Hiring Strategies

Formulating Your Script

So, what are the kinds of questions you may include in your script? This will, of course, depend on the position for which you are hiring; you will need to tailor your script to meet the needs of the job. Here are five basic questions, adapted from Paul Falcone's 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire (Amacom, $17.95, 800-262-9699), that serve as a great foundation for any job interview.

1. What's the greatest asset you'll bring to our company? The "greatest asset" question works well as an icebreaker because most people are fairly comfortable talking about what makes them special and what they like.

2. What's your greatest weakness? You would think that most job candidates have planned responses to these often-asked queries. That's not, however, always the case. There is still a surprising number of people out there who give very little advance thought to this common self-evaluation query. You could use that element of surprise to your advantage.

3. What was your favorite position? Much like the "greatest strength" question, this query invites the interviewee to reflect on positive and comfortable emotions.

4. What was your least favorite position? The ideal candidate's response avoids subjective, personal interpretations that force them to defend their past actions. Instead, look for a job candidate's ability to objectively evaluate a situation rather than subjectively react to it.

5. Where do you see yourself in five years? This question is a known showstopper because it triggers a candidate's "wishful response" mechanism. The proper candidate response will place emphasis on the assumption of broadened responsibilities at the current position.

What can't you ask? There are some topics that have little or no bearing on a candidate's ability to perform the job, or are the subject of specific federal and state laws. Don't ask about:

  • Age, date of birth or employment history further back than the previous five years.
  • Sex, race, creed, color, religion or national origin.
  • Disabilities of any kind.
  • Date and type of military discharge.
  • Marital status.

Other questions to avoid:

  • What's your maiden name? (For female applicants.)
  • How many children do you have? How old are they? Who will care for them while you are at work?
  • Who is the nearest relative we can contact in case of an emergency? (This information is not vital to performing a job. You can obtain the information after the person is hired.)
  • Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist? If so, for what condition?
  • Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?
  • Have you ever been arrested?

While these may be things you'd like to know, and this information may be volunteered by the interviewee, they are not normally applicable to job qualifications or ability to perform the work. Therefore, they must be left out of your interview and selection process. Remember, if you're not sure if a question is invasive, refrain from asking it if it doesn't apply to the applicant's ability to perform the work involved in the job.

Selecting the best candidate from a batch of applicants is a tough process. Take time to ensure that your selection criteria are legally defensible. Prepare yourself for each interview just as thoroughly as if you were preparing to make a sales pitch to a big customer. The people you hire are a vital part of your business. Take time to ensure they are exactly what you need to be successful.

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This article was originally published in the November 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hiring Strategies.

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