Job applicant interviews

Jan. 1, 2008
Finding the right person for the right job helps fuel a company's success. One of the key elements in finding the right person is the job interview. To

Finding the right person for the right job helps fuel a company's success. One of the key elements in finding the right person is the job interview. To be most effective, the interview needs to be a consistent, structured process that evaluates each candidate's potential and their “fit” with a company's job requirements and its culture.

Without such a process, the spontaneous and unpredictable nature of conducting an interview can create hidden traps for a company. Things that an interviewer might say with innocent intent may be misconstrued as prejudicial, or used later as the basis for a lawsuit.

“When conducting a job interview, you want to ask questions that elicit real information so you can make an informed hiring decision,” said Charlotte Phillips, director of human resources for UniPro Foodservice, Atlanta, Georgia, in a workshop on Interviewing Do's and Don'ts, presented during the annual Foodservice Distribution Conference & Expo, held recently in Louisville, Kentucky. “But you also want to avoid questions that could get you in legal trouble.

“Employers should ensure that anyone who participates in the interview process is trained on the questions they can and can not ask.

It is paramount that for any question you intend to ask, you can justify a business related reason for doing so.” Inappropriate questions during the hiring process are a major source of lawsuits.

Have a plan

Rather than being done haphazardly, Phillips said there should be a plan in place for any job interview, and that plan needs to be followed.

The starting point for any interview is “developing a job description, determining the minimum criteria for the position, the working hours, the duties and responsibilities of the job, and so on. All of this needs to be worked out beforehand. Then, a standard set of interviewing questions for the specific job needs to be developed.

“In order to treat each applicant fairly in the interviewing process, standardized questions need to be asked so that the interviewers can develop comparable information for all of the candidates,” said Phillips. This begins when conducting telephone calls to pre-quality candidates for face-to-face interviews.

“It is important to treat each applicant consistently. If one gets a tour of the facility, then every applicant should get the same tour. If you give company information, every one needs to get the same information. Give each one the same amount of interview time and framework.

Ask relevant questions

“The golden rule,” emphasized Phillips, “is to be sure any questions you ask are justified through relevance to the job position and functions.” She warned against asking questions that have to do with health problems, private organizations, religious affiliations, children, marital status, race, ancestry, or nationality.

She advised making the interviewee at ease by having the interview be conversational, “but keep it related to the job.” Furthermore, she said, “you shouldn't give any indication of how an applicant has done in the interview process.”

Following the close of each and every interview, “immediately jot down some remarks and your evaluation of the candidate so you don't forget or confuse them as you move on to other interviews.”

As a guide for interviewing, Phillips offered a list of do's and don'ts.

Interviewing Do's

  • Try to put the job candidate at ease with casual conversation at the beginning of interview.

  • Explain the flow of the interview.

  • Consistently ask each candidate the same questions for the same position.

  • Explain primary duties and responsibilities of the job to the interviewee.

  • Ask questions that allow the candidate to describe his limitations.

  • Paraphrase the candidate's answers or statements to ensure you understand what he is saying.

  • Talk 15 percent of the interview time.

  • Ask behavioral-related and open-ended questions.

  • Ask the candidate if he has any questions about the job or your company, and answer them.

  • Evaluate each candidate immediately after the interview.

  • Compare interview notes with other interviewers.

Interviewing Don'ts

  • Avoid rapid fire questioning that may intimidate the candidate.

  • Avoid questions about family, spouse, children, living arrangements, and/or nationality.

  • Avoid questions related to personal lifestyles.

  • Avoid leading questions.

  • Don't talk negatively about co-owners, company policies, or other companies.

  • Don't talk the majority of the interview.

  • Avoid interpreting a candidate's statements or questions.

  • Avoid personal bias of a candidate during interview.

  • Don't stereotype a candidate.

  • Don't sugarcoat or misrepresent job responsibilities.

  • Avoid commitment or approval responses.

  • Avoid approval or disapproval in body language.

  • Don't make promises or commitments during the interview.

When done properly, a good interview can take the guesswork out of accessing candidates and selecting the right person for the job,” said Phillips.

A good interview also helps ensure a fair selection process, establishes adequate records in the event that the hiring decision must be justified, and avoids potential problems from questionable hiring practices.

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