Interviews and Background Checks for Smart Candidate Selection

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    How to Interview Job Candidates

    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

    The thoroughness and professionalism you use to interview candidates can make a strong, positive impression on candidates. It also conveys to them that you expect the same from them if they are hired by your organization.


    1. Schedule interviews with all candidates that meet the minimum qualifications.
      Those qualifications were specified in the job description. This practice helps to make sure that you are not excluding candidates because of unfair biases.
    2. When inviting them for an interview, also send them the job description.
      That ensures they have reasonable preparation for the interview. Also, mention who will interview them.

    Use Multiple Interviewers Per Interview

    1. Consider having multiple people at the interview.
      Although this can be intimidating to the interviewee, this practice can ensure them a more objective and fair consideration for the job because several perspectives (among the interviewers) will be considered, rather than only one. Have the same interviewers in all of the interviews, if possible, to ensure that each candidate receives equal treatment.

    Questions to Pose During Interviews

    When posing the following types of questions, always be courteous and respectful to the candidates. Do not share reactions between interviewers.

    1. Do not rely on your memory – ask permission from the candidate for you to take notes. Be sure that you document the name of the candidate and the date on the notes.
    2. While interviewing candidates, always apply the same questions to all candidates.
      That approach ensures the fair treatment and comparison of all candidates.
    3. All questions should be primarily in regard to performing the duties of the job.
      Do not ask questions about the candidate’s race, nationality, age, gender, disabilities (current or previous), marital status, spouses, children and their care, criminal records, or credit records. Asking those types of questions leaves you open to losing lawsuits that allege discrimination.
    4. Ask open-ended questions and try to avoid questions answered with “yes” or “no.”
      Open-ended questions tend to generate more useful information and provide the opportunity for the interviewer to observe how well the candidate articulates answers to questions.
    5. Consider asking some rather thought-provoking and challenging questions.
      Ask “What skills do you bring to this job?”, “What concerns do you have about filling this role?” and “What was your biggest challenge in a past job and how did you meet it?”
    6. Talk for at most 25% of the time – listen for the rest.
      This often is a challenge for new interviewers who feel that silence is somehow to always be avoided. The more time that the interviewer talks, the less time to learn about the candidate.
    7. If it is clear that the candidate is not suitable for the job, then “sell” the organization.
      If he/she does not meet the minimum qualifications, after all, or there are other stronger candidates, then use the time in the interview to enlighten the candidate about the positive attributes of the organization in case the candidate chooses to spread the word to others.

    Administrative / Human Resource Questions

    1. Ask the candidate about what he/she expects for compensation and benefits.
      Even though the job description might specify the pay ranges and benefits, the candidate might have a strong preference for other provisions that suit his/her nature.
    2. Find out when the candidate can start work if offered the job.
      Allow him/her at least two weeks to get his/her affairs in order. Expecting a candidate to start sooner might convey to the candidate that the organization operates in a crisis mode, which can be very unattractive to good candidates.
    3. Explain to the candidate when you will be getting back to the person.
      Then always do get back to each person soon regarding whether he/she got the job. If your first choice of candidate does not work out, you might have to resort to choosing the second-best candidate. He/she might not accept the job if offended that you did not get back to him/her.
    4. Ask if you can get, and check, any references from the candidate’s previous jobs.
      Always contact at least three references that the candidate offers from his/her past work history. Share the results of these activities with the interviewers. If your programs involve direct services to children, adults, and the elderly, then seriously consider conducting background checks on the most preferred candidates for the job.
    5. Be sure to tell candidates of any relevant conditions from your personnel policies.
      For example, tell the candidate whether there is a probationary period for the job. (The best way to deal with a poor performer is not to hire him or her in the first place. It is often wise to have a probationary period of, for example, six months, wherein if the employee does not meet the responsibilities of the position, you can quickly terminate the employee.)

    The Top Three Things I Wish I Knew About Background Screening

    © Copyright Sheri Mazurek

    A thorough examination of the topic of Human Resources (HR) would include multiple topics. Within those, one would find recruiting. Recruiting is an important topic to everyone in an organization, as the consequences of a bad hire can have a wide organizational effect. In an effort to mitigate the risk of a bad
    hiring decision, companies can use multiple tools in their hiring strategy. One of those, background screening, can help identify if your candidate is included in the 56% of applicants who provide false information on their resume. Background screening will also help protect your company from multiple risks including negligent hiring, theft, and workplace violence. But are all background screens created equal?

    During the past two years, I have developed a much stronger understanding of this tool. Below is a list of the top three things I wish I understood about background screening before I worked for the industry-leading provider of this service.

    1. Not all criminal background checks are created equal.

    There is no one source for criminal information that will provide you with every record available. However, there are certainly ways to ensure that you are getting the most accurate, up-to-date, and thorough information available. Jason Morris, President and Chief Operations Officer of EmployeeScreenIQ, identifies the following shortcuts in his white paper, Best Practices in Employment Screening: using national or statewide searches in lieu of county research, or checking only the current county of residence. These types of searches may save you a few dollars on your background screen; however, the price of not running the more thorough search could be higher than all your other recruiting expenses combined. According to Morris, “An effective criminal program should always include physical research in each county in which the subject has lived, worked, or gone to school over the past seven to ten years.”

    2. Fifty-six percent of applicants falsify information on their application or resume.

    While most experienced recruiters understand that applicants may inflate their resumes, EmployeeScreenIQ finds discrepancies in resumes on important hiring factors. Those include dates of employment, education, experience, salary, and criminal history.

    3. There is an increase in the use of diploma mills.

    Nick Fishman of EmployeeScreenIQ defines a diploma mill as “an organization that sells academic degrees and diplomas with substandard or no academic study and without recognition by legitimate educational accrediting bodies. The buyer can then claim to hold the purchased degree and the organization makes a profit. Many of these fraudulent organizations claim accreditation by fake or unaccredited licensing bodies, creating another layer of supposed authenticity.” The number of these organizations has increased in recent years. Perhaps due to the increase in unemployment. Regardless of the reason, hiring someone with fake credentials can be very costly.

    Additional Information About Screening Job Candidates

    Return to Staffing for the next step in the staffing process.

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