The best and worst interview questions

The Art of Interviewing

Interviewing is the most important part of the employee selection process. You want to ask questions that let you know if candidates can do the job, how they function under pressure, and how well they will fit in with your team. We asked Ask Inc. users and HR experts to share what questions to ask and which ones to avoid.

Do Ask: “What’s something you’re passionate about?”

This is an excellent question that has a tendency to catch people a little off guard. If the candidate answers timidly or unenthusiastically, run. If the person is able to effectively communicate what he is interested in and makes you interested, chances are he is a smart and passionate person – the type you’re looking for.

Do Not Ask: “Are your parents healthy?”

“Questions that may elicit information about the health, national origin and whereabouts of parents or children are prohibited in order to avoid any possibility of discrimination or bias on the basis of real or perceived disabilities, possible caregiver requirements, and national origin,” says George Moskowitz, an independent consultant with Human Capital Solutions and acting head of human resources for Argyle Executive Forum in New York City.

Do Ask: “What weakness has most impacted your ability to succeed at your career?”

Why wait until their one-year anniversary with the company before you have candidates perform a self-evaluation? Often, what potential employees think of their own abilities is what will be reflected in their work performance to some degree. Chronically tardy employees are usually bad at meeting deadlines. The good news is that they’re already aware of the problem. The goal is to make you aware and to implement a system to curb their detrimental habits if they are, in fact, worth hiring despite their shortcomings.

Do Not Say: “I’ll bet you’re a

good dancer.”

While your applicant may very well be a great dancer, if she doesn’t offer that information herself, you’ve just committed an egregious HR error – stereotyping a candidate based on physical or implied characteristics. Ask questions based on explicit feedback from the candidate. Don’t stretch or try to be witty – this is the candidate’s interview, remember? You’ve already got the job.

Do Ask: “Do you volunteer within the community?”

Extracurricular activities can reveal volumes about a candidate. Certain jobs, such as volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, can allude to traits such as physical strength, the ability to work alone, and, in the case of fundraising, exhibit trustworthiness with money. “However, you must be careful not to specifically ask what organizations (except professional) the applicant may belong to,” says Moskowitz. Asking a direct question could potentially reveal information about national origin or religious affiliations. “The interviewer should not comment on the organization or ask the applicant what his/her relationship is to the organization, but rather the service that is being performed and what the applicant is getting out of it.”

Do Not Ask: “Do you think you can keep up with these younger whipper snappers?”

Allegations of age discrimination are on the rise, especially as the growing pool of laid-off employees continues to compete with the influx of recent college graduates. Judge candidates based on their proven abilities and track record, verifying their claims with past employers if necessary. Above all, do not ask a candidate to state his age during an interview. That line of questioning is legally prohibited.

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The best and worst interview questions