With 2020 just beginning, your communications team may be evaluating their hiring plans. If you plan to hire new employees this year, now is an ideal time to examine your interviewing practices to ensure you find the best fit.
Interviews provide an opportunity for both your organization and your prospective hire to learn about one another. In addition to helping you get the information you need to evaluate a prospective employee, you should use the interview as a time when you can share an accurate picture of your organization’s values, workplace culture and expectations. If you don’t have much experience with interviewing potential employees, it is important to learn more about the particulars of the process, such as which questions you are allowed to ask.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, you should limit your questions to those that will elicit information you need to determine an applicant’s skills, qualifications and ability to do the job. Irrelevant or overly personal questions may lead to a bad impression of the organization — or worse, an applicant may feel they were discriminated against based on the conversation. Employers should ask all candidates the same questions, “because if a candidate finds out you asked them a question that you didn’t ask most other candidates, they’ll probably wonder why,” according to The Hartford Small Biz Ahead newsletter.
Here are some DO’s for the interview process:
- Ask common, more general interview questions: Why did you leave your last position? How much of your previous job was done solo or as part of a team? What did you find to be the most difficult work-related decisions to make? What interests you about this job? What sets you apart from other candidates?
- Focus on field-specific questions, such as about their writing experience. Writing is a key component of all communications work and includes a range of formats, from blog posts to messages to annual reports.
- Even if the role will not require the employee to work directly on events, it is helpful to ask about their event experience should you need staff support. You never know when you will need more hands on deck!
- Ask whether they have experience with managing multiple deadlines. Working on a communications team includes navigating several projects at a time, so the employee will need excellent time management and multitasking skills.
And here are some DON’Ts to keep in mind, as well as different ways to ask questions to get the information you need:
- If you want to find out whether applicants can work overtime or travel, don’t ask whether they have children or are married; try asking whether they have restrictions on their work hours.
- If the job has physical demands, don’t ask about the applicant’s age (directly or indirectly) or health status; instead, be detailed when outlining the job requirements and ask if they are able to perform all of them, with or without reasonable accommodations.
- Don’t ask about race, ethnicity, place of birth or sexual orientation. Although these questions might seem like casual conversation, they can come across as discriminatory. You could ask if they speak any other languages, if that would be an asset to the organization.
- Don’t ask about where an applicant lives, their finances, if they are members of a local club or church, or any similar personal questions. Even well-intentioned “get to know you” small talk can seem exclusive from the other side of the table. Networking is important in communications, though, so you can ask instead about memberships in relevant professional and trade groups.
- Don’t oversell the position or make implied commitments about career progression or job security. Besides causing low morale from an apparent “bait and switch” tactic, misleading statements like these can be grounds for legal action. Be clear about what the position entails and what the organization expects from someone in the role.
As you get ready for interviews, here are a few resources that can help you avoid missteps:
- Society for Human Resource Management: These Interview Questions Could Get HR in Trouble
- The Washington Post: Top Interview Resources for Employers
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management: How to Conduct a Successful Interview
Good luck, and happy hiring!