You’ve put the ads out, done your research on LinkedIn, scoured the resumes submitted, and you finally have an interview lined up for that position you’ve been dying to fill.  Now that you’ve got the candidates in front of you, how do you determine which one has the skills you need, the disposition you want, and the temperament to easily fit in with your corporate culture?

Several larger companies are known for their interesting interview questions (ex: Google).  And I couldn’t help but chuckle when reviewing this zany list.  But, as this CNN Money article mentions, asking the wrong questions isn’t just awkward or unhelpful – it can actually be illegal.

Yes, that’s right; when interviewing someone, you cannot ask a candidate any question that would directly or indirectly reveal the following information:

  • Age
  • Religion
  • Marital/Family Status
  • Nationality
  • Race
  • Health Issues
  • Gender-related Issues (you cannot imply that the open position would be better suited for a male or female)

Asking questions related to these topics is a breach of federal law and is considered discriminatory.  So asking the wrong questions will not only offend job candidates, but could create a sticky legal situation for you.

Many companies turn to situational, or behavioral, interview techniques to find the right candidates.  These questions prompt job candidates to show their use of critical problem solving skills. They also give us a glimpse into how a particular individual thinks through a course of action and handles various situations.  Many of our questions are slightly modified or exaggerated situations that have actually occurred in our office, allowing us to gain close insight into how an employee may succeed in our firm.

Situational questions often address how job candidates manage time, prioritize tasks, resolve conflicts, and recover from mistakes.  Some of my favorite questions to ask include:

Suppose you are in a situation where deadlines and priorities change frequently and rapidly; how would you handle it?

Give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker. How did you approach the situation?

If someone told you that you had made an error, how would you handle it?

When it comes to recruiting, stay away from the personal information and zero in on a candidate’s problem solving skills, critical thinking capabilities, and organizational approach.  Asking questions to gather these pieces of information will help you find a suitable candidate that can succeed in your company.