Interviewing

These guidelines show the kinds of questions that are prohibited and acceptable during a job interview and before a job offer has been made. To find out about other specific interview questions, contact your unit's HR professional, the central Office of Human Resources, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, or the Office of the General Counsel.

For the interview process, best management practices include:

  • Creating a list of written interview questions before interviewing begins
  • Writing the questions based on the job description—specifically, the skills, abilities, and experience required for the position
  • Asking the same questions of all candidates
  • Making objective and factual notes of each interview
  • Selecting the candidate who is the most qualified or at least equally qualified as other candidates compared to the selection criteria you established.

Sample Questions

Topic Prohibited Acceptable

Age

  • Questions about age or date of birth or request for birth certificate
  • Any inquiry for the purpose of excluding any age over the age of majority (age 40 under federal law, age 18 under state law)
  • How do you feel about working for someone younger than you?
  • Inquiries about the date of high school or college graduation

Asking whether candidate will be able to provide legal proof of ability to work after hired

Arrest Record

Any inquiry related to arrests. The Office of Human Resources and the Office of the General Counsel must be consulted first to determine if any exception is warranted.

None

Conviction Record

Inquiries about conviction that do not relate to performance of the job. Conviction of a crime cannot be an automatic bar to employment by a public entity in Minnesota.

Inquiries about an actual conviction. The information may only be used in the hiring decision if it relates to the applicant's fitness for the job. Such inquiries should be approved by the Office of Human Resources with consultation with the Office of the General Counsel first so that any pre-employment screening complies with University and legal requirements.

Disabilities/Perceived Disabilities

  • Are you handicapped?
  • Do you have AIDS/asthma/or any other physical or mental condition?
  • What is the nature or severity of your disability?
  • Do you have a disability that would interfere with your ability to perform the job?
  • Do you drink, take lawful drugs, or have you completed a chemical dependency rehabilitation program?
  • You may ask candidates whether they will need reasonable accommodation for the hiring process. Ask this question of all candidates.
  • Explicitly state the essential elements of the position and ask whether the candidate can perform the functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Ask this question of all candidates.
  • Requests for candidates to describe or demonstrate how they would perform job tasks. Ask this information of all candidates.
  • Explicitly state the working hours of the position and ask whether the candidate can meet these attendance requirements. Ask this question of all candidates.
  • Post-offer physical examinations may be appropriate for certain positions. These arrangements should be approved through the Office of Human Resources before the hiring process begins.

Gender

  • Sex of candidate, unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification
  • Do you have children?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Do you plan to have children?
  • What are your child care arrangements?
  • What is the minimum salary/wage you will accept?
  • Sex of the applicant when it is a bona fide occupational qualification, such as an actor or actress for a particular role.
  • Explicitly state the working hours of the position and ask whether the candidate can work these hours. Ask this question of all applicants, male and female.
  • What are your salary expectations?

Marital Status

  • What is your marital status?
  • Are you married, single or divorced?
  • Do you go by Miss, Mrs., or Ms.?
  • What is your maiden name?

Questions regarding any names the candidate has had. Ask this question of both sexes.

Military Service

  • Are you in the military?
  • Do you think that you will need any leaves of absence?

Inquiries about education and training related to the job

National Origin

  • Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • What is your place of birth?
  • What is your native language?
  • Where are you originally from?
  • What country are your spouse or parents from?
  • Are you legally eligible to work in the U.S.?
  • Assessment of all candidates regarding whether they are able to communicate well enough to perform the job

Non-Work Activities

  • Do you drink alcohol?
  • Do you smoke cigarettes?
  • Do you have a driver's license/own a car?
  • None unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification, such as asking about having a driver's license where the individual would have to drive in performance of work duties.
  • Explicitly state the working hours of the position and ask whether the candidate can work those hours. Ask this question of all candidates.

Public Assistance Status

  • Do you currently receive public assistance (welfare benefits)?
  • Have you ever received public assistance?
  • Do you own or rent a home?

None except questions regarding how the candidate can be contacted regarding the job.

Race/Color

Any questions regarding hair color, eye color, complexion, height, weight, or ability to work with employees of another race are suspect

None except voluntary self-identification on affirmative action form for use by the Office of Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action in reporting requirements and institutional assessment

Religion

  • What is your religion?
  • Can you work Saturdays and/or Sundays?

Explicitly state the working hours of the position and ask whether the candidate can work those hours with reasonable accommodations if necessary. Ask this question of all candidates.

Sexual Orientation

  • What is your sexual orientation?
  • What is your relationship to the emergency contact you have listed?

None. After hiring you may ask the name and telephone number of the individual to contact in case of an emergency.

Union Affiliation

Are you now or have you ever been a member of a union?

None

Sample Behavioral Questions

Topic Questions

Attention to Detail

Can you give an example of a time when an important detail was missed in your work? What was the result? What did you do to correct the situation?

Attention to Detail

When you have come across errors in your own work, what have they been and how did you handle it?

Creativity

How much creativity is possible in your work?

Decision-making

Let's say you need to make a decision about __________. What steps would you take?

Decision-making

What kind of decisions did you have to make as a ____? Do you think you made the right choice? Why?

Decision-making

Tell me about the most difficult decision you have had to make in your position at ___.

Integrity

Rules sometimes have to be bent or broken. Can you tell me about a time when you had to do this?

Integrity

How far have you bent your standards to succeed in previous jobs? Give me an example.

Initiative

Did you have duties in your job as a ____ that were not included in your job description?

Initiative

Have you ever done more than was required for a job?

Initiative

Did you take on any new responsibilities in your last job?

Initiative

What are some projects that you initiated? Why?

Initiative

Were there any rules or policies at ____ that you didn't agree with? What did you do about it?

Learning

How did you learn the duties of your previous position and how long did it take before you could comfortably perform them on your own?

Learning

What formal training have you had? How did you do?

Learning

What subjects or courses are the hardest for you to learn and why?

Learning

What subjects or courses are the easiest for you to learn and why?

Knowledge

How have you kept on top of the current trends in ______?

Knowledge

What job-related conferences, seminars, etc., have you attended recently and what did you learn from them?

Management

Is there something about your management style you would like to change?

Management

What have you done in your previous supervisory positions to make your subordinates' jobs easier or more rewarding?

Motivation

What did you enjoy the most about your previous job and why? Least and why?

Motivation

All jobs have their frustrations. What duties or conditions have you found most dissatisfying in your previous job and why?

Motivation

What has been your greatest work achievement and why?

Motivation

What factors do you consider most important in evaluating the success of your work?

Organization

How do you keep yourself organized?

Performance Standards

How do you define doing a good job in your current position?

Performance Standards

How is your performance in your current job? How do you know?

Performance Standards

Have you ever been displeased with your own performance? When, why, and what did you do about it?

Performance Standards

Have you ever disagreed with you supervisor on your performance evaluation?

Performance Standards

Can you give me a couple of examples of times when you've produced work above standard and below standard?

Problem-Solving

What were some of the more complex assignments you were given? Describe some of the steps necessary to complete the assignment.

Problem-Solving

If you find errors in your work, how do you handle it?

Problem-Solving

Have you ever identified a problem before your supervisor? What did you do?

Satisfaction

What achievements are you most proud of? Why?

Satisfaction

What factors do you consider when evaluating your success?

Satisfaction

What parts of your job as a _____ did you enjoy? What parts did you not enjoy?

Effective Interviewers:

  • Are completely prepared
  • Give the candidate undivided attention
  • Put the candidate at ease
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Listen at least 80% of the time