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Interviewing Job Candidates

Posted by Ilena Di Toro | Posted on June 4, 2019

“If you could be an animal, what animal would you be?”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”

The above were two questions I was asked during two separate job interviews. If you think the boyfriend question is illegal, you’re right. I was asked this question for a marketing assistant position in the 1990s and suspected that the question was illegal but I didn’t know how to tell the person that without being snarky and possibly losing out on the job.

While you wouldn’t ask about the dating status of a potential employee, the standard interview questions aren’t as revealing as one would think. After all, if you have ever spent time looking for a job, then you learned what the usual interview questions are and how to best answer them. Well, so did others and the answers make everyone sound like an employer’s dream employee.

The trouble is not everyone who interviews well is the best person for the job. So, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff? Well for starters it helps to know what questions not to ask. Questions having to do with the applicant’s age, race, marital status, weight/height, military discharge status, financial status or union affiliation are illegal. Therefore, don’t even think about asking them.

Now that you know what NOT to ask, here is what you do ask:

Oddball Questions
The “If you could be an animal” question qualifies as an oddball question. Other oddball questions include:
On a scale from 1 to 10, how lucky are you?
Are you the smartest person you know?
What was the last costume you wore?
What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

What sets these questions apart from the standard interview questions is that there are no standard answers. The answers you get from candidates will give you insights into their personality and whether or not they are a good fit for your practice. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, asks the lucky question. Hsieh stated that candidates that state the extremes of 1 or 10 are red flags. He felt that those who state they are 1 on the scale are the type of person who won’t take responsibility for their actions. Conversely, those who state they are a 10 on the scale, don’t understand why good things happen to them.

What/How Questions
What and how questions are related to your practice and they include:
What do you do when confronted with the unexpected?
How will you get along with other employees?
What kind of relationship did you have with your former employer?
How did you handle a difficult situation?

These questions get into what the candidate would do once he or she would start working for you. After all you want someone who will come to work on time, focus on the job and get along with patients and staff. Don’t just listen for what the candidate says, rather how he or she presents the answers. Is the person too confident? Does the person hesitate before answering? Are the answers within the realm of the possible? What the candidate says and how he or she will give you an idea of what kind of employee that person will be.

While there is no right answer or foolproof way of finding the right job candidate, not relying on standard interview questions can help you find the right fit for your practice.


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