Interview Pitfalls to Avoid

At a certain point, every business owner will have to interview potential staff. We all begin as novices at this task and will inevitably make mistakes. An interview is not only the candidate’s opportunity to make a first impression on you but is also the first impression that your business and YOU will make on a potential member of your staff.

Here are a few pitfalls to avoid in interviewing a new employee:

  1. Remove the “Have you ever been convicted” question from your application. If your business has a standard job application, it’s not advisable to have this question, or any form of it, on your application. This question, on an application OR in an interview, has been shown to create a “disparate impact” on the minority population, and can set you up for a discrimination claim even before someone hits your payroll.
  2. Make sure your interview doesn’t include questions that could be considered to infringe on the protected classes. Federally, these are: race/color, age, genetic information, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, disability, or pregnancy. If you have concerns that a question might be perceived as discriminatory in this way – don’t ask it.
  3. Don’t ask “easy to answer” interview questions. A yes or no, or even a 2-3 word answer won’t give you any insight into whether this person is the right fit for your company culture. Ask questions that are broad enough to get your candidate talking. Put them in hypothetical situations and see how they react. This is the best way to get to know who you are interviewing.
  4. Don’t be the only person asking questions. Let the candidate interview you. Allow them to ask you questions. You want them to feel as if their needs are being met, and it gives you insight into what matters to them.
  5. Don’t be the only person interviewing the candidate. If at all possible, include a trained employee that would be a peer of the candidate. Many times, they will have questions for the candidate that you wouldn’t think about or consider. Their opinion of the candidate may also differ from yours and give a much-needed additional perspective.
  6. After you’ve decided to offer the job, run a drug screen, a background check, but NOT a credit check. There are very few, if any, justifiable reasons that a candidate’s credit should be a determining factor into whether they get a job offer. Credit scores have also been determined to have a minority bias. Eliminate the credit check.
  7. Don’t let results of a background check automatically disqualify someone. Carefully consider whether a felony conviction really matters for the position you’re looking to fill. In my experience, there have been very few background check results that have actually mattered when it came down to it.
  8. Don’t consider the interview to be a good measure of what you will see out of a candidate when hired. Interviews are “beauty contests”. Generally, a candidate will show you what they think you’re looking for, whether that is correct or not. Use the interview to try to get past their idea of what you want, and instead get a snapshot for the candidate’s personality and “fit” into your business.

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