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Hire Power: How to Build an Interview Process at Your Small Business

Hire Power: How to Build an Interview Process at Your Small Business


Here’s how to create a consistent, professional process.

There’s no way around it: Interviewing job applicants is a costly process.

After all, it costs you the time to create and post a job announcement, to read resumes and applications, to schedule interviews and then, finally, to actually meet with candidates.

But your interviews could cost you a lot more if you ask questions that are illegal or inappropriate during any part of the selection process.

You absolutely must prepare so that you do not unknowingly place yourself at risk for a lawsuit. Following are some tips to control costs that could impact your schedule and your legal liability.

Your Must-Have Tools

What You Cannot Ask During an Interview

Here are a few examples of out-of-bounds questions.

How old are you? Are you a Millennial?

Race or Nationality
You’re Hispanic (or other ethnicity), right?

Pregnancy (Existing or Planned)
Are you planning to have a family at any time?

Any disabilities or problems I should know about?

Family and Marital Status
Do you have kids? How many? What does your spouse do?

Household Situation
Do you have any grandparents living with you? Are you a renter?

Spouse’s Occupation
What does your husband (or wife) do for a living?

Religion or Church Attendance
Do you have a religious practice that might interfere with work?

Arrest Record
Have you ever committed a crime? What did it involve?

Before you begin to conduct interviews, get organized. You’ll need the following things:

  1. A resume, a signed application or both for each job candidate.
  2. A job description for the role that outlines its duties and qualifications.
  3. A list of interview questions.
  4. A list of what you can and cannot ask. One is included with this article.

Once you have collected and reviewed these items, you’re ready to begin the candidate selection process.

The Pre-Interview Process

Once you’ve posted the job, allow at least two weeks or more to accept applications and resumes so you can build a “pool” of eligible applicants.

During the acceptance period, avoid the urge to review a person’s resume or application as soon as you receive it, particularly if the applicant is a walk-in. This is important because those people who apply for your job online, by mail or who dropped in when you were not in the office or at the counter should receive the same consideration as those who were a walk-in.

Rule of Thumb: Collect resumes and applications during the time window you’ve set, and don’t peek until it ends.

Take time to carefully read and remind yourself about the job description. Highlight the requirements and skill sets you listed as necessary for the job.

Next, create a list of interview questions you will ask every person you interview. Each candidate’s answers will allow you to determine which applicants have the skills and qualifications you listed and, therefore, are best qualified.

Selecting Candidates and Scheduling Interviews

You’ve waited at least 10 workdays to accept resumes and applications. Now you’re ready to select those people who appear to be the best qualified. These you will interview.

» Collect all resumes and applications. Make sure to review or print those that were sent to you online.

» For ease, place all applications and resumes in alphabetical order.

» Next, with your job description in hand, read each candidate’s resume or application carefully. Find those people whose background and qualifications meet your list of job requirements. Place the applications and resumes of these people into one pile. Those who do not meet your requirements should be placed into a “Does Not Meet” file.

» Now you’re ready to schedule interviews. Remember, whomever you select to interview must, at a minimum, meet the requirements listed in your job posting. Whoever does not should not be interviewed nor should they receive any further consideration.

» Call people from your pile of qualified candidates to schedule an interview. During this invitation stage, avoid asking people questions about themselves. Simply say: “I received your resume and am very interested in your background. I’m currently scheduling interviews for the week of XXXX. Could you be available during one of the following times to meet and discuss your experience?”

Schedule seven to 10 interviews so that you have a selection of candidates.

Ready to Interview

On each day of scheduled interviews, have the position description, list of prepared interview questions and the candidates’ resumes or applications available.

» Greet the candidate warmly.

» Take the candidate to a quiet area where you can visit without interruption.

» Tell each candidate you have a list of questions you’re going to follow so that you ask each person the same questions. Explain that this will help you to properly compare the work background, job experience and overall qualifications of each candidate.

» Stick to your questionnaire. You can drill into responses to ask a clarifying question to make certain you fully understand what was told to you. Do not, however, ask any form of illegal question.

Illegal Questions

During interviews, avoid all questions that may create an opportunity to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, age, disability, sex or other protected factors. For example, you cannot ask a job candidate about disabilities during the interview and selection process. However, you can ask a candidate whether he or she will be able to perform the essential duties of the job with a reasonable accommodation.

For job description templates, sample interview questions and a list of illegal questions, visit www.bit.ly/2dwbCrC.

Written by

Barb Henry is an HR strategist, business partner and corporate leader currently employed with Colgate-Palmolive/Hill's Pet Nutrition. Barb is president-elect for the Society for Human Resource Management of Johnson County.


  1. (913) 432-6690
  2. PO Box 754
        Shawnee Mission, KS
  3. editor@ithinkbigger.com


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