Raise your hand if you love job interviews.
Anyone? Anyone at all? Yeah, didn’t think so. Interviews are nerve-wracking, and they take a lot of preparation to do well. But, what about the person giving the interview? There are good reasons why they should prepare too.
As the interviewees, we know how it feels to be on the receiving end of random questions (What Disney character are you?), embarrassing open-ended requests (Tell us about a time when you totally messed up…), and attempts at foretelling our future (Where do you see yourself in five years?). Conducting an interview isn’t about turning the tables and being the person who asks the bizarre questions for a change. It’s about finding the right candidate for the job. And here’s a newsflash: that’s difficult, even for trained, seasoned HR pros.
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Small-business owners or managers often wear the hiring hat in addition to all their other duties. If they have HR training, it’s usually limited to a couple of classes as part of an overall business administration degree. For those of us with limited HR training, it’s especially important to prepare for an interview. Why?
Because there is a need to fill an important position.
Because some questions are illegal.
Because the applicants are assessing your business as much as you’re assessing them.
Let’s take these one at a time.
You Need This Worker
Okay, so maybe not this exact worker, but you do need this job to be done by someone. And you’re trying to pick the best possible someone to fit in with your schedule, needs, and business culture. This means you’re going to have to do some research, or at least put some serious thought into the position that you’re trying to fill. What are the key responsibilities for this position? What qualities are needed for a person to succeed at it? How would you describe this position and these qualities?
There’s more than one type of question that you need to pose during an interview. We all know the traditional questions, the ones that target an applicant’s qualifications and experience. To get a complete picture of the person sitting across from you, you may need to ask behavioral and situational questions (What would you do if…).
In other words, you need to prepare all interview questions carefully.
Some Questions Are Illegal
Just as polite conversation forbids certain topics, there are some questions that you just can’t ask in an interview. These include questions centered on a person’s religious beliefs, ethnicity and country of origin, marital status, race, and family situation.
There are lots of gray areas (tending towards the charcoal end of the spectrum) that an interviewer may accidentally wander into. What you may construe as harmlessly chatting about kids and busy schedules, a single-parent applicant may take as prejudicial to his or her chances at landing the job. Age is another potential minefield; you can get in trouble for discriminating against older workers. And while it is acceptable to ask if someone is legally authorized to work in the United States, it is not acceptable ask about their racial heritage or where they were born.
You’re In the Hot Seat Too
Even if we put all the preparation and legal pitfalls to one side, there is one more factor that you need to consider before starting an interview. The interviewee is not the only person being examined. They’re also determining whether they really want to work for your company. If you, for example, clearly are unprepared for the interview and haven’t even looked at the applicant’s resume, you may have just given them a good clue about how involved you’ll be as the boss. And if you’re patently bored by the entire process, why should they try to show some enthusiasm?
Making the right hire is so important, and asking the right questions is a critical part of the process. To do it right, you need to prepare.
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