plans. Not until the offer has been made and they have been given a handbook that all questions from the perspective of the employee should be answered in regards to those areas. I have had applicants that get all caught up in wanting to know what they and their families can get out of working for the company even before we can decide if we want them to work for us. All you need to discuss is if you offer a health plan, how much of the employee’s part will be covered by the employer if you offer a 401 plan, and any continued education that may be available.

After the interview explain what the next step will be, favorable or not. Including when an offer of employment under the conditions that will be listed in the handbook will be made to the successful applicant.

Next post what goes into the handbook.