Interview Guidelines

Employment interviews must be job related, standardized and objective in order to ensure equal opportunity as required by federal and state law. To this end, the following guidelines have been developed to help you during interviews with prospective employees.

Keep in mind that the Affirmative Action Officer must officially approve interview questions before interviews are conducted.



General Rules for Interviewing

Focus your attention on job-related abilities and avoid questioning in areas which make no difference to job performance, are none of your business, and could open you to a charge of discrimination.

Follow the same procedure, in the same setting, with the same questions for all candidates. How else can you reasonably make a fair comparison of their abilities in relationship to the demands of the job?

Keep the entire process job-related, standardized, and objective. Not only will you avoid charges of discrimination but you will gain a selection of more suitable employees.  

Unless there is an overriding job related, documented necessity to know, do not inquire into a candidate's:

  • Age or date of birth
  • Arrest or conviction records
  • Citizenship
  • Credit or garnishment records or public assistance status
  • Family situation, including number and ages of children, child care provisions, etc.
  • Marital status
  • Disabilities
  • Political or religious affiliations or activities

Although questions along these areas may or may not be discriminatory or illegal in and of themselves, these are the factors most commonly involved in charges of discrimination. It's best to avoid these topics entirely lest you unknowingly invite a charge.

Additionally, answers to such questions may produce an adverse effect on the opportunities of women, racial or ethnic minorities, or older persons to receive full consideration for employment. Answers may trigger an interviewer's biases--either positive or negative--that have no bearing on the candidate's ability to perform the work for which they are being interviewed.

Even if questions on generally non job-related areas is avoided, candidates may get an impression of biases if the interview is not handled impartially, held against standards and focused completely on the job itself. This may cause them to feel that they have grounds for a charge of discrimination-- or at least of inappropriate procedures.

Therefore, do not allow your words or actions to convey an incorrect or biased impression by:

  • Patronizing or presuming
  • Joking or talking down to candidates
  • Using terms which trigger negative reactions such as referring to women as “gals” or “girls” identifying staff as “minorities” or “handicapped”


1. Define the major job duties

From your knowledge of the job and from the written position description, decide which tasks are more important for successful job performance.

2. Define the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities

For each of the major job duties, decide what a person must know or be able to do to perform them.

3. List other job related factors to consider

Consider days and hours of work, possible overtime and travel, or other job related factors which might influence an applicant’s interest in employment.

4. Develop questions to learn about necessary abilities and job related factors

All of the questions you develop should be job related. They may concern the applicants’ previous education and work experience, interest in the job duties and willingness to accept the working conditions, or they may be based on hypothetical situations where you ask the applicants to tell you how they might handle a particular situation.

5. Schedule interviews in an appropriate setting

Interviews should be conducted in a quiet, private area where interruptions will not occur. Allow enough time for each candidate so that you can get complete answers to all your questions.

6. Conduct the interviews

Begin the interview by trying to put each candidate at ease. Ask the same job related questions of all candidates and record the major points of their answers.

7. Rate the candidate

Review each candidate’s answers and determine how much of the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities each candidate offers as well as their willingness to accept the working conditions or other job related factors.