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Question Job Applicants Effectively & Legally

A client today asked what questions they could ask in a job interview that would reflect on trustworthiness and confidentiality. You may be interested in the tips we offered.

Never forget, candidates in interviews lie, "shade the truth" or give "Clintonesque" answers. Here are a few things you can do to try to learn more about an applicant.

1.   Look at their list of prior jobs and see if there are any gaps in employment. If so, ask about those gaps. Applicants will typically try to omit any jobs that did not work out. We recommend an employment application that asks applicants to list every job since high school or college and to specifically identify and explain any gaps. A gap in employment may also be an indication that the applicant was fired from the prior job.

2.   Ask applicants who their supervisors were at each job.

3.   For each supervisor, ask the applicant what the supervisor would say if you were to ask him or her what kind of employee the applicant was. Also ask applicants what each supervisor would say were the applicants' weaknesses.

4.   For each employer, ask the applicant if they are eligible to be rehired. Why or why not?

5.   Ask if they have a criminal history or criminal record. Do not ask if they have ever been arrested. It is argued by some that questions about arrest records can be discriminatory. You can, however, ask about criminal convictions or ask about criminal history and listen to what the applicant says.

6.   Ask what they did when their honesty or integrity was questioned. The purpose of this question isn't so much what they did, but the circumstances which lead to the doubts. Listen to their answer, ask what they did other times when their honesty or integrity was questioned and keep probing until you have a list of specific instances. Answers to this question could tell you what you need to know.

7.   Ask as many "why" questions as possible and listen to the answers.

8.   Call the places of previous employment and ask for the supervisors named by the applicant. The supervisors may tell you more than an HR person who is likely to only verify dates of employment and salary range.

9.   Call the HR person for each prior employer listed and verify dates of employment and salary range. If there is a discrepancy between what the applicant tells you and the prior employer tells you, this should be a red flag. Also, ask if the applicant is eligible to be rehired with that employer. If the HR person will tell you more, go for it.

10.   For appropriate positions, particularly those handling money or financial affairs, consider requiring that the employee become bonded.

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