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The Interview Process: Selecting the Right Person

How do you select the right person for your business? There is no single answer. The interview process is the last step in choosing the best candidates for your company. Small business owners don't have time to sort through hundreds of applicants. You don't have time to hire and train workers who are not a good fit for your job. When you have an open position, you must fill it as soon as possible.

The cost analysis and job description are important steps. Job descriptions have legal requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The hiring process is complicated and time-consuming. This is an abbreviated checklist of the entire procedure.

  • Determine your need to hire a new employee.
  • Conduct a thorough job analysis.
  • Write a job description and job specification for the position.
  • Determine the pay for the position.
  • Decide where and how to find qualified applicants.
  • Review applications and resumes, then select the most qualified candidates for further consideration.
  • Interview the most qualified candidates for the position. You are here.
  • Perform reference checks and make a hiring decision.
  • Make your job offer.

See FindLaw's The Hiring Process section for more articles and resources.

These are the do's and don'ts of the interview process. Depending on your company and the type of job, you may do your job interviews remotely or in person. Both are acceptable, but remote interviews have extra considerations.

If you interview via phone, Zoom, or Skype, schedule the interviews in advance to give candidates time to clear their schedules. If you conduct your initial interviews remotely, you should interview all candidates that way to avoid possible charges of discrimination.

Conducting a Successful Interview: What to Do

1. Before the interview

  • Know what you want in a candidate before you begin the interview.
  • Know the job and its responsibilities.
  • Review the job description. Know what position you are interviewing each job candidate for.
  • Have your interview questions prepared beforehand.
  • Have criteria for comparing candidates. Human resources agencies can help with this process.
  • Review the candidate's resume before the interview.
  • Set reasonable time limits for each interview. Give yourself enough time between interviews for notes and review.

2. During the interview

  • Consider your company culture. The new hire must fit with your current employees.
  • Ask questions that focus on the candidate's past job performances.
  • Ask structured questions about your job site and the position. Use open-ended questions and narrative for a better understanding of the applicant.
  • In-person interviews should take place in a private location, free of distractions. Conduct remote interviews in an area where the microphone will not pick up extraneous sounds.
  • Listen to the questions the candidate asks. Clarify the reasons they are asking the questions being asked. Notice which questions get asked first, as they may be primary concerns.
  • Take detailed notes about job-related topics to help distinguish the candidates.
  • If your state allows recording, you may do so. Tell candidates you are recording the interview and that they may refuse if they wish.
  • Organize and analyze the information immediately after the interview while your recollection is fresh.

3. Treat all candidates fairly

  • Use a list of standard questions during each interview. Compare all candidate responses to the same questions.
  • Keep your questions job-related. You can ask about relevant information in resumes and cover letters.
  • Be cautious of possible discriminatory questions.
  • Show a genuine interest in every candidate you interview.
  • If possible, have at least one other person interview potential candidates.

4. Be courteous and respectful

  • Begin the interview on time. If circumstances cause a delay, apologize and ask the candidate if they wish to reschedule.
  • Allow enough time for the interview. Leave time after the interview to review notes and clean the interview space.
  • Consider the candidate's work experience in light of your job opening.

5. Closing the interview

  • Confirm you have the applicant's correct contact information.
  • If you are still reviewing candidates, let the applicant know how long you expect to interview applicants.
  • Thank the candidate for their time and interest.

Pre-employment Testing

Some hiring managers use pre-employment skills tests and psychological testing as part of their selection process. State laws vary on the legality of these tests, so check your state labor board requirements before giving any tests. In general, these rules apply:

  • You may only give drug tests and background checks after a conditional offer of employment. You can tell applicants to expect these after a job offer.
  • Skills tests must be job-related. You can give drivers a driving test, but not receptionists.
  • Tests must accommodate all applicants. You can't have one test for disabled candidates and another for others.
  • Tests must avoid "disparate impact," that is, they must not discriminate against any protected class. Even unintentional discrimination is grounds for legal action.

FindLaw's Best Practices for Employers in a Hiring Interview has complete details on navigating the process.

The Successful Interview: What Not to Do

There are things you should not do when hiring employees. When you screen potential employees, you're looking for the right person and trying to avoid the wrong person. State and federal employment laws prohibit asking certain questions during an interview. You may ask some questions if they are relevant to the particular job. In general:

Do not ask questions about:

  • Age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) bans discrimination against workers over 40. Be careful of statements like "We're a young company" or "Are you comfortable with technology?"
  • Arrest record. State laws differ about asking candidates if they have been convicted of certain crimes. In most cases, you can't ask about an arrest record.
  • Race or ethnicityNever do this.
  • Citizenship before hiring. When you hire a person, they must show proof of residency or employment authorization. You may not use lack of citizenship as grounds for not hiring.
  • Ancestry, birthplace, or native language. Asking about their ability to speak another language is OK only if it is a stated job need.
  • Religion or religious customs or holidays. This violates Title VII as potentially discriminatory. Avoid asking questions like "Can you work Saturdays?" since this may look like you're screening out particular religions.
  • Physical or mental disabilities. This includes temporary disabilities like pregnancy. If the person has an obvious disability, for instance, if they use a wheelchair, you may ask if they need any accommodations for that particular disability.
  • Names and addresses of relatives. You may ask if they have relatives who work for the company.

Your safest action is not to ask questions that are not immediately job-related. Keep your focus on the candidate's skill set and job history.

Questions About the Interview Process? A Lawyer Can Help

Your interview and hiring practices must follow employment laws as a business owner. If you're unsure about your current practices or have any questions, contact an experienced employment law attorney.

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