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Step 9: Interviewing

The following guidelines are provided as an aid in complying with university


policy and procedures and with federal and state laws. Before the interview,
take a few minutes to review the job application materials.

Create a relaxed interview setting


The interview setting should be quiet, comfortable, and free of distraction and
any other kind of interruption. If you use an office, arrange for phone calls be
forwarded to another line. Keep on schedule, as candidates become
apprehensive when asked to wait.

Ask each candidate to arrive 10-15 minutes before the interview. Give them a
copy of the position description and any other materials you feel are important
before the interview, such as an organizational chart, agenda for the interview,
and a list of the selection committee members with their titles. Allow at least 15
minutes between interviews to permit candidates to come and go without
overlap, and to allow the committee members to evaluate a candidate's
responses to questions.

Follow a logical sequence


Keep the same format for each candidate and allow an equal amount of time for
each candidate to answer questions. Introduce the candidate to the rest of the
committee and invite him or her to be seated. Provide information regarding
the expected timeframe for filling the position and what the interview is meant
to accomplish. You can briefly define the job responsibilities.

Let the candidate do the talking


After defining the job responsibilities, let the candidate "do the talking." It is
extremely important to listen and concentrate on what they are saying. The
candidate should carry 80-85 percent of the total conversation. The panel
members' input should be limited to asking questions, probing deeper, and
keeping the candidate on track. The panel should clear up points on the
application form, asking follow-up questions that encourage the candidate to
talk. Ask only questions that are directly related to the job. Use "W" questions —
who, what, when, where, and why; also, how? Several types of questions are
useful:

 Direct questions are easy to understand, and are more likely to yield
concise answers and specific information. Example: "Why did you apply
for this position?"
 Open ended questions often produce unexpected and valuable
information, may reveal attitudes and feelings, and can indicate how well
an applicant can organize his or her thoughts. Example: "Tell us about
your job at XYZ Corp."
 Behavioral questions require a candidate to analyze a situation and can
reveal the extent of their experience. These questions must be
specifically related to the job functions discussed in the position
description. Example: Describe an experience when you...
 Probing questions such as "Could you explain what you mean by ...?" can
further clarify the candidate's views.

Allow silence after asking a question so that you don't interrupt the candidate's
thinking process. Encourage candidates with "take your time, we want you to be
specific."

Be mindful of your questions


Formulate questions that indicate whether or not a candidate meets the
requirements you have established for the position. Keep three rules in mind:

1. Ask questions that focus on past employment performance. Avoid


questions that address the candidate's personal lifestyles or habits.
2. Ask questions that relate to your listed skill, ability, knowledge or
experience requirements.
3. Ask the same questions of all candidates.

Avoid:

 Closed questions that require merely a yes or no response.


 Multiple questions that require several answers.
 "Loaded" questions that force a choice between two alternatives.
 Questions that are illegal and dealing with areas that are not factors for
job performance, such as gender (if you would not ask a question of a
man, do not ask it of a woman, and vice versa), age, race, religion,
veteran status, marital status, medical conditions and disability (it is
illegal to ask about the nature and/or severity of the disability, if the
applicant will need treatment or special leave, or about any prognosis or
expectation regarding the condition or disability). Contact your
Employment Consultant/Recruiter if you have questions.

Taking notes will help you remember details of the interview but could be
distracting to a candidate. If you plan to take notes, explain before the
interview starts that you will be taking notes. This should help reduce suspicion
and nervousness. Make sure you maintain some eye contact while you are
writing.

Close on a proper note


After the committee members have explored all performance factors, they can
ask the candidate if he or she has any questions, needs clarification, or
anything to add. Thank the candidate for coming, and explain when a decision
will be made, whether a second interview will be conducted, and how
candidates will be notified. Remember to smile, shake hands, and lead the
candidate to the door.

Note: Keep the process the same for all candidates.

During the Interview


How to Interview Candidates, Not Educate Them - Learn to improve your interviews and
reduce hiring mistakes.

Ask the Right Interview Questions


Open-ended questions always trump closed-ended questions in the interview process.
Take a look at these two sample interview questions and ask yourself how effective they
are. In this case, the hiring manager wants to probe into a candidate’s leadership skills.

Open-Ended Interview Questions


‘‘Tell me about a time when you had to lead your team in a new direction.’’ Candidates
will have to provide you with one or more challenges that they faced and the specific
steps they took with their team to meet them. It will be clear to you if they fudge their
answer and if the experience is genuine.

Closed-Ended Interview Questions


‘‘Do you consider yourself to be a leader?’’ This question lets candidates off the hook by
allowing them to give a one-word (or at least very limited) answer.You have learned
nothing.

Unlike mutual funds, interview questions about people’s past performance is the best
indicator of their future results. A simple but powerful approach to interviewing is to use
open-ended questions to get people talking about their accomplishments at every stage
of their life and career. If you ask the questions correctly, you will obtain an accurate
picture of what they’ve achieved up to this point. Then you can decide if they are likely
to realize the results you want from your next hire.

A-Player Principle: A well-conducted interview always focuses on getting people to


elaborate in detail about their past accomplishments. Use open-ended questions to
encourage a conversation, not just yes-and-no answers.
Always Ask Follow-Up Questions
Even when you ask open-ended questions about people’s accomplishments, you often
receive rehearsed answers. Don’t just accept these responses and move on.
Always ask one or more follow-up interview questions.

Dr. Kurt Einstein was an executive recruiter who conducted research on interviewing
techniques. One of Einstein’s key points was that follow-up questions force job
candidates to reveal if there is any substance behind their initial programmed
responses. If candidates can describe in living detail how they accomplished something,
they are likely telling the truth. If they provide broad-brush generalities in response to
repeated follow-up questions, they are probably embellishing their achievements or
overemphasizing their role in some way.

Using follow-up questions makes your job as an interviewer easier, since there are as
many follow-up questions as there are accomplishments to discuss. You can simply ask
about specific accomplishments and then follow up with ‘‘Tell me more’’ and ‘‘Why so?’’
and run a very effective interview. In addition, you can ask questions such as:

‘‘Why did you choose that strategy?’’


‘‘What made you believe that layoffs were the right answer?’’
‘‘What steps did you take to make purchasing more efficient?’’
‘‘What specific things did you do to reduce the time to close the books from 30 days
to7days?’’

This tactic puts less pressure on you to come up with a lot of ‘‘creative’’ interview
questions. Instead, you spend your time listening in the interview process. If you follow
this simple approach, you will conduct a strong interview every time.

A-Player Principle: The most important question to ask in an interview is the follow-up
question. Don’t let candidates get away with just providing their rehearsed answers to
your inquiries about their past accomplishments.

Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Copyright© 2010 by Eric
Herrenkohl & Herrenkohl Consulting.
Blocking Out Biases Unconscious biases can impact diverse workforce hiring. This
simple rule will help you minimize their impact.

Planning and Preparation are the First Steps


The planning process prepares you to ask candidates about only the essential skills and
qualifications required, and helps prevent you from asking off-the-cuff questions that
could be illegal.

As an HR professional, it is your job to train and guide hiring managers and other
company interviewers in fair hiring practices. Many companies mandate a formal
training program before any employee is permitted to interview candidates; it's also a
good idea to provide a written overview for all interviewers and a brief refresher
curriculum from time to time. And it is the responsibility of the HR department to stay up
to date on new laws and legal interpretation of existing acts.

Job Relevance is the Key Factor


Your interview questions should be designed to determine a candidate's capability to
perform the essential functions you have defined for the job. Just be sure to couch your
inquiries in job-relevant language, and don't make assumptions about a candidate's
ability or disability.

For example, let's say you are interviewing a wheelchair-bound candidate for an
account manager position, and you have determined that an essential function of the
job is to visit client sites. It's perfectly legal to ask how the candidate would perform this
essential function:

"This job will require you to be out of the office meeting with clients several days per
week. Can you tell me how you would get around?"

It is not OK to say to this same candidate, "How long have you been disabled?"

In other areas, where a disability is not visible, again you should confine your questions
to essential job functions or workplace environment issues. For example, while you
cannot ask a candidate if he or she has children or has adequate child care, you can
ask about ability to perform the job:

"This job requires you to travel overnight about 2 days per week and to attend out-of-
town conferences once per month. Does this travel schedule prevent a problem for
you?"

Legal and Illegal Inquiries


Following are some of the key areas that are covered by fair hiring laws. You will see a
trend in what is legal and what is illegal -- essentially, you cannot ask questions that will
reveal information that can lead to bias in hiring, but you can ask questions that relate to
job performance.

 Affiliations: Do not ask about clubs, social organizations, or union membership; do ask
about relevant professional associations.

 Age: Do not ask a candidate's age other than, "if hired," can a candidate produce proof
that he or she is 18 years of age.

 Alcohol or Drug Use: The only allowable question relating to current or past drug or
alcohol use is, "Do you currently use illegal drugs?"

 Criminal Record: Do not ask if a candidate has been arrested; you may ask if the
candidate has ever been convicted of a crime.

 Culture/Natural Origin: You may ask if the individual can, "upon hire," provide proof of
legal right to work in the United States. You may ask about language fluency if it is
relevant to job performance.

 Disability: You may ask if candidates can perform essential job functions, with or without
reasonable accommodation; and you may ask them to demonstrate how they would
perform a job-related function. You may ask about prior attendance records. And you
may require candidates to undergo a medical exam after an offer of employment has
been made.

 Marital/Family Status: Questions about marital status and family issues are discouraged
except as they relate to job performance, as in the child care example above.

 Personal: Avoid questions related to appearance, home ownership, and personal


financial situation.

 Race/Color: No race-related questions are legal.


 Religion: If Saturday or Sunday is a required work day, you may ask candidates if they
will have a problem working on those days.

 Sex: You may ask if a candidate has ever worked under another name. Be sure not to
make gender-related assumptions about job capabilities.

Consistency Equals Fairness


Carefully planned questions and a structured interview process that is the same for all
candidates will ensure equal treatment of all who apply. Keep the focus on the job
requirements and how each candidate has performed in the past. Perhaps most
importantly, make fair hiring part of your company's mission and value statement,
championed from the top down and an integral part of the selection process.