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INTERVIEWING RESOURCES

V.  Developing Interview Questions

Interview questions must be developed prior to conducting interviews. Hiring managers should ask each applicant the same basic set of questions. Follow-up or clarification questions are the best way to get in-depth responses from an applicant whose answer is vague or incomplete, or who seems to misunderstand the question.  Follow up questions will also be the basis for a more complete understanding of the applicant’s qualifications and likelihood for success.
Questions should be based on:

  • the position description
  • skills and abilities required for position
  • job responsibilities, expectations, and qualifications
  • applicant’s prior experience in relation to the position

Review the selection criteria you have developed to ensure that you have covered all of the critical areas. You may take notes, recording the applicant’s response, during the interview to allow for accurate recall of answers that could become part of your records for the employment decision.  Notes taken during an interview are part of public record.  They should not contain judgments but rather record statements and/or behaviors.

  • Normally, an applicant's responses to interview questions should provide examples of specific work experiences or education, which demonstrates skills, knowledge, abilities, attitudes, etc.

  • It is acceptable to explore qualifications that may have been developed in non-traditional ways, for example, through volunteer activities or community service.

  • Asking open-ended questions enables candidates to provide more information, and is more likely to draw out responses from candidates. Open-ended questions normally begin with "What, “How," "Why," "Describe," or "Tell me".  For example, if the job requires an employee to work directly with customers, the interviewer might ask the applicant to describe a recent situation when he/she went above and beyond to ensure excellent customer service.

  • Interviewers are advised not to ask leading questions, as the applicant may attempt to provide the answer he or she thinks the interviewer wants to hear. For example: "For a Senior Clerk position, would you agree multi-tasking is the most important skill needed?"

  • It is recommended that hiring managers develop questions that require applicants to provide a description of an experience that would be similar to the tasks and duties of the vacant position. It is important to ask follow-up questions in order to obtain a detailed understanding of the situation the applicant uses as an example. You will want to learn why the applicant handled the situation in the way they did, how often the situation occurred, problems encountered, the outcomes, the effects of the situation or outcome on others, and how long it took to resolve the situation (if applicable).

Questions Based On The Application/Resume:

The hiring manager may also want to develop questions based on the candidate's application or resume.

                 Items on the application/resume which may need clarification include:

  • Relevant education or training
  • Reasons for leaving, e.g., "Personal," "Terminated," "Quit," "Laid off."
    • Patterns in work history
    • Determining if reasons are logical in light of other job information
    • Asking for clarification
  • Similarity of responsibilities that may be relevant to the position
  • Obtain information about any time-gaps in job history or reasons for career change (if applicable)
  • Review transferable skills which may have been developed through non-traditional work experiences (e.g., volunteer experience).
  • Availability to start work and work required shifts
  • Please note that it is not necessary to ask each applicant all the same questions which are based on the application; however, preparing a set of basic questions to be asked of all interviewees is appropriate.  

  • Questions should not extend into areas that are not job-related. Any volunteered information that is not job-related must be disregarded.

Lawful and Unlawful Interview Questions

Florida Atlantic University is required by law, as well as Federal and State regulations to ensure that it does not discriminate against applicants for employment. This policy of nondiscrimination applies to all phases of the employment process and prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, and veteran status.  More importantly, FAU is bound by our own core values of professional ethics and does not support misrepresentation in hiring activity.

Hiring mangers must observe the University's nondiscrimination policy when developing interview questions and conducting the interview. Questions of a discriminatory nature may not be asked during interviews.

Discriminatory questions fall into two basic categories: those questions that are discriminatory on face value and questions whose responses may lead to discriminatory trends.

Examples of unacceptable questions that are discriminatory on face value and should not be asked are:

1.      Race discrimination

  • To what race do you belong?
  • Are both your parents white?
  • What is your ancestry?

2.      Sex discrimination

  • Do you plan to have children/more children?
  • What are your daycare arrangements?
  • Are you married?
  • As a woman/man, do you feel you can do the job?

3.      Age discrimination

  • How old are you?
  • When do you plan to retire?

4.      Religious discrimination

  • To what church do you belong?
  • Is that a Star of David you are wearing?
  • On what days do you observe religious meetings or holidays?
  • Do you belong to any religious organizations?
  • Was your schooling in public schools or in church schools?

5.      National origin discrimination

  • Where did you get that accent?
  • In what country were you born?
  • How did you learn so many languages?

6.      Disabilities discrimination

  • What is the nature of your disability?
  • Do you have any disabilities that might prevent you from doing this job?
  • Do you have any disabilities or physical problems that cause you to visit physicians regularly?
  • Do you get sick often?

7.      Veteran Status Discrimination

  • What type of discharge did you receive?
  • Have you had any after effects from serving in war?
  • What is your military discipline history?
  • How do you alleviate anxieties and pressures associated with your military experience?

Questions with potential responses that may lead to discriminatory trends are those questions that have an unfair effect on women, veterans, minorities, and some other protected groups, are to be avoided.  

Examples of questions that commonly result in responses leading to discriminatory trends are :

  • Do you own an automobile? (race discrimination)
  • Have you ever been arrested? (race discrimination)
  • What is your credit rating? (race, sex discrimination)
  • Do you own or rent a home or live in an apartment? (race, sex discrimination)
  • To what nonprofessional organizations do you belong? (race, sex, age, religion, national origin, veteran status discrimination)
  • What type of military discharge did you receive? (race, disabilities discrimination)
  • What is your opinion of people who get psychological counseling? (veteran status, disabilities discrimination)
  • What is your height? (sex, national origin discrimination)
  • What is your weight? (sex, national origin discrimination)
  • Has college changed much since you were a student? (age discrimination)
  • Can you provide medical records? (disabilities discrimination)
  • What types of medication are you currently taking? (disabilities discrimination)
  • Do you need any special accommodations? (disabilities discrimination)

Page updated on February 2014 by Tom Falloreta

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