A Guide for Employers
Ultimate Guide to Conducting Interviews
What You'll Learn
- How to prepare for the interview, from start to finish
- How to ask questions that will reveal the best candidates
- Which questions should never be asked in an interview
- How to accommodate candidates with special needs
- What you need to ask candidates’ references
Conducting smart and effective interviews isn’t just about maximizing your company’s time or finding the right person for the role – though those are clear benefits of an interview process done well. Conducting great interviews is also important to your employer brand. By tweaking and perfecting your interview process – so that you come to the interview prepared, ask the best questions, and keep candidates informed every step of the way – you can ensure that candidates have a positive experience, and establish your company as a desirable brand for which to work.
This guide will help you navigate the interview process from start to finish, helping you prepare for any interview – including remote interviews – craft the right questions for every kind of candidate and role, steer clear of legal mishaps, and help you hire the best possible candidate.
Everything You Need to Prepare for an Interview
Taking time to prepare for an interview ensures the highest quality candidate eventually receives – and accepts – an offer. (Plus, it makes the process more seamless for you!)
Here are the steps you should take before every interview:
Organize the Process
Your interview process is part of your employer brand. Candidates who research companies on Glassdoor have the opportunity to look at interview reviews as they prepare for an interview with your company – and 52% of employees/job seekers say company ratings and reviews from employees is among the most helpful information when deciding if a job opportunity or company is a good fit for them1.
Getting organized about your interview process will not only show candidates that you respect their time, it will make your hiring decisions easier. Here’s how to keep interviews organized:
- Create an evaluation flow map for each position. Steps may include:
- Initial phone/video screen
- Phone/video screen
- Test or assignment
- The first round of interviews
- The second round of interviews
- Team presentation
- Identify interviewers and assign topics based on interviewer role or evaluative strength.
- Implement standardized feedback mechanisms through scorecards or questionnaires.
- Schedule post-interview debriefs if appropriate.
Prepare a Prep List
Make sure your interviewers tell a consistent story about your company and are well-informed about both the candidate and position by providing them with the following information:
- Company mission statement
- Key company dates and metrics (i.e., year founded, the total number of employees, etc.)
- Recent acquisitions or major partnerships (if applicable)
- Benefits: vacation, health insurance, and perks
- Company’s Glassdoor profile, CEO approval rating, and reviews
- Mission and function of department or team
- Title and responsibilities (including the job description)
- Reporting structure
- Cross-functional team members
- Future initiatives of department or team
- Career-growth opportunities
- Potential start date of the position
- Salary range (if appropriate for interviewer)
Create a Pre-Interview Checklist
A few days before in-person interviews, review this Pre-Interview Checklist to prevent any last-minute mishaps. (And give this checklist to anyone on your team conducting an interview, too.)
- Re-read the job description and candidate’s resume.
- Write down questions to ask the candidate.
- Double check room availability and technical support.
- Check Glassdoor for any recent reviews of your company – particularly for reviews in the department or role for which the candidate is interviewing.
- Make sure every interviewer has:
- The job description.
- A copy of the candidate’s resume.
- Correct interview time and location.
- Information about who the candidate will report to and work with.
- Instructions on interview direction or topic (if decided upon in advance).
- Basic company info.
- Information on next steps.
Going Remote: How to Conduct an Interview Online
Remote interviewing is a required skill for hiring managers and recruiters, with polls showing that as many as 86% of organizations conduct virtual interviews to screen and hire new talent.
But while some in-person recruiting skills naturally carry over to on-screen interviews – such as making conversation, asking insightful questions, and following up with references – remote interviews present a unique set of challenges that must be addressed. But recruiters and hiring managers can learn to establish rapport, and carefully (and fairly) evaluate candidates remotely.
Here’s how to conduct successful and time-saving remote interviews:
1. Prepare everything you possibly can in advance.
Preparation has always been a key factor in successful interviews, but it’s even more important to prepare when interviewing candidates remotely. Ahead on an interview, be sure to:
- Conduct a technology test: Log on to the virtual platform you’ll use for the interview to test the software and confirm the candidate’s access to the platform.
- Let each remote-interview participant know who will be joining, as well as what pertinent talking points will be discussed.
- Review the job description and ensure everyone attending has accurate information about who the candidate will report to and what the main job responsibilities will be.
- Review the candidate’s resume and make a note of any questions you plan to ask.
- Compile a list of interview questions and give them to the interview panel to finalize.
- Let attendees know what the next steps will be after the interview is concluded, such as when and how they should provide input, scheduling additional discussion time, etc.
Ask a colleague to participate in a mock interview with you so that you can test the interview platform when the stakes are low.
2. Get laser-focused about what you’re looking for.
By necessity, the traditional interviewing process includes informal interaction with a candidate. Remote interviewing removes almost all of those touchpoints, and puts more pressure on every interaction. You can use your time effectively by getting clear about what you want before you meet.
- Send a detailed schedule to the candidate and interviewers to make sure you’ll stay on topic and use your time effectively; include breaks for interviews longer than 60 minutes.
- Coordinate with interviewers to make sure that important questions are prepared ahead of time, possibly assigning specific competencies for each interviewer to dig deeper into.
- Identify the hard and soft skills, attributes, and competencies that are most important for the position – then double-check that your interview questions address them all.
3. When in doubt, over-communicate.
The faceless, digital nature of remote interviewing leaves a lot of room for miscommunication – but you aren’t destined to make mistakes. The best way to eliminate blunders and alleviate stress is to keep the candidate as informed as possible throughout the entire interview process, and to over-communicate as they advance. When candidates know what’s coming next, they feel respected and valued, and are likely to come away with a positive impression of your company.
Prior to the remote interview, make sure your candidates know:
- Approximate timeline for the hiring process
- Any potential factors that could delay that timeline
- Names and roles of the interview participants
- Anticipated response time after the interview is conducted
During the interview, be expressive. It’s much more difficult to pick up on body language when video conferencing, but some things are obvious: Look directly into the camera to maintain eye contact, and sit up straight to let the candidate know you are listening and engaged.
Don’t make candidates guess what you’re thinking. Laugh, smile – have fun and show enthusiasm!
And lastly, don’t leave candidates hanging. Before concluding the interview, let them know the expected response time, then follow through and get back to them within the stated time frame.
How to Craft the Best Interview Questions
Conducting a good interview is an art form. Within a relatively short period of time, you need to gather enough information to determine whether a candidate is the best fit for a given position – and with so many interview preparation resources available online, it’s very easy for candidates to come over-prepared with canned responses to those all-too-common interview questions.
To get a better understanding of the candidate’s skills, experience, conversational and problem-solving skills, and more, you’ll have to go beyond the expected and ask questions that will allow you to judge their suitability for the role. Here is how you can craft the best interview questions.
1. Know what you’re looking for.
To determine a candidate’s suitability for the job, you have to identify the specific qualities and skills needed for the role. So, first, make a comprehensive list of the qualities you can assess through interview questions. Determine which of these qualities are most important to the role, and prepare a list of questions that elicit responses that illustrate the most pertinent qualities.
For example, asking how a candidate engaged with customers in a previous role is essential for a position that requires engaging with customers. But if a candidate is applying for a non-related role, you won’t get the answers you need by asking about their customer service experience.
2. Ask questions about problem-solving.
No matter the type of business or role within that business, one thing is certain: problems will arise. Whether a significant issue or a minor situation, problems provide opportunities for improvement – and a company will benefit from employees who can rise to the occasion. In an interview, be sure to ask open-ended questions so the candidate can describe their approach to identifying problems, assessing the situation, and coming up with solutions. (We’ve provided you with a list of questions below that will help craft the perfect problem-solving questions.)
3. Assess the candidate’s ability to learn and adapt.
Change is inevitable, and all roles evolve over time. Employees that can adapt to change can ultimately help companies grow by avoiding higher turnover in the future. It’s possible to screen for adaptability and a learning mindset by asking interview questions around topics such as:
- Times they’ve taken on new tasks, assignments, and ideas
- Experiences with learning new tools, technology, and processes
- Examples of managing unpredictable situations and adapts to changing circumstances
4. Ask behavior-based questions.
Interview questions that reveal a candidate's emotional intelligence can help you identify people with high levels of self-awareness, situational awareness, and the ability to respond appropriately in the workplace. Behavioral and situational interview questions will allow you to capture a sense of the candidate’s self-awareness – and we’ve given you several types you can ask below!
5. Be willing to adapt and change your questions.
If interviewing is an art, hiring managers and recruiters are always perfecting it. Even the most seasoned interviewers must constantly assess and reinvent the common interview questions they use to select the best candidate. While these tips provide a sound framework to work from, you’ll also want to adjust your interview questions by the role, candidate, situation, and industry.
Every Interview Question You Need to Ask
There are hundreds of questions you could ask job candidates during an interview. Choosing the best questions, however, is imperative to an interview’s success. From behavioral questions to tough questions to fun questions, here is everything you’ll need to ask to find the best candidate.
Questions to Ask When You’re Strapped for Time
When you’re trying to fill a role, you don’t always get as much time as you’d like to find and vet prospective hires. Instead of a warm and unhurried half-hour conversation, sometimes you’ll need to find out if an applicant is a good fit with five interview questions – or even less.
If you’re strapped for time – or simply want to weed out less qualified candidates quickly – you’ll want to ask strategic questions to help you find the best candidates as fast as possible.
Here are five questions to ask when you need to find the best candidates, fast:
- What’s your availability for this job?
- What attracts you most about this position?
- What was the best thing about your last job?
- What was the worst thing about your former job?
- How would you solve this problem?
Behavioral interview questions seek to predict a candidate’s suitability for a role based on their behavior in past jobs. By finding out more about how a candidate behaved in similar situations in the past, employers have a way to predict how they will perform in the future. Behavioral interview questions can help you uncover a candidate’s approach to problems, conflict and stress – and they can also help to illuminate values that are important to your company’s culture.
Behavioral-based interview questions rarely come in the form of questions. Instead, they are usually statements that guide candidates into sharing a situation from their past experience.
Here are 17 behavioral interview questions you may want to ask:
- Tell me about a time when you had limited resources and finished a project despite them.
- Describe the most challenging work problem you faced in your last job.
- Tell me about a time when you had to adjust to a colleague’s working style.
- Describe a situation where you’ve had to deliver bad news to a customer.
- Tell me about a time when you went out of your way to satisfy a customer.
- Tell me about a time when you had to get someone else to see things your way.
- Describe a time when you resolved a conflict with a colleague in your past role.
- Describe a time when you had to delegate work to others.
- Explain how you kept your work organized in your last role.
- Tell me about a time when you had competing deadlines and how you managed them.
- Describe a time when you had to learn a new process or skill.
- Tell me how you set goals and monitored progress in your last position.
- What did you do in your last role if you thought you might fall short of hitting a goal?
- Describe a situation in which you exceeded requirements.
- Tell me about a time you were assigned a goal, and did not reach it.
- Describe a time when you had to train someone.
- Tell me about a time you had a poorly performing team member.
Situational interview questions are similar to behavioral interview questions – but unlike behavioral questions, situational questions probe the candidate on how they would respond to a hypothetical scenario in the future, and force the candidate to go off-script and think critically.
Situational questions can help you determine a candidate’s temperament – for example, if they are understanding and compassionate – and how they would handle potential conflict. These types of questions can help you uncover whether a candidate is flexible, honest, and accepting of feedback, and if they are willing to compromise, accept mistakes, and work through conflict.
Here are eight situational questions you may want to ask:
- How would you handle it if your team resisted a new idea you introduced?
- What would you do if your employee wasn’t meeting your expectations?
- What would you do if you were assigned to work closely with a colleague on a project, but you two didn’t see eye-to-eye on how to execute the assignment?
- What would you do if you were almost finished with a project and its goals changed?
- How would you handle an instance of receiving criticism from a superior?
- What would you do if you were almost finished with a project on a tight deadline, but you realized that you had made a mistake – and now, you have to start over?
- How would you handle it if you were unsatisfied by an aspect of your job?
- How would you approach a new product launch?
The nuance of interviewing candidates extends well beyond their skills and abilities into areas of candidate maturity level, culture fit, and self-awareness to assess overall candidate quality. These questions – quality-control questions – can reveal a higher level of preparation, and allow you to learn something very interesting and real about a candidate that might otherwise not come up.
Quality-control questions also help you determine how deeply knowledgeable a candidate may be; see how closely aligned the candidate is with the duties and responsibilities of the position; and how they would ultimately mesh with your team. In other words, asking quality control questions will help you whittle down the best candidates for the role you’re looking to fill.
Here are 15 quality-control questions you may want to ask:
- Tell me something about yourself that others may be surprised to know about you.
- If there were something in your past you were able to go back and do differently, what would that be?
- Tell me about a time you had a difficult working relationship with a colleague. What was the challenge?
- Tell me a war story about developing a skill.
- Tell me your biggest success story related to a [that] skill.
- Tell me your biggest failure related to [that] skill.
- What is your ideal position and why?
- What is a development area that you're had to overcome to improve in your career?
- What are two of the most satisfying accomplishments in your career?
- Describe your favorite supervisor and your least favorite supervisor – and why.
- Describe work you've accomplished that best compares to what needs to be done.
- How did you end up in your current role?
- What challenges do you see impacting the industry?
- What interests you most about this position?
- Do you have any questions for me?
Tough Interview Questions
Often dreaded by candidates, tough questions can also be the most enlightening. Not only can they help disarm candidates but they can also indicate how well candidates deal with unexpected situations. These questions can indicate problem-solving ability, creativity, and cultural fit.
Here are nine tough questions you may want to ask:
- How would you sell hot cocoa in Florida?
- If you had $2,000, how would you double it in 24 hours?
- How many basketballs would fit in this room?
- When a hot dog expands, in which direction does it split and why?
- Would you rather fight 1 horse sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?
- What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer?
- If you were a brand, what would be your motto?
- What would the name of your debut album be?
- If I gave you $40,000 to start a business, what would you start?
Fun and Oddball Interview Questions
Interviewing and recruiting can not only be time consuming – it can be downright exhausting. From sourcing candidates to completing screening phone calls, reviewing resumes and executing multi-stage interview processes, hiring can be a heavy lift. However, getting to know candidates and potential colleagues can also be very fun – if you're asking the right (fun) questions, that is.
But asking fun questions isn’t just, well, fun. Asking unorthodox interview questions is a way to illuminate a candidate’s experience and see how well they’d deal with unexpected situations. Plus, it allows you both to show off your personalities and get to know each other a little better.
Here are 10 fun questions you might want to ask:
- What’s your spirit animal?
- What would you do if you found an elephant in your backyard?
- What would you name this painting [on a wall] and why?
- If you were a movie character, who would you be and why?
- What would you want your title to be when you retire?
- Tell me about a time you lied and got away with it?
- If you don’t get this job, what's your backup plan?
- If you were a flower, what kind would you be and why?
- Tell me about the most fun job you ever had.
- If you were the CEO, what are the first three things you would check in the morning?
What Not to Ask: Illegal Interview Questions
Federal and state laws protect employees from discrimination by age, race, gender, national origin, citizenship, disabilities, marital status, sexual orientation, arrest and conviction record, military discharge status and pregnancy status. And hiring managers and recruiters can run afoul of these laws – even unintentionally – by asking questions that could lead to discrimination.
Here are 19 illegal interview questions you should never ask a candidate:
- How old are you?
- When did you graduate?
- Are you married?
- Are you gay?
- Do you have/plan on having children?
- Who will take care of your children while you’re at work?
- Is English your first language?
- Are you a U.S. citizen?
- What country are you from?
- Where were you/your parents born?
- What is your religion?
- Where do you go to church?
- What clubs or social organizations do you belong to?
- Do you have any disabilities?
- How is your health?
- How tall are you?
- How much do you weigh?
- Have you ever been arrested?
- If you’ve been in the military, were you honorably discharged?
Please note: This list is not intended to be complete or constitute legal advice. If you have questions about the legality of interview questions, please consult your organization’s attorney.
If you’re not sure a question is legal, don’t ask it. You can always check with your legal team and come back to it later.
How to Interview an Intern or Recent College Grad
Employers and recruiters must assess how they can best leverage new talent, including interns and recent college graduates. And asking the right interview questions is integral to the process of unearthing suitable candidates for specific roles and companies, and to ensure culture fit.
Here are six questions you should ask interns or recent college graduates in an interview:
1. Describe how you navigated uncertainty in a project that you played a key role in.
This is a question that tests a candidate’s storytelling and gets to the heart of critical thinking. A great candidate will be able to offer a succinct, meaningful answer – and you will be able to understand how they evaluated uncertainty and developed a successful, responsive action plan.
2. How would people you work with describe your attitude and mindset?
One employee’s attitude can have the power to elevate or deflate the workplace climate around them. This question strives to illuminate a candidate’s frame of mind. Asking it this way can help ensure you receive an honest answer, and help you evaluate how they would mix with your team.
3. Highlight a situation in which you put others or the goal above your own interests.
Working together collaboratively and putting organizational goals over individual ambitions is imperative in today’s workplace. And while the words sound good, putting them into action is another story. This question allows candidates to demonstrate their values while highlighting how they focus on the organization’s purpose and mission above their own self-interests.
4. Tell me about one of the most successful group projects that you did in school. What role did you play? Did you learn anything from the experience?
When you hire someone, you want to make sure they can work collaboratively with others. And while interns and recent college graduates may not have experience working on corporate teams, this question still allows them to demonstrate how they well work with others.
5. Tell me about a project in school that was one that you were particularly proud of. What made you proud of that work?
Understanding what motivates an employee can be useful in many ways, including determining if the role for which you are interviewing will satisfy the candidate's motivations. This two-part question helps to get at the root of a candidate’s motivation and growth mindset.
6. If you had no restrictions or constraints, how would you spend your time?
Gauging true motivation can be tricky in the interview setting. This question allows candidates to describe something they are passionate about and motivated to do on their own – and it helps you to see how their skills and passion could fit as a long-term talent within your organization.
How to Interview for a Managerial Role
Interviewing a potential manager is different from questioning a recent grad. A manager will be supervising, mentoring, guiding, shaping and evaluating employees. Plus, they have a finger on the pulse of culture – if they’re doing their job well – and a vision towards the future. What’s more, bottom line accountability can roll up to them. A manger’s role is an important one to fill.
These 14 questions can help identify characteristics, traits, information, knowledge and behavior patterns that will help you determine whether candidates are a fit for your company’s goals.
1. How would you describe the culture in your department/division/business unit? Why?
The manager’s reflectiveness (or lack thereof) in responding to this question will indicate to you whether they are indeed in touch with the idea of building a great culture or have been so busy in the weeds of the day-to-day that culture hasn’t been a priority.
2. How would your employees describe the culture in your department/division/business unit? Why?
If the candidate is stumped or slow to respond to this question, it could be because they haven’t given this topic much thought. However, if they are quick to reveal – with enthusiasm – that their team members would, for example, espouse a positive, empowered culture where they are safe to express opinions and take calculated risks, then it’s likely that you’re interviewing someone who understands the importance of shaping a meaningful, employee-centered culture.
3. What was one of the most difficult-to-achieve, but gratifying milestones in your career?
The answer to this question will help determine what motivates the candidate in their career, and what gives them a sense of growth and satisfaction. This will help you assess whether they will sustain satisfaction in the particular environment for which you are assessing them.
4. What would your highest performing employee say about you? And what would your most struggling employee say about you?
In this question, there is fertile opportunity to unearth how in-touch the candidate is with their employees’ development, successes, opportunities to improve, and more. Plus, it provides insight into their mentoring and coaching skills, as well as their ability to express and feel empathy.
5. Tell me about a time when you had a major objective to achieve under a tight timeline, lean budget and with fewer people than typically would support the goal? How did you overcome the challenges to achieve the necessary outcome? What were the results?
This question homes in on the core value of a manager – their ability to manage, allocate and leverage resources. It also speaks to their flexibility in handling imperfect scenarios well.
6. In your most recent role, what was your overarching impact? How did you help the company grow, gain market share, increase client base, or improve profitability?
This question ferrets out the candidate’s bottom-line impact, and can be followed with …
7. What are two or three key achievements that led to the overarching impact?
If the candidate can answer these questions not only for their last role but for their last two or three positions, it can help you uncover a theme: Do they consistently make positive contributions at their organizations? Figuring this out will help you understand how they might benefit your own company.
8. Who have you promoted, and why? Do you have a process for mentoring and developing your employees?
This speaks to a candidate’s people management, coaching and mentoring skills, and their ability to respond to their team members’ needs and goals.
9. What was the biggest failure you had in your most recent role, and your prior two to three roles? How did you respond to the situation? What did you learn?
This question will help identify the candidate’s capacity to admit mistakes, as well as how they respond to and learn from them – which is imperative to their long-term success.
10. What was your biggest takeaway from your last three roles? How do those takeaways impact your value proposition going forward? How will they impact [the hiring company]?
Not only will this question provide insight as to specific skills and experiences the candidate has gained along their career journey, but it will also reveal how they are able to connect the dots with their go-forward goals – and specifically, how that will add value to your organization.
11. How would you describe your management style?
This question gets to the heart of the candidate. When they answer, where do they put their focus – on the employees and teams; the company; themselves; or equally divided among the three? Are they hands-on, hands-off, or a mix of the two? Do they want to build a happy place to work?
12. How would your employees describe your management style?
Paired with the question above, asking how employees might view the candidate’s management style will not only illuminate more about their style, but how in-sync they are with employees.
13. Tell me about a time when you achieved a breakthrough result that is not directly quantifiable, but that has had a monumental impact on the company’s goals.
While this is a bit of a brain teaser, the ultimate goal is to unleash the candidate’s creative juices beyond proving their bottom-line value. For example, perhaps your company has ambitions to break out as a more visible force in the community, beyond being a service or widget provider. If the candidate is able to share stories in which they expanded the visibility and presence of a company in a community service way – beyond the bottom line – then they would be showing you how they could fulfill a particular need that you also want to satisfy.
15. What is your favorite technology or digital tool, and why? How has it supported your goals as a manager?
With today’s ever-evolving technology landscape, including artificial intelligence and social media, it is important to assess a potential manager’s touchpoints in these areas.
Why You Should Make Interviews More Difficult
What does the difficulty of a job interview have to do with employee satisfaction? According to a Glassdoor Economic Research study, more difficult job interviews are statistically linked to higher employee satisfaction across six countries examined: U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and France. In fact, in examining more than 150,000 interview and company reviews submitted to Glassdoor by the same person, for the same company, we found that 10% more difficult job interview process is associated with 2.6% higher employee satisfaction later on – and that on a scale of one to five, with five being the most difficult, job candidates prefer an interview that scores a four. In other words, candidates want an interview that’s a little tough.
Candidates who go through a rigorous – but not too rigorous – interview process can perceive that the company places a high value on finding employees who are a good match for both the position and the company culture. By meeting with multiple team members and sharing their skills in a presentation or assignment, candidates get a comprehensive picture of the culture and job, and team members get a sense of the contribution the candidate will make as an employee.
Remember, difficult should mean rigorous – not deflating or confusing. Candidates want to feel as though their experience and intelligence is valued. By developing a well-defined interview process, ensuring prompt response times, and using a selection of the tips we’ve laid out in this guide, you’ll make better hires and prevent “disorganized” from being equated with “difficult.”
Here are four ways to make your interview process more difficult:
1. Employ creative interviewing
- Determine defining factors for cultural and skills fit
- Use behavioral interviewing techniques
2. Administer a test or written assignment
- Determine the objectives of the test or assignment: personality, values, skills, etc.
- Decide how candidates will be moved forward or eliminated based on test results (scoring thresholds, ideal profile, unacceptable answers, etc.)
3. Conduct a panel interview
- Prepare interviewers with job description and resume
- Identify a panel leader
- Assign roles to each interviewer based on job function or expertise
- Solicit feedback via scorecard or post-interview debrief
4. Require a presentation
- Determine objectives for evaluation of presentation with the team
- Be specific about the presentation topic to the candidate
- Suggest ideal template or format for slides or other presentation materials
- Solicit feedback via scorecard or post-panel debrief
How to Conduct Interviews with Persons with Disabilities
Despite many organization’s efforts to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in recruiting and hiring, persons with disabilities still experience a stark disparity when it comes to securing employment: just 19% of persons with a disability were employed in 2019, compared to 66% of persons without a disability, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This is an injustice for persons with disabilities, but it’s also a huge missed opportunity for organizations seeking a competitive edge, considering companies that increase representation of persons with disabilities are shown to see benefits like higher revenue, higher economic profit margins, and additional net income.
If you’re ready to evaluate the way you’re screening candidates to gain access to this largely untapped pool of highly qualified candidates, here are three ways you can prepare to interview candidates with a disability:
1 Understand legal protections for persons with disabilities
Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination in recruitment and hiring, among other aspects of employment. Understanding how this law affects your interview with a candidate with a disability can help you and the candidate feel more comfortable during the interview process.
For example, this law restricts questions that can be asked about an applicant's disability. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the only questions an employer can lawfully ask about a disability relate to:
- Any adjustments required to ensure a fair and equitable interview/selection process
- How the person will perform the inherent requirements of a job
- Any adjustments that may be required to complete the inherent requirements of the job
One way to ensure you’re conducting the interview and asking questions that won’t break this important law is to focus on behavioral interview questions. These questions focus on the core competencies of the position and allow applicants to demonstrate their skills, abilities and performance on the job. It keeps the focus of the conversation on what candidates have done and can do – not what they can’t.
2. Pay attention to your own unspoken expectations
Different cultures can associate certain behaviors and characteristics with desirable performance during an interview. However, some of these behaviors or characteristics are unnecessary to the job and may negatively impact candidates with disabilities.
For example, in many cultures, making eye contact, giving a firm handshake, and smiling while making conversation are interpreted as positive interview behaviors. However, these behaviors may not be possible for persons with disabilities, whether their disabilities are invisible or visible.
To make sure you’re fairly evaluating a candidate with a disability – or to allow for the possibility that you may not always know a candidate has a disability – it’s important to internally acknowledge your unspoken expectations and set them aside to focus on the specific needs of the position they are seeking to fill.
3. Adapt the interview workflow to be more inclusive
Depending on the disability being experienced by the candidate, there’s a lot an interviewer can do to make the process more comfortable and inclusive. And as it turns out, a lot of these practices – clear communication, transparency, and providing information – make the process more comfortable and inclusive for all candidates, not just those with disabilities.
Consider how you can accommodate the different needs of persons with disabilities:
Candidates with hearing disabilities
- If multiple people are conducting the interview, take turns speaking and avoid interrupting other speakers.
- Consider handing out a printed sheet with the names, titles and departments of the people participating in the interview before the interview begins.
- Face the deaf or hard of hearing person directly, on the same level, and in good light whenever possible. Position yourself so that the light is shining on the speaker’s face, not in the eyes of the listener.
- Speak clearly, slowly, and distinctly, but naturally, without shouting or exaggerating mouth movements. Shouting distorts the sound of speech and may make speech reading more difficult.
- Say the person’s name before beginning a conversation. This gives the listener a chance to focus attention and reduces the chance of missing words at the beginning of the conversation.
- Avoid talking too rapidly. Slow down a little, pause between sentences or phrases, and wait to make sure you have been understood before going on.
- Look directly at the candidate when speaking to them: lip reading is a critical communication tool for many people with hearing disabilities. If they cannot read your lips, you limit their ability to communicate effectively. Similarly, try not to cover your mouth or turn away when speaking.
- Most deaf and hard of hearing people have greater difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise. Try to minimize extraneous noise when talking.
- Whenever possible, provide pertinent information in writing, such as directions, schedules, work assignments, etc.
Candidates with vision disabilities
- Clearly identify and name all of the parties who will be participating in the interview.
- Give the candidate a description of the room, including where they are to sit.
- During the initial greeting, ask them if you may shake their hand.
- Since the candidate is unable to read body language, let them know when you need to move locations or end the conversation.
- If the candidate has a guide dog or other service animal, do not talk to or pet the animal.
Candidates with a speech-related disabilities
- Do not pretend to understand if you are having difficulty, and ask for clarification if and when necessary.
- Speak with a normal tone of voice.
- Be patient and wait for the candidate’s entire response – do not attempt to complete the person’s thoughts for them.
Candidates with a physical disabilities
- Ensure the interview location is accessible, keeping in mind any potential obstacles such as stairs, curbs, or steep hills.
- A wheelchair is part of the candidate’s personal space, so take care to treat it as such and refrain from touching it without permission.
- Be aware that some wheelchair users may prefer to transfer themselves out of their wheelchairs for the duration of the interview, such as into an office chair.
- Make sure persons using canes or crutches are able to keep them within easy reach.
Don’t overlook qualified candidates by inadvertently making the interview process more difficult for persons with disabilities. Instead, use these tips to make sure you’re giving candidates the most inclusive, focused and successful interview experience possible.
How to Conduct Interviews with Neurodiverse Candidates
It’s well-known that a diverse workforce made up of a wide range of talents, perspectives and thought processes provides companies with a competitive edge. And as organizations embrace the role of diversity, equity and inclusion in the hiring process, one form of diversity is gaining a lot of attention: neurodiversity.
Neurodiversity takes into account the different but valid ways that the human brain works, such as in the case of candidates with autism, dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, and more. Successful companies are actively reforming their hiring processes to welcome neurodiverse candidates, resulting in gains in productivity, quality, innovation and engagement. Others have established neurodiversity recruitment programs to source and support this kind of talent.
However, neurodiverse candidates still face certain barriers to employment. Conventional recruitment and hiring practices can negatively impact candidates with autism and other neurocognitive disabilities. In particular, the standard job interview format poses several challenges. For example, people with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome may struggle with understanding social cues and miss nonverbal communication. The majority of neurodiverse adults are unemployed or underemployed, with less than half of autistic adults employed. And of those, many are only working part-time.
As more companies recognize the value of including neurodiverse individuals in their organizations, competition for this talent will rise. Here are a few considerations recruiting and hiring teams will want to review to ensure qualified job seekers are not inadvertently filtered out or passed over due to a candidate’s neurodiversity:
Consider the environment.
Noisy, distracting settings can be uncomfortable for those with sensory processing issues. So, choose a quiet location without clutter, harsh lighting, or strong odors for the interview. And forgo conducting interviews during a meal; managing the etiquette of dining can be a significant distraction for candidates with autism.
Avoid large groups.
Neurodiverse candidates may find elements of social interaction challenging, particularly in a larger group setting. If your interview process includes several stakeholders, consider scheduling sequential interviews, rather than conducting a panel interview. This way, neurodiverse candidates can be interviewed by different parties without becoming overwhelmed.
Asking direct questions will be more successful, as people with autism respond well to questions related to things they have actually experienced, rather than situations that may not appear to relate to the job responsibilities. Using closed questions that focus on the candidate’s actual experiences and tangible processes will be more successful than open-ended or vague questions.
Limit hypothetical or abstract questions.
To minimize confusion, avoid asking vague or potentially misleading questions, as well as questions that ask the candidate to address what other people may do or think. Using questions that begin with “describe a time when you…” can help elicit an appropriate response. A neurodiverse candidate may interpret your word choice literally, so avoid the use of potentially confusing language such as idioms, metaphors or hyperbole.
Focus on skills.
Instead of a more traditional interview format, many companies reporting success with interviewing and hiring neurodiverse employees are using skills-based methods, such as cognitive assessments or work trials, which provide the benefit of focusing on the applicant’s ability to perform the specific tasks required in a particular role. Additionally, reviewing past work samples when possible may be a good way to evaluate a candidate’s skills.
Check your social expectations.
Typical interviews often end up acting as a test of social competence rather than a means to measure a candidate’s ability to perform specific tasks. But candidates with neurodiversity may not be able to follow social norms carefully, and some candidates may have trouble making eye contact, be prone to fidgeting, or exhibit physical tics. Unless the position requires social cues, avoid letting small social missteps impact your decision making.
Neurodiverse candidates may take longer to consider how to answer questions, so be patient before jumping in to clarify or prompt.
Neurodiversity is something that should be accommodated rather than avoided when recruiting and hiring. By following these recommendations, you can feel confident that your interview process does not put neurodiverse candidates at a disadvantage, and help your company hire a range of diverse candidates well suited for their jobs.
How to Ensure Culture Fit
Company culture is one of the five most important factors job seekers consider before accepting a new job, according to a Glassdoor survey. In our Top 25 Companies for Culture & Values list, we found shared themes including having a supportive, team-oriented atmosphere, a family-like environment and genuinely standing behind company values. Highlighting these characteristics can help you attract talent, and help you hire someone who will fit into your company’s culture.
General Culture Fit
To elicit a candidate’s values and work behaviors, be sure to ask questions about work habits, ideal role, problem-solving, and how they handle challenges. For each question, analyze the response based on how well it complements the way other employees at your company function.
To develop questions, list your company’s values, then craft an associated question designed to illuminate how a candidate might react or behave in that environment or circumstance. For example, if “agility” is one of your values, consider asking a question such as, “Tell me about a time you were thrown into a new environment and how you handled that.” Then, evaluate the candidate’s response based on how well they demonstrate that they can embody that value.
Every team has its own culture based on the natural function of the team and the personalities in it. A talkative, assertive personality might be a perfect fit for a high-energy sales team – but not within a more quiet, analytical department like engineering. Ask the hiring manager to identify key traits of the team and craft a question for each. For example, if you’re looking for someone scrappy, ask a question about what the candidate would do in a situation with limited resources.
Take candidates to lunch, for a walk or to a coffee shop. Observe how they treat service workers and cope with any challenges like a crowded street, a long line or weather. A more casual setting, outside of the interview room, will reveal more of their character than you might otherwise see.
Many people have an unconscious tendency to make assumptions about a person based on their appearance, background or hobbies. They also tend to want to be around people like them. To ensure diversity on your teams, make sure you evaluate candidates on the same objective criteria.
Acknowledge your own bias. If you’re aware of the biases you might hold, you can check them in the interview process.
Cultural Fit Question Worksheet
You can use this sheet as a guide to list your cultural traits, company values, and team traits. Write questions prior to the interview that address each value or trait as shown in the examples. We’ve kicked things off with a few examples to get your creative juices flowing.
General Cultural Fit Questions
Company Value Questions
Team Trait Questions
How to Talk to Candidates’ References
When you’re looking for a great candidate to fill an important role, it’s easy to get swept up by a stellar application. But while a well-written resume filled with impressive accomplishments is a promising sign, it’s important to remember that it’s just one factor. To really understand whether a candidate would be the right fit, it’s always a good idea to talk to the people who know best: their references. Here are the top six questions you should pose to every candidate’s references:
1. How would you describe the candidate’s reliability and dependability?
Recruiters often expect qualities such as reliability, punctuality and self-motivation to be givens in a candidate – not differentiators. But that doesn’t mean you should assume that a candidate possesses these traits without checking first. Asking this question ensures you’ll know for sure.
2. What are the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?
There’s a good chance you’ll ask the candidate what their strengths and weaknesses are during the interview, but you should verify key attributes with their references. The similarity between the two responses can show you how self-aware a candidate is, and can give you better insight into whether the candidate is a good match for your particular company and the role at hand.
3. What was the candidate’s most memorable accomplishment while working with you?
The difference between a good candidate and a great candidate can often be traced back to whether they regularly went above-and-beyond their everyday responsibilities. This question will shed light on whether they did, and provide an opportunity to see their skills in action.
4. In what work environment would the candidate be most likely to thrive, and why?
Remember: When you’re interviewing a candidate, you’re not just trying to figure out if they’re the right person for your company. You also want to verify that your company is the right place for them. If your company isn’t the sort of place where a candidate can thrive, they are much more likely to underperform or quit. This question helps you establish company and culture fit.
5. What skills could the candidate develop to reach their full potential?
Very rarely will you encounter a candidate who meets every one of your desired qualifications, but asking a question like this will help you identify skill gaps. If prior knowledge of the missing skills is critical to the success of the role, you’ll want to assess the candidate’s willingness to work toward improving in those areas – or move on to a more qualified or willing candidate.
6. Would you recommend this candidate?
It’s a straightforward question, but one that shouldn’t be ignored. Some references may feel obligated to highlight positive things about the candidate when asked about their strengths and weaknesses or accomplishments, but with a question as blunt as this, it will be much more apparent whether they are truly enthusiastic in their endorsement of a candidate.
With these six questions, you have plenty of structure for your conversation with a reference to get the honest feedback you need to make an informed decision about your candidate. But before you grab your phone, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind.
- Clearly identify the role to the reference. To get an accurate picture of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the role for which they’re being considered, be sure the person you’re speaking with understands the job description from the start.
- Avoid discriminatory questions. Do not ask questions about a candidate’s personal life, such as their age, familial status, religion, sexual orientation, political allegiance, etc.
How to Keep Candidates Informed
When candidates know what’s coming next, they feel respected and valued. And even when they receive prompt and personalized rejection notifications, they’re more likely to keep a positive impression of your company despite the rejection. So, here’s how to keep candidates informed.
Set Expectations at Every Step
Make sure candidates know:
- The general timeline for the hiring process
- Names and roles of interviewers prior to each round
- Useful information such as expectations for a particular meeting, personal quirks or objectives of specific interviewers
- Expected response time after each step
- Create rejection template emails that mention the interview steps completed by the candidate. Personalize each email by the recipient’s name and the name of the team and/or team members.
- Create a separate template for each of these steps:
- Initial phone/video screen
- Phone/video screen and test
- The first round of interviews
- Second round
- Send emails as soon as a candidate is rejected.
- Mention if you would like them to apply for another role at the company in the future.
- Ask candidates to write a review on Glassdoor: “If you’d like to share your experience with others, feel free to write a review of your interview with us on Glassdoor.”
- Call candidates who made it to the final round of a senior-level position, spent a significant amount of time interviewing, or traveled to the interview.
- Glassdoor/Harris Poll, Sept 2019, US