The art of the interview: an employer’s guide to the right questions

Most people have gone through the nerve-wracking experience of sitting through an interview at some time or another. However, as a small business entrepreneur, you will get to move to the other side of the desk and do the interviewing yourself. Below I provide some sample questions that can give you good information on which to base your decision and some examples of inappropriate questions that land you in court if you do not avoid them.

Questions to ask

  • How did you get your last job?
  • What were your specific responsibilities?
  • What did you like about the job?
  • What did you dislike about the job?
  • What did you learn from your job?
  • Did you run into any difficult situations? How did you handle them?
  • Tell me about the types of interactions you had with other employees.
  • Tell me of an accomplishment you are particularly proud of and what you did
  • What kind of supervision of other workers have you had?
  • Do you have persons from your former job who would provide a professional reference?
  • Why did you leave your past jobs?
  • Why do you want to leave your current job?
  • What is the compensation at your current job?
  • What is your salary expectation for this position?
  • Describe a typical day in your current job?

Questions not to ask

There are probably many questions that you want to ask a prospective employee, but certain questions can only get you into trouble. Yes, you can get in trouble with the law over interviews. The following list contains some  questions that you should not ask in a job interview:

  • How old are you?
  • Do you have any disabilities?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Are you married with kids?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • What is your religious affiliation?
  • What is your sexual orientation?
  • What ethnic background are you?

These are just a few examples of some of the good questions that you will want to ask and some of the questions that you should not ask under any circumstances whatsoever. You can, and should, tailor these questions to find someone that is right for your company and your company’s culture.[1]

[1] Richard D. Harroch, Small Business Kit for Dummies, (Wiley 2nd Edition)(2004).