Most interviews consist of many types of questions, but they usually lean toward situational interviews or behavior description interviews. A situational interview is one in which the candidate is given a sample situation and is asked how he or she might deal with the situation. In a behavior description interview, the candidate is asked questions about what he or she actually did in a variety of given situations. The assumption in this type of interview is that someone’s past experience or actions are an indicator of future behavior. These types of questions, as opposed to the old “tell me about yourself” questions, tend to assist the interviewer in knowing how a person would handle or has handled situations. These interview styles also use a structured method and provide a better basis for decision making. Examples of situational interview questions might include the following:
- If you saw someone stealing from the company, what would you do?
- One of your employees is performing poorly, but you know he has some personal home issues he is dealing with. How would you handle complaints from his colleagues about lack of performance?
- A coworker has told you she called in sick three days last week because she actually decided to take a vacation. What would you do?
- You are rolling out a new sales plan on Tuesday, which is really important to ensure success in your organization. When you present it, the team is lukewarm on the plan. What would you do?
- You disagree with your supervisor on her handling of a situation. What would you do?
Examples of behavior description interview questions might include the following:
- Tell me about a time you had to make a hard decision. How did you handle this process?
- Give an example of how you handled an angry customer.
- Give an example of how you handled an angry customer.
- Do you show leadership in your current or past job? What would be an example of a situation in which you did this?
- What accomplishments have given you the most pride and why?
- What plans have you made to achieve your career goals?
As you already know, there are many types of interview questions that would be considered illegal. Here are some examples:
- National origin. You cannot ask seemingly innocent questions such as “That’s a beautiful name, where is your family from?” This could indicate national origin, which could result in bias. You also cannot ask questions about citizenship, except by asking if a candidate is legally allowed to work in the United States. Questions about the first language of the candidate shouldn’t be asked, either. However, asking “Do you have any language abilities that would be helpful in this job?” or “Are you authorized to work in the United States?” would be acceptable.
- Age. You cannot ask someone how old they are, and it is best to avoid questions that might indicate age, such as “When did you graduate from high school?” However, asking “Are you over 18?” is acceptable.
- Marital status. You can’t ask direct questions about marital status or ages of children. An alternative may be to ask, “Do you have any restrictions on your ability to travel, since this job requires 50 percent travel?”
- Religion. It’s illegal to ask candidates about their religious affiliation or to ask questions that may indicate a religion-affiliated school or university.
- Disabilities. You may not directly ask if the person has disabilities or recent illnesses. You can ask if the candidate is able to perform the functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations.
- Criminal record. While it is fine to perform a criminal record check, asking a candidate if they have ever been arrested is not appropriate; however, questions about convictions and guilty pleadings are acceptable.
- Personal questions. Avoid asking personal questions, such as questions about social organizations or clubs, unless they relate to the job.
Besides these questions, any specific questions about weight, height, gender, and arrest record (as opposed to allowable questions about criminal convictions) should be avoided.
HR professionals and managers should be aware of their own body language in an interview. Some habits, such as nodding, can make the candidate think they are on the right track when answering a question. Also, be aware of ahalo effect or reverse halo effect. This occurs when an interviewer becomes biased because of one positive or negative trait a candidate possesses. Interview bias can occur in almost any interview situation. Interview bias is when an interviewer makes assumptions about the candidate that may not be accurate. 1 These assumptions can be detrimental to an interview process. Contrast bias is a type of bias that occurs when comparing one candidate to others. It can result in one person looking particularly strong in an area, when in fact they look strong compared to the other candidates. A gut feeling bias is when an interviewer relies on an intuitive feeling about a candidate. Generalization bias can occur when an interviewer assumes that how someone behaves in an interview is how they always behave. For example, if a candidate is very nervous and stutters while talking, an assumption may be made that he or she always stutters. Another important bias called cultural noise bias occurs when a candidate thinks he or she knows what the interviewer wants to hear and answers the questions based on that assumption. Nonverbal behavior bias occurs when an interviewer likes an answer and smiles and nods, sending the wrong signal to the candidate. A similar to me bias (which could be considered discriminatory) results when an interviewer has a preference for a candidate because he or she views that person as having similar attributes as themselves. Finally, recency bias occurs when the interviewer remembers candidates interviewed most recently more so than the other candidates.
Human Resource Recall
What are the dangers of a reverse halo effect? A halo effect occurs when a desirable trait makes us believe all traits possessed by the candidate are desirable. This can be a major danger in interviewing candidates.