You’ve placed the perfect ad, received a flood of resumes, reviewed all of them, narrowed down your applicants to a manageable group, and set up interviews for next week.  Now what?  Do you just wing it?  Ask questions that just come to you?  Or do you set time aside to properly prepare for the interviews?

Just like we expect applicants to do their homework and prepare for an interview, so should the hiring manager/team.  Being prepared for an interview will not only help you make the right decision, but it can also keep you safe from potential legal action.

Here are some best practices to follow when preparing for your interviews.

Have the right interviewers.  Don’t have just anyone conduct your interviews.  Ask yourself two simple questions, “Who will be making the final decision?” and “Who will be working with the new hire?”  If neither of these individuals are in your interview process, they should be.  I recommend having the human resources manager, the new hire’s proposed supervisor and future co-workers (of a similar skill level) conduct the interviews.  This will give you several perspectives: supervisor, legal, and co-worker.

Have a plan.  This is important if you are going to have more than one interviewer or conduct more than one interview.  First, plan out how long the interview will last.   Then decide how many rounds of interviews you are going to do and who will be involved in each round.  Lastly, decide who is going to ask which questions; this will help with the flow of the conversation and prevent any awkward pauses.

Have preset questions.  If you are going to be interviewing more than one applicant, consistency of interview questions is a must.  Take time before the interview to determine what you want to learn from the applicants and what competencies you are looking for. Then design questions that will get you that information.  Ask the same questions of all applicants, have them written down, don’t rely on your memory.

Have the right location.  Ask yourself, is my office the right place to conduct the interview?  Will I be distracted by my computer, the work sitting on my desk, or my office phone?  The best place to conduct an interview is somewhere where all distractions can be eliminated, so choose a conference room.  However, if you have to conduct the interview in your office, make sure to clear your desk, turn your computer monitor off, and put your office phone on do not disturb.  One more thing, put your cell phone away.

Have an introduction.  The interview is not just an opportunity for you to learn more about the interviewee, but their opportunity to learn about your organization.  So have a short, less than 5 minute, introduction that will inform the interviewee about the organization, the position, and your role.  Remember, this is not the time to outline all the expectations of the position, or dive into the history of the organization; spend the time hitting the highlights.  If you are going to conduct second round interviews, during that time you can dive a little deeper into the position.

Have a good understanding of the legal stuff.  Remember that during the interview process there are topics you want to avoid for legal purposes.  The topics to avoid include race, sex, nation of origin, religion, age, disability, genetic information, convictions, and military service.  Here are examples of questions to ask and not to ask.

  Ask Don’t Ask
Age Are you old enough to work in this industry?


Can you supply a copy of your transcripts?

How old are you?


When did you graduate?

Disability Can you perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodation?


(Make sure to describe the functions or provide a detailed job description)

Do you have a disability?


I see you have a limp, are you sure you can do this job?

Race Avoid any questions during the interview process about race
Religion Can you work the required schedule?


(Be sure to disclose the work schedule)

What church do you attend?


I see you are wearing a star of David, are you Jewish?


(Family/Marital Status)

Can you work the required schedule?


Can you work evenings and weekends?


(Be sure to disclose the work schedule)

Are you married?


Do you plan on having kids?


How many kids do you have?

Nation of Origin


If hired, are you able to provide documentation to prove that you are eligible to work in the US? Are you a US citizen?


What country are you from?

Military Service How did your military service prepare you for this job?


What valuable skills have you learned from your military service?

What type of discharge did you receive?


Will you miss work to perform military service?

Arrests and Convictions Have you ever been convicted of a felony?


(best to stipulate that a conviction doesn’t necessarily bar someone from employment and that only certain felonies will do that, only bar someone from employment if the conviction is job related, and make sure to follow any state laws)

Have you ever been arrested?

Now it’s inevitable that an interviewee will disclose some personal information that would fall into one of the above areas.  So what do you do?  The best thing to do is not pursue the information or make any notes about it.  For example, if the applicant mentions they have three kids at home, don’t ask them about daycare or what they will do when the kids are out of school.  Just stick to your questions and focus on the information that is relevant to the position.

By following these few best practices, not only will your interview process go smoothly, but applicants will be engaged and provided a good experience throughout the process.  Just remember, a little planning and preparation can go a long way. Call the HR Team at Ketel Thorstenson with any consultation or HR support needs.