Hiring managers, know which interview topics to avoid

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A business assistant on the phone in an office.

Recruiting is no walk in the park. Most hiring managers will know that a bad appointment could potentially cost their business threefold: the cost of searching, the cost of hiring, and the cost of training. So it’s all the more important to get it right first time. Having a structured hiring policy will play an important role in getting the best person for the job. Preparing properly, setting a timeline and applying a uniform approach for interviewing candidates will provide clarity in the decision-making process and ensure everyone is being considered on fair grounds.

That said, we also firmly believe in the importance of rapport-building in an interview, which will probably involve some small talk. This is especially true when hiring an EA, however, in doing so you may find yourself in uncharted territory. If this happens, steer the conversation back to your prepared interview questions and continue. In the meantime, avoid the below topics too:

1. Any subject relating to religion, gender, age, race, marital status, sexual orientation, gender expression and disabilities

That list might appear to be overwhelming, but essentially the premise is the same. Simply avoid asking too many questions that could be interpreted to be bordering on too personal. For example, asking someone what they did on the weekend and receiving a response along the lines of: “I went to a picnic organised by the synagogue with my husband and children,” takes you way off course. Bring the conversation back to your set questions immediately, so as to avoid legal risk both to yourself and the business you’re hiring for.

2. Social media access

Asking for candidates’ social media account information is a no-go area as well. If you want to have a little hunt around to see how the candidate represents themselves publicly online, by all means do that. But if you can’t find them or believe they may have pseudonyms, don’t probe for more info.

3. Leading questions

Asking a question such as, “Your boss must have been pleased about your decision to organise the travel itinerary, mustn’t he?” leads the interviewee to feel uncomfortable about saying anything other than ‘yes’. Avoid leading questions so that the candidate can feel confident answering authentically.

4. Positive reinforcement

Keep the tone of the interview neutral. Expressing to them something along the lines of, “That is exactly the right response and one that we’d expect from someone working here,” gives them an indication of their performance – which is a strict no-no. Maintain a balance between being friendly and neutral in your responses.

5. Textbook questions

Finally, make a bit of an effort with the interview questions. Asking, “What is your biggest weakness?” is a qujaneestion that the candidate will have probably prepared in advance. Try a couple of unusual questions for a more genuine dialogue.

Looking to hire your next recruit? Get in touch now. If you’re looking for more information on the selection process, read our complete interview and selection guide for employers.

Author Jane Leese Tiger Recruitment Team

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