Departmental Interviewing Guide: Guidelines for Developing Interviewing Questions

         In many cases, where interviewers feel the need to decide whether a particular question is a good one or not - there is no easy answer. However, there are a few standards to use that will help guide your decision. Make certain the question does not violate EEO laws, you find it interesting, and are likely to obtain valuable information from it. If the question meets these standards, then ask the question. Otherwise, do not. Avoid asking questions that have the potential of being considered illegal or discriminatory.

         Depending on your tone of voice and facial expressions (communication cues), those around you can interpret the question as a good, average, or poor question. Furthermore, the way a question is phrased and its temporal placement can have a considerable impact.

         Don't be overly influenced by what you were asked as a candidate for a position, when deciding on what questions to ask. Formulate your own questions that will help you seek the information you need to fill the position successfully.

         Don't shy away from asking questions regarding topics that you may have limited knowledge of. Such questions will enable you to determine whether the applicant can formulate his/her answer in an easy, understandable way.

         Valuable information can be gained about a candidate from an experience or interest the candidate has even though it is seemingly quite remote from the job for which the candidate is interviewing.

         It's acceptable to vary your interviews slightly. Discuss something new with each applicant. Not only are you more likely to listen to something new, you are also less likely to get rehearsed answers. You are more likely to conduct an effective interview if you try to learn about the particular candidate in front of you rather than asking only prepared questions. However, it is extremely important that the same general format is followed and the same general question content is asked of all applicants.

  • If you want to test a particular question, ask yourself whether it is:
    • Specific to the candidate
    • Based on the candidate's past experience
    • Open-ended
    • Nondiscriminatory
    • Job-related
    • Nonleading

In all likelihood, you will be asking a good, acceptable question if you've answered "yes" to each of the above questions.