When preparing for an interview with a candidate, it’s a good idea to develop a list of standard interview questions that you will use for all candidates. You should be aware of what you should and should not ask, and consider the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the job you are looking to fill.
In general, laws prohibit the use of pre-employment questions that cannot be shown to be job-related and justified by business necessity. Your focus must be: “What do I need to know to determine whether I should hire this person for this position?”
When thinking through possible interview questions, ask yourself, “Is this information necessary to judge the candidate’s competence and qualification, and is the question job-related?”
The U.S. Equal Opportunity Opportunity Commission enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. And while your business may be small enough to be considered exempt from federal law, you may be covered under the laws of your particular state. (For more information, visit the EEOC website.)
According to the courts, the burden of proof is on you, the interviewer, to show that the answers (verbal or written) are not used in a discriminatory manner.
As you think through the interview process, consider your questions carefully, and stick to your prepared notes. Here are some more tips:
- Carefully study the job requirements of the position.
- Ask only questions that relate directly to the job requirements.
- Avoid receiving or volunteering information that could later be construed as discriminatory.
- Make evaluation notes during and directly after the interview. Only take down notes that are related to the job. Do not describe the person’s physical characteristics in your notes.
- Ask the same questions of all candidates.
- Use only job-related information when making your hiring decisions.
- Document well — it’s your best defense against false discrimination allegations.
For some general interview question ideas to get you started, see our article Interview Questions: 25 Great Ideas.
For what not to ask, read our blog post Hiring Guide: Interview Questions to Avoid.
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