The interview is the gateway to true professional development and diversity and inclusion. They lead to jobs, which allow young, minority professionals to blossom into tomorrow’s leaders. An interview is a professional’s first opportunity to grow. But for an interview to go well, both parties need to stay sharp. If either party slips up, the interview could end in disaster.
Sitting In the Driver’s Seat: What to Remember as the Interviewer
While it’s important to assess whether a candidate may be a good cultural fit within your organization, you must ensure your questions are legal and appropriate. Directly asking about age, race, religion, ethnicity, disability, family status — it’s all off the table. But so is indirectly asking about any of these topics.
Interviewer Questions to Avoid
Small talk can break the ice, but seemingly harmless questions could land you in court with an EEOC lawsuit. A few examples:
1. Do you have children? A candidate you’ve turned away could argue you discriminated against them because of familial obligations.
2. Where’s your family from? Once again, if you ask interviewees about their cultural heritage, you could find yourself in trouble.
3. When’s your birthday? Even if you’re wondering if you share birth month, the candidate may give you the year itself, and you could consequently fall into an age discrimination lawsuit.
Great Interviewer Questions
Your interview questions should focus on the individual’s skills and experience — not on the individual’s lifestyle.
1. What can you bring to this position, and how can your skills help this organization? In addition to learning how candidates perceive themselves, you’ll also get a good feel for how much they know about your company.
2. What’s the first thing you’d do in this role if hired? This will give you a good feel for how the candidate structures work and if their perceived priorities align with current needs. Do they ask for direction, or are they a self-starter?
3. Why are you leaving your current employer, and what do you think is different about this company? Once again, you’re getting two for the price of one. You’ll understand the candidate’s motives and gain insight as to how they handle work relationships.
Along for the Ride: Navigating as a Passenger
As an interviewee, there is lesser risk or liability you’ll likely face, although there are questions you should avoid to increase your chances of success.
Interviewee Questions to Avoid
1. Questions starting with “Why?” Research shows it typically comes across as confrontational — a major red flag when you’re trying to impress.
2. What are the position’s salary and benefits? You might be itching to know, but many recommend not initiating this discussion until an offer has been extended. However, if the interviewer brings it up, it’s OK to discuss and share your expectations.
3. Do you monitor employees’ social media profiles? Asking this makes it sound like you have something to hide, even if you don’t. As a rule, you should avoid saying anything negative about employers or customers while maintaining a professional demeanor on social media.
Great Interviewee Questions
As a prospective employee, the best thing you can do (besides being an expert in your field) is demonstrate interest and engagement in the organization. You are, after all, assessing whether this position and company are right for you. Questions to consider asking:
1. How has the company recognized good performance in the past? This gives you insight into how the company defines success — and suggests you’re aiming to succeed in the position.
2. What learning and development opportunities does the company offer? This shows you whether or not the company is willing to invest in its talent — which may give you insight into potential opportunities you’ll have for growth.
3. What would you expect from a new hire in the first 90 days? This will help you gauge expectations if you successfully get the position.
Advice for Moving Forward
There’s much to keep in mind for an interview, so do your homework before going in. Knowing exactly what’s off the table will help you build a stronger professional connection — and that will help you perform better regardless of whether you’re the interviewer or the interviewee.