Sample Interview Questions A Guide for Hiring Managers
Table of Contents Introduction 1 Interviewing Tips 2 Inappropriate Interview Questions 3 Background Interview Questions 7 Frequently-Sought Skills Interview Questions 10 Entry-Level Interview Questions 17 Clerical Interview Questions 18
Introduction Good interviewing skills are key for successfully selecting the best candidate. Asking the right questions helps you identify the right person for the position. Asking the wrong questions can lead to legal difficulties. This guide contains a variety of sample questions that you can ask. There are specific questions for managerial, clerical, and entry-level positions. There are questions to obtain information on the candidate’s previous work experience and questions you can use to identify whether candidates have frequently-sought skills (e.g., analytical skills). In addition, this guide also lists several inappropriate questions that you should avoid. If you have any questions about interview questions, interviewing skills, or the selection process, contact your HR Advisor.
Interviewing Tips • Prior to the Interview • Develop a list of job-related, open-ended questions for all candidates. Questions should focus on the critical skills, work experience, key responsibilities, and education requirements. • Review the candidate’s resume and relevant work experience and prepare specific questions about their work activities. • During the Interview • Put the candidate at ease; create a comfortable setting for the candidate. • Asks open-ended questions; listen and respond conversationally. • Probe inconsistencies between what the candidate tells you and what the candidate’s resume states. • Probe for negatives. • Request specific examples or illustrations. • Allow the candidate to do most of the talking. • Close the interview by thanking the applicant and giving the timeframe for making the hiring decision. • After the Interview • Complete the Interview Sheet. • Use the Interview Sheet to compare candidates. • Forward all completed Interview Sheets to your recruiter when the hiring decision has been made.
Inappropriate Interview Questions • Age, Sex, Marital Status • How old are you? What is your birth date? • The age discrimination of Employment Act of 1967, as amended, prohibits discrimination on the basis of age against individuals over the age of 40. Questions that elicit answers from which interviewers can discern the age of the applicant should be avoided. References to “energy” or “over qualifications” may be alleged as discriminatory. • How do you feel about reporting to someone younger than you? • How long have you resided at your present address? • When did you graduate from high school? • What is your marital status? • What was your maiden name? • Do you prefer to be addressed by Miss, Ms., or Mrs.? • What is your spouse’s name? Occupation? • How many children do you have? • What are the ages of your children, if any? • What are your child care requirements? (If asked of female applicants only.) • Questions about marital status, pregnancy, future child-bearing plans and the number and age of children may be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, if used to deny or limit employment opportunities for women. It is also a violation of Title VII to inquire about child care arrangements from female applicants only. A number of states also have laws that specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of marital status. • How do you feel about significant business travel? • This is a legitimate question and can be asked only if asked of all applicants. It is improper to place undue emphasis on conditions of employment in the hope, or with the result, of discouraging the applicant. It is for the applicant, not the employer, to decide whether he or she wants the job, based on a clear explanation of the conditions.
Inappropriate Interview Questions • Race/Sex/Sexual Orientation/National Origin/ Religion • Of what groups or organizations are you a member? • An applicant may have included information of this nature when listing his or her participation in school activities on an employment application or resume (i.e., membership in the Society of Black Engineers). For such organizations, you may ask the applicant to describe projects he/she worked on or leadership roles he/she held to demonstrate his/her level of experience. • However, you should avoid direct questions about additional memberships in groups or organizations other than those listed on the application or resume, because they may elicit information about an applicant’s race, sexual orientation, national origin or religion. • What church do you attend? • Although this question seems to relate only to religious discrimination, some religions also reveal national origin, for example, Greek Orthodox. • Are you able to work weekends? • Although not unlawful itself, this question may discourage applicants of certain religions that prohibit working on Saturdays or Sundays. To provide applicants with a true picture of job requirements, interviewers should explain that overtime is often required, sometimes with short or no notice. Applicants can then be asked if they would be able to work overtime without identifying days or time the overtime would occur. • Have you ever been arrested? • What type of discharge did you receive from the military?
Inappropriate Interview Questions • Of what country are you a citizen? • What is your nationality? What kind of name or accent do you have? • What foreign languages can you read or speak? • What was your father’s surname? • Have you ever served in the armed forces of another country? • Under Title VII, it is unlawful to refuse to hire an individual because of the individual’s, or his or her ancestor’s, place of origin or because of the individual has the cultural or linguistic characteristics of a particular national origin. The law protects all individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, residing in the United States. • The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) requires employers to verify that all employees are eligible to work in the U.S. IRCA specifically prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of citizenship status, unless required to do so for national security reasons. • Would you be willing to lose weight? Shave your beard/mustache? Not wear certain articles of clothing (e.g., a turban) during business hours? • Many businesses establish the standard for attire in accordance with the community of their industry. Any such standard, if challenged as discriminatory, may be tested against whether it is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Without any basis in true business necessity, such standards may be deemed to be unlawful. Similarly, businesses may only refuse to accommodate dress or grooming requirements based upon religion if they can demonstrate strong business justification. Accordingly, interview questions related to appearance and grooming should be avoided.
Inappropriate Interview Questions • Mental or Physical Disabilities? • Do you have any mental or physical disabilities? • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in any aspect of the employment process. A qualified individual with a disability has the requisite skills, education and experience and can perform essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. Any business that has contracts with the government must also comply with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires affirmative action to employ and advance in employment such individuals. • If you are interviewing an applicant with an obvious disability, discuss the position in terms of its duties, responsibilities, location and performance expectations. Tell the applicant what needs to be done on the job and give the applicant an opportunity to state how they could do it. Do not inquire as to what the applicant can not do in the same way persons without disabilities can. Do not turn down an applicant because of negative assumptions or perceptions about persons with disabilities. • Do not discuss how the applicant functions in personal or social activities or other persons with disabilities you may know. Persons with identical disabilities have different performance levels. • Financial Status • Do you own or rent your place of residence? • Do you own a car? • Do you have any outstanding loans? • Have you ever declared bankruptcy or had your wages garnished? • Inquiries as to an applicant’s financial status, if used to make employment decisions, may violate Title VII. Rejection of applicants because of poor credit ratings has a disparate impact on minority groups. In addition, the Fair Credit Reporting Act precludes an employer from obtaining a customer report unless the applicant is advised this will be done. In some cases, applicants authorize the investigation when they sign their initial application.
Background Interview Questions • Activities • Would you tell me about your present (last) position? • How would you describe a typical work day? • What activities did you enjoy most at your last job? • What do you consider the most critical elements in the successful performance of your present (last) position? • What job functions are most difficult for you? Why? • What problems have you encountered on the job? Which problems frustrate you the most? Why? How do you deal with them? • What was your greatest contribution in your present (past) position? • What recommendations have you made that were implemented? • How have you improved your position from the one you originally accepted? • How have your previous jobs prepared you for more responsibility? • What are the reasons you left your last position?
Background Interview Questions • Skills • Tell me in detail about your _(skill)_ experience. • What exposure have you had with _(skill)_? • Please give me an example of a project where you used _(skill)_. • Tell me about how you have used your _(skill)_ to be successful? • Relationships • Tell me about your working relationship with your supervisor. How do you support him or her? • What do you feel are your supervisor’s greatest strengths? Why? Weaknesses? • In what ways has your supervisor supported your performance? • For what kinds of things have you been praised? Criticized? • Describe a successful relationship with someone from another department. Why is it successful? How could it be improved? • Describe the traits that team members have that you work well with? What traits do you find difficult? • What do you consider essential in the management of people? • What type of task forces or projects have you worked on? What did you contribute? What did you contribute?
Background Interview Questions • Aspirations • What is important to you in a position? What would you like to avoid? • What do you want to do five years from now? • What are you doing to achieve your career goals? • How will this position help you reach your long-term career goals? • How do you define a successful career? • Self-Assessment • As an employee, what are your greatest strength? How have you used them? • In what areas would you most like to improve? Why? • What motivates you? • Skills Match • What do you believe qualifies you for this position? • Tell me what you know about this position and what interests you about it. • Given the skill set needed for this position, where do you think your skills are transferable? • What elements of this position would be new to you? • What additional training do you feel is required to achieve full proficiency? • Based on the information I have provided, what do you think are the critical duties or skills required?
Frequently-Sought Skills Interview Questions • Analytical and Problem-Solving • Describe a situation on any job which you’ve held where you were faced with a problem. What did you do to solve it? • Give an example of a situation in which you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision. What was the outcome? • Give an example of a situation in which you had to use your fact-finding skills to gain information for solving a problem, then tell me how you analyzed the information to come to a decision. • Give me an example of a problem which you faced on any job you have had and tell me how you went about solving it. • Teamwork • Give me an example of a time in which you feel you were able to build motivation in your co-workers or subordinates at work. • What did you do in your last job to contribute toward a teamwork environment? Be specific.
Frequently-Sought SkillsInterview Questions • Flexibility • Describe a time in which you felt it was necessary to modify or change your actions in order to respond to the needs of another person. • Tell me about a situation where someone was angry at you. How did you handle it? • Describe an environment where you have worked where you had to deal with one crisis after another. How did you handle it? • What is the most frustrating work-related experience you have faced? How did you resolve it? • What do you do when you are being pressed for a decision? • Describe a time when unexpected events demanded that you reschedule your time or rethink your approach. • Give an example of when it was not possible for you to be flexible. • How do you overcome objections to your ideas? Goals?
Frequently-Sought SkillsInterview Questions • Verbal Communication • Describe how have you gathered information and input from others. • What is the toughest communication problem you have faced? • Tell me how you have verbally convinced someone of an approach or an idea. • Tell me about a time you have compromised successfully. • Tell me about any formal presentations or proposals you have made to management or customers? • Give an example of a situation when you could have improved your communication with another person. • Describe a situation in which you were able to effectively “read” another person and guide your actions by your understanding of their individual needs or values. • Describe a situation in which you were able to positively influence the actions of others in a desired direction. • Written Communication • In your current position, what situations are better for written communication? • Describe the most significant written document/report/presentation which you have had to complete.
Frequently-Sought SkillsInterview Questions • Organization and Planning • What did you do in your last job in order to be effective with your organization and planning? Be specific. • Describe a situation when you had to plan a task with critical deadlines. How did you plan to meet the deadlines? What did you do when short-term clashed with long-term goals? • Tell me about a time when your attention to detail paid off by avoiding a costly mistake or capitalizing on an overlooked opportunity. • Manageability • Describe the most effective way your supervisor has given you direction. • Describe a time when you responded well to criticism. Describe a time when you responded poorly to criticism. • What disagreements have you had with your supervisor? • Describe a time when you felt that management had made an emotional rather than logical decision about your work. • What qualities should a successful manager possess? • Give me an example of a specific occasion in which you conformed to or confronted a policy with which you did not agree. • What type of management styles do you work best with?
Frequently-Sought SkillsInterview Questions • Goals, Risks, Creativity • Give me an example of an important goal which you have set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it. • Give an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to complete the job. • Describe the most creative work-related project or solution you’ve developed. • Tell me about a time when you had to do something or make a decision and there was no procedure to do so. • Describe a situation where you took a risk. • Tell me about a time when you took on a project or made changes to an existing procedure before you were asked to. • How does your job relate to the overall goals of the company? • Give an example of where you resisted pressure to do something because you knew it was not right. • Describe a time when you rearranged things to be more effective.
Entry -Level Interview Questions • Educational background • Why did you enroll at this university? • How would you describe your academic achievement? • How did you choose your major? • What college subjects have you enjoyed most? • What school year was most difficult, and why? • What changes would you make in your school? • Describe your most rewarding college experience. • What are your plans for future education? • What extracurricular activities did you enjoy? • How do you think college contributed to your overall developments? • Do you think college grades should be considered by first employers? • How do I know your capabilities? • What have you learned from your mistakes in school? • Work history • How would you describe the ideal job for you? • What kind of work interests you most? • Explain your understanding of this job’s responsibilities. • Do you feel you still have anything to learn after all your years of academic study? • Which summer job did you enjoy most? • With how many levels of management did you interact? • What was the job’s biggest challenge? • Tell me about a responsibility you have enjoyed. • What has been your least valuable work experience? • How would your references describe you?
Clerical Interview Questions • Describe a typical work day. • What skills can you bring to this position, other than the ones required in the job description? • What accomplishments are you most proud of? • What aspects of your position give you most enjoyment? • What aspects of your position cause you the most problems? • What software packages are you familiar with? • What activities do you use the packages for? • How many people do you support? • How many supervisors have you had at one time? • Describe a situation where the needs of your supervisors conflicted. What did you do? • How do you prioritize your work (or day)? • Describe your experience with general office skills (e.g., copying, faxing, multi-phone lines, supplies, etc.).