Hiring: How to ask questions without asking for trouble
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Hiring: How to ask questions without asking for trouble

“Let’s see, if you were born in 1953, that makes you, what, 59?”

“I guess I should offer you congratulations. It looks like you’re going to be a mother soon, right?”

“It must be tough getting around with that bad leg. Tell me, how do you manage?”

Any manager worth his or her salt probably knows not to ask these kinds of questions in a hiring interview. They’re obvious invitations for a rejected candidate to scream “discrimination” afterward.

But the problem 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 unsuitable candidates who will give nothing but trouble?

No. There’s no need to be so timid; not if you know the right approach to interview questions.

One key: Focus on the job, not the person. That means putting specific requirements in the job description, then asking the candidate to show how he or she meets these requirements.

Example: If you’re hiring a social media marketing manager, you can’t ask about or comment on the fact that a candidate is 50 years old. You can’t afford to assume this person is less qualified than, say, a 25-year-old just because of 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.

To find out more about this approach, I invite you to check out one of our Quick Takes, entitled “How to Avoid Hiring Lawsuits: The Bias-Free Questioning Model.”

You’ll also learn:

  • How role-playing can help you uncover a candidate’s abilities without asking questions that could come back to haunt you
  • What to ask – and what to NEVER ask – when a candidate is foreign-born
  • How to react if a female candidate volunteers that she has small children
  • And lots of other techniques for avoiding the many legal pitfalls a job interview presents

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