What’s the biggest risk hiring managers run when interviewing job candidates? Is it:

  • Not recognizing a qualified person?
  • Getting too picky?
  • Failing to ask the right questions?

Actually, it’s none of the above. The biggest risk by FAR is asking the kinds of questions that will provoke applicants to sue you for discrimination.

Questions like these:

  • “So when did you finish college? I had a friend at the same school who graduated in 1980.”
  • “It must be exciting to be expecting a baby. Is it your first?”
  • “I guess it’s tough getting around in your wheelchair. How do you manage?”

Sure, these are extreme examples, and you’d hope your hiring managers would know not to ask such questions.

But the fact is, hiring managers DO need to ask a lot of probing questions during applicant interviews. And sometimes the line they must not cross isn’t so obvious.

So what do you, and your hiring managers, do? Back off the questions you need to ask, and risk hiring people who won’t be right for the job? Of course not.

You CAN ask probing questions, but you need to keep this key concept in mind while doing so: Focus on the job, not the person. Focusing on the job means putting specific requirements in the job description, then asking the candidate to show how he or she meets these requirements.

Example: Let’s say you’re hiring a social media marketing manager, and you’re interviewing a 50-year-old candidate. You can’t assume this person is less qualified than, say, a 25-year-old. And so you can’t ask questions that focus on the person’s age. But if you put in your recruiting ad and job description that you need a “social media junkie,” you can ask the candidate to prove that he or she is one.

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