Interviewing Guide

Interviewing Guide

Since each individual – and each interview – is different, these points should serve only as basic guidelines, not as inflexible rules.

What to Look for in a Resume Cover Letter

The resume cover letter enhances the resume and should not be sent to you as a stand-alone document. You are looking for a well-written, informative resume cover letter that demonstrates the candidate’s attention to detail. Appropriate grammar and correct spelling tell you that the candidate invested the time and energy to make a positive impression.

Typos and poor formatting in a resume cover letter, on the other hand, signal an applicant that failed to take the time to make a good impression. Employers rightly regard the resume cover letter as their best example of the candidate’s ability to express thoughts in writing. This is because the average applicant’s resume cover letter is not reviewed whereas most candidates ask multiple people to review their resume.

Reviewing the Resume

The work of resume review starts well before applicant resumes fill your inbox. Reviewing a resume starts with a job description or role profile so you know broadly what the job entails. Part of the job description, in an effective job description, details the qualifications and experience of the candidate you seek to fill the job.

Determine a Salary Range

Then, determine the salary range by using a market pay study and the additional salary research materials you have on hand. Better candidates will inquire about the pay range before they invest a lot of time in your company. Be prepared with an appropriate response.

Develop a Key Qualifications List or Candidate Profile

This process gets you started. The next key is for Human Resources staff and the hiring manager to narrow down all of this information. Create a list that spells out your most important candidate selection criteria.

This is often called a candidate profile. You’ll want to list:

  • the key characteristics or traits,
  • the most important skills,
  • the most relevant experience
  • the desired educational level, and
  • the other most important factors that you will consider in candidate selection.

This candidate profile is a list of key experiences, skills, traits, and education and is essential for reviewing resumes. It forces discipline into the resume review process and gives you valuable criteria to use in resume review, and later, in candidate comparison. The list also serves as the basis for the job interview questions you will use in screening and in-person interviews with candidates for your job.

Telephone Screen Candidates Prior to an Interview

The telephone interview (or candidate screen) allows the employer to determine if the candidate’s qualifications, experience, workplace preferences and salary needs are congruent with the position and organization. The telephone job interview saves managerial time and eliminates unlikely candidates. While I recommend developing a customized interview for each position, this generic job interview will guide you. Remember, you have already screened many resumes and applications to come up with your short list of telephone screening candidates. These should be your best prospects at this point in your recruiting process.

Meeting the Candidate

At the outset, act friendly but avoid prolonged small talk – interviewing time costs money.

  • Introduce yourself by using your name and title.
  • Mention casually that you will take notes (“You don’t mind if I take notes, do you?”)
  • Assure candidate that all information will be treated confidentially.


  • Ask clear concise questions in a conversational tone.
  • Ask open-ended questions which will force complete answers. “Why do you say that?”
  • Don’t ask direct questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.”

The Interview

Prepare for the interview the day before you appointment. Develop a list of questions that you will ask each candidate. If you ask the same questions of each individual, you will be able to make a better comparison. As you interview a candidate, keep in mind that your objective is to determine what the candidate is really saying about him/herself, and to determine if he/she is the right person for the job. When the candidate answers your questions, ask for an example of past behavior that illustrates his/her answer. Remember you should never ask questions about race religion, age, ethic background, sexual preferences, and martial status or health issues.


  • Attempt to determine the candidate’s goals.
  • Try to draw the candidate out and allow him/her to talk.
  • Don’t sell – interview.
  • Try to avoid snap judgments.

The following are questions that may help you in the interview process.

I. Attitude

If you want to know:
1) Can the candidate compete without irritation?
2) Can he/she balance interest of both company and personal interest?
3) What are his/her life priorities?
4) Is this person loyal?
5) Does he/she take pride in doing a good job?
6) Indications of being cooperative-a team player?

Ask the Candidate:
1) Have you ever lost in competition? What were your feelings?
2) How can the American way of business be improved?
3) Do you feel you’ve made a success of life to date? How?
4) Who was your best boss? Describe the person.
5) What duties did you like most in your last job? Least?
6) What has your experience been in working with others?

II. Motivation

If you want to know:
1) Is he/she settled in choice of work?
2) Does he/she work from choice or necessity?
3) Does he/she make day-to-day and long range plans?
4) Does he/she use some leisure self-improvement?
5) Is the candidate willing to work for what he/she wants in face of opposition?

Ask the Candidate:
1) What ambitions do you have for yourself?
2) What mortgages, debts, etc., press you now?
3) What have you done on your own to prepare for a better job?
4) How will this job help you to get what you want?
5) What obstacles are most likely to trip you up?

III. Initiative

If you want to know:
1) Is he/she a self-starter?
2) Does he/she complete own tasks?
3) Does he/she follow through on assigned tasks?
4) Does the job fit his/her long term goals?
5) Can he/she work independently?

Ask the Candidate:
1) What things get you excited in doing your job? What things distract you?…disturb you most?
2) How do you follow up after have an assignment?
3) Tell me about missing a deadline. What if you do?
4) What do you like and dislike about you kind of work?
5) Which supervisors have let you work alone? How did you feel about this?

IV. Stability

If you want to know:
1) Is this person excitable or even tempered?
2) Is he/she impatient or understanding?
3) Does he/she show likes and dislikes freely?
4) Does he/she use words that show strong feelings?
5) Will he/she broaden or flatten under pressure?
6) Is he/she enthusiastic about the job?

Ask the Candidate:
1) What things disturb you most?
2) How do you get along with people you dislike or don’t respect?
3) What individual actions irritate you?
4) What were your most unpleasant work experiences? Life experiences? How did you meet the challenges they posed?
5) What are your most pleasant work experiences? Tell me about them.
6) How do you handle job pressures? Explain.

V. Planning

If you want to know:
1) Ability to plan and follow through? Or will he/she depend on a supervisor for planning?
2) Ability for he/she to coordinate work of others?
3) Ability for he/she to fit into company methods?
4) His/her ability to think outside the box?
5) Will he/she complete the whole job or get caught up in detail?

Ask the Candidate:
1) How do you plan a day’s work?
2) How do you set priorities for others?
3) Give me an idea of how you spend a typical day.
4) What work improvements have you instigated in other jobs?
5) If you were the managers how would you run your present job? What are the differences between planned and unplanned work?

VI. Insight

If you want to know:
1) Is he/she realistic in appraising self?
2) Is his/her desire for self-improvement?
3) Is he/she interested in problems of others?
4) Is he/she interested in reactions of others to self?
5) Will he/she take constructive action when criticized?

Ask the Candidate:
1) Tell me about your strengths. Weaknesses.
2) Are your weaknesses important enough to do something about them? Why or why not?
3) How would you size up your last employer? How would he/she size you up?
4) Most useful criticism received? From whom? Tell me about it. Most useless?
5) How do you handle people who criticize you?

VII. Social Skills

If you want to know:
1) Is he/she a leader or follower?
2) Is he/she interested in new ways of dealing with people?
3) Can he/she get along best with what types of people?
4) Will he/she wear well over the long term?
5) Can he/she make friends easily?

Ask the Candidate:
1) What do you like to do in your spare time?
2) Have you ever organized a group? Tell me about it.
3) What methods are effective in dealing with people? What methods are ineffective?
4) What kind of people do you get along with best?
5) Do you prefer making new friends or keeping old ones? Why? How do you go about making friends? What must a person do to be liked by others?

Illegal Job Interview Questions

Illegal interview questions include any interview questions that are related to a candidate’s:

  • Age
  • Race, ethnicity, or color
  • Gender or sex
  • Country of national origin or birth place
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Marital or family status or pregnancy

Especially in the course of a comfortable interview during which participants are relaxed, don’t let the interview turn into a chat session. Seemingly innocuous interview questions such as the following are illegal.

Sample Illegal Job Interview Questions

  • What arrangements are you able to make for child care while you work?
  • How old are your children?
  • When did you graduate from high school?
  • Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • What does your wife do for a living?
  • Where did you live while you were growing up?
  • Will you need personal time for particular religious holidays?
  • Are you comfortable working for a female boss?
  • There is a large disparity between your age and that of the position’s coworkers. Is this a problem for you?
  • How long do you plan to work until you retire?
  • Have you experienced any serious illnesses in the past year?

During an interview, you must take care to keep your interview questions focused on the behaviors, skills, and experience needed to perform the job. If you find your discussion straying off course or eliciting information you don’t want about potential job discrimination topics, bring the discussion quickly back on topic by asking another job-related interview question.