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Conducting a job interview, best practices

Conducting a job interview, best practices

Good interviewing doesn’t always lead to a good hire, but observing sound practices can get you a lot closer to finding the best fit for the job. Good interviewing is about asking the right questions to determine the best candidate, but it’s a two-way street that’s also about presentation of your company culture. Of course, it’s also about observing anti-discrimination laws.

Plan the Interview

In interviewing candidates, you should keep three goals in mind:

  • Assess the applicant
  • Accurately describe the job expectations and working environment.
  • Create a positive impression of the company, whether the applicant is hired or not.

Satisfying these goals takes interpersonal skills to make the candidate comfortable and obtain honest answers.

It also requires preparation so that the interview covers job requirements and some character background without violating privacy or discrimination laws. Interviewers must also avoid making promises of employment, wages, or benefits until the decision to hire has been made.

Objectivity is also essential to avoid rating candidates based on assumptions about appearance, speech, or personality traits. Even if these are distasteful to the interviewer, they won’t necessarily affect job performance if they can be adjudged reasonable, or within norms.

It’s also important to keep good records to allow candidate comparisons, answer questions from potential managers, or maintain a candidate pool in case the candidate is rejected, but more suitable opportunities open up. It is always a good idea to keep records of the actual questions asked should the applicant claim they were treated unfairly.

Structured or Unstructured

Interviews typically can be one of two major categories:

Structured interviews follow a planned agenda. The interviewer knows in advance what questions they will ask and notes the response to each. Asking all candidates the same questions provides a common ground for comparison. Sometimes the interview may be formal and orderly, or at times relaxed and more conversational, depending on personal style. Structured interviews are generally organized to gather the information needed to make the hiring decision and no more.

Unstructured interviews don’t follow an orderly plan. Often, the applicant is allowed to state their case and set the tone of the interview while the interviewer makes notes or provides topics as well as direct questions. Often applicant responses will require further clarification or explanation. This type of interview is more often used to judge character and conduct. However, it makes it more difficult to compare candidates.

Both types of interview are often used in the course of the hiring process. Either or both types of interview have the same objectives:

  • Determine character
  • Verify qualifications
  • Clarify experience
  • Reveal inconsistencies or omissions

Job Demands

In preparing interview guidelines for each staff role, employers should base their questions on establishing the qualifications that best satisfy the job decryption and prepare the employee for conditions they might encounter in the workplace.

Job qualifications are usually covered in a resume or profile but would include:

  • Education
  • Work experience
  • Technical skills
  • Analytical skills or problem solving
  • Additional training

Personal skills are more complex and difficult to measure, but should cover

  • Communication
  • Motivation
  • Career goals
  • Character
  • Job vs personal loyalties
  • Dependability
  • Ability to cope under pressure

Identifying a good fit with company culture is also important to build good working relationships. Interviewers should explore:

  • Ability to work independently or as part of a team
  • Independence and creativity
  • Social behavior
  • Personal style
  • Attitudes toward rules, authority, and command chains.

Employers should craft their questions to get clear answers regarding all the traits above. While a prepared list of questions can comprise a standardized interview, employers should make note of any points of interest on an applicant’s resume or prior interviews, and tailor their interview questions to explore them further.

Best Practices Dos and Don’ts

Interview best practices require building interviews around these elements:

  • Define job requirements for each position, including expected training, education, or physical demands.
  • Follow diversity hiring and non-discrimination
  • Prioritize essential and desirable qualifications; don’t bother interviewing anyone who doesn’t meet the minimum for essential qualities.
  • Every candidate should undergo the same interview process.
  • Avoid personal questions that may be deemed inappropriate or invasive.
  • Multiple interviewers, preferably of different demographics.
  • State on applications how long they will be kept on file.
  • File all interview notes along with the application.
  • Allow interviewees to answer questions in full to bet a better understanding of their personalities.
  • Any background checks or drug testing policies as a condition or hiring should be stated on the application or in the interview.


Certain topics cannot be discussed in order to avoid perceptions of discriminatory practices and possible lawsuits. However, there are possible exception where it is directly related to the ability to perform the job.


You can’t ask a person’s country of origin, but only whether they are legally entitled to work in the US.


It’s illegal to ask about religious beliefs, but it’s okay to ask if the candidate can work a certain schedule (which may violate religious holidays).


You can’t ask for a person’s birth date, and may only insist that candidates meet minimum state requirements, such as being at least 18 years of age.

Marital Status:

This is not an acceptable line of inquiry, if having a spouse already employed with the company is a violation of hiring policies, it should be made clear.

Gender or Sexual Orientation: It is not legal to ask questions or make hiring decisions based on sexuality.


It’s not acceptable to ask questions about a person’s disabilities; however if there are certain requirements for the job role, such as the ability to lift 50-pound boxes, these requirements should be communicated to the applicant.

Interview processes should be constantly reviewed to ensure questions are relevant and non-discriminatory. Best practices may vary from one job role to the next to ensure the best candidates are being presented. While there are many interview formats a company could use, those which produce the most reliable results in the least amount of time are ideal.