The interview process and application forms, in today's arena, are landmines waiting to be stepped on! There are more employment laws today than ever before and questions you used to be able to ask are now grounds for discrimination lawsuits. If you aren't familiar with these laws, you must become so--and the sooner the better.
Contact your legal counsel. Most law firms either have an expert on employee relations or can refer you to a source where appropriate literature can be found. One good document is the SBA's An Equal Opportunity Guide for Small Business Employers .
There are questions you cannot ask during the interview process. Topics to steer clear of include age, disabilities, pregnancy, marital status, religion, sexual preference, race, ancestry, children and prior arrests. Everyone in your organization who may be in a position to conduct an interview must be aware of these and other limitations. We recommend that you develop a list of questions that are acceptable and provide the interviewers with some guidance that is meaningful.
A typical list of questions that can be asked is presented below. Obviously, if you have found a candidate because of your personal knowledge (or the knowledge of a business associate), you will already know the answers to many of the "illegal" questions. Even so, don't document such knowledge, even if the candidate is for the number-two position in the company. Have as many key people as possible interview the prospect. More opinions will make for a better hiring decision and the other interviewers may uncover something vital that you overlooked.
- What do you like most about your present job?
- What do you like least about your present job?
- Describe your responsibilities in detail.
- Describe your relationship with your supervisor.
- What do you like most about your supervisor?
- Why are you considering a different job?
- Why did you leave the job prior to this one?
- Do you like most of your fellow employees?
- Are you aware of the responsibilities of the job for which you are a candidate?
- Do you have any physical limitations that would prevent you from fulfilling those responsibilities?
- What do you consider your greatest strength as a candidate for this position?
- What do you consider your greatest challenge as a candidate for this position?
- What is your present compensation and benefits package?
- What was your beginning compensation in your job?
- What specific training have you had that might increase your ability to perform our job?
- In which school subjects were you most successful?
- Which subjects in school did you find the most difficult?
- Can you provide some references for your technical abilities? What are their positions?
- What do you know about our company that you find appealing?
- Are working overtime and travel acceptable to you?
- Are you willing to receive additional training to improve your ability to perform our job?
- What is the most important factor to consider about becoming an employee of our company? For example: compensation, benefits, working hours, opportunity to progress.
- What are the least important factors in your consideration?
Another aid in hiring is a listing of employment preferences. The answers can be quite enlightening when studied with the responses to interview questions and a review of an application form. The answers to these questions are important regardless of the level of the position that you are seeking to fill.
Here is a sample employment preferences questionnaire:
Rank the factors listed below, on a scale of 1 through 10, with 10 being the most important and 1 being the least important to you in considering a position with our company.
___ 401(k) plan
___ Health and dental insurance
___ Incentive bonus plan
___ Initial base compensation
___ Job security
___ Opportunity for advancement
___ Retirement plan
___ Vacation time
___ Working conditions
___ Working hours
The Employment Application
Once you have identified legitimate candidates for the position, you must have them complete an employment application. Failure to do so may result in your inability to defend your decision to hire or not hire an individual. There are a number of sources available for securing a sample form that complies with all government regulations and laws. Or, you can develop one of your own and have your legal counsel review and revise it to ensure that it is acceptable in the eyes of the law.