Get our app
Account Sign up Sign in

Ask a Lawyer

Get legal advice from Rocket Lawyer network attorneys. We make it affordable and simple.

Interviewing: Do's and Don'ts

There are a few important items to keep in mind when interviewing, including what questions you should or should not ask. Your time, and the time of your candidate, is valuable. Following these guidelines will help you use your appointment wisely.

Questions you can ask

Many advisors say the same thing: Stick to the professional experience. Asking employees to expand on items listed on their resume is a great start. Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, offers many suggestions for deep, but appropriate, interview questions, including:

  • What do you see as your greatest strengths (or weaknesses)?
  • How would you describe your learning style?
  • Can you share a recent customer service experience that was difficult, but that you helped solve?
  • What are your professional goals?
  • What is your general approach to problem-solving?

Hyatt describes any ideal candidate as, 'humble, honest, hungry and smart.' Josh Tolan, CEO of Spark Hire, writes, 'Good interview questions can illuminate a candidate's personality, work history and organizational fit.' Questions he suggests include:

  • Tell me about your personal achievements at work
  • Where do you see yourself five years from now? How will this position help you get there?
  • How would you bring value to our company?

Questions you cannot ask

But while there are a multitude of questions you can ask to get a clearer picture of the candidate and their strengths, there are several areas that you cannot inquire about in an interview.

It's also recommended staying away from certain taboo topics, including:

  • Age-The most concerning part of age is making sure the applicant is old enough to work for your company. Asking someone their age could open legal doors of discrimination if they are not hired.
  • Marital or family status (including children)-Though employers eventually learn more personal details about employees, the interview is not the time or place to find out. Asking a woman if she plans on having children, for example, could be discriminating since mothers need maternity leave. This topic includes sexual orientation and partnerships.
  • Religious affiliations-Religious or political affiliations are not the business of an employer. If you need to find out what days an employee is available, in case they reserve days for religious practice, just ask, 'What days are you available to work?'
  • Nationality/race-As with many applicants, an accent or appearance doesn't necessarily mean a candidate was born outside of the United States. Asking someone about their nationality or native language can be easily misinterpreted and offensive.
  • Health history-While health or abilities might be necessary for a specific job function, it's best to avoid asking outright questions (i.e. 'Do you have any disabilities?') to avoid discrimination.
  • Appearance (height, weight, build, etc.)-Like health history, assuming someone's abilities based on how they look is risking a discrimination claim. These topics could also be embarrassing for your applicant.

Eliminating prejudice doesn't only keep you from offending your potential employee, but also keeps you protected from the government, which has strict limitations to sensitive information or information that could be deemed offensive.

Similarly, HR World recommends avoiding questions regarding a military member's service, so as not to discriminate the opportunity based on their call to duty; asking if the candidate lives nearby, so as not to discriminate based on location (for example, if they live out of state); or asking details regarding an applicant's criminal record.

Ready to hire: What to do after you've selected your employees

Once your interviews are complete, it's time to decide who will get the job. Many managers and executives may call the candidate to extend the job offer verbally, but follow-ups are still done with a written employment offer letter, which provides a hard copy of the applicant's acceptance.

Job offer letters, however, should still be written in a tentative manner until all the legal documents, nondisclosure agreements (if applicable) or other necessary items are signed.

Get off on the right foot with your new employee

Finding your footing or comfort level in a new position can be hard, and we've all been there. It's important that, as an employer, you offer as many opportunities to understand the abilities and talents of your staff and new employees, so you can create the enjoyable but productive workplace environment from which everyone can benefit.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

Ask a lawyer

Our network attorneys are here for you.
Characters remaining: 600
Rocket Lawyer On Call® Attorneys

Try Rocket Lawyer FREE for 7 days

Start your Premium Membership now and get legal services you can trust at prices you can afford. You’ll get:

All the legal documents you need—customize, share, print & more

Unlimited electronic signatures with RocketSign®

Ask a lawyer questions or have them review your document

Dispute protection on all your contracts with Document Defense®

30-minute phone call with a lawyer about any new issue

Discounts! Incorporate for FREE + hire a lawyer with up to 40% off*

*Free incorporation for new members only and excludes state fees. Lawyer must be part of our nationwide network to receive discount.