Interview Dos and Don’ts 

Whether you’re interviewing to hire for a position in your firm or company, or it’s been several years since you’ve interviewed yourself, you should know what’s off limits in a job interview.

First, however, here are several tips to keep in mind about the interview itself.

The Interview is a Two-Way Street. As the employer, it may seem as if you have the advantage in the interview, but the interview works two ways. You are looking over the candidate for the position as much as the candidate is looking over you and the company. You’ll want to put your best foot forward and project professionalism during the interview. In addition, be candid and have a conversation about how the company and position should be a good fit for everyone concerned. After all, you’re putting an investment in the new hire, but the new hire is investing his or her time in the company, too.

Avoid Snap Judgments. How long does it take you to judge another person? According to, a person will draw an impression in the first 20 to 30 seconds. That’s hardly enough time to say hello. Instead, try to suspend your judgment during the interview and focus, again, on how good a “fit” the person might be with the position and the organization.

Personality Matters. Some candidates will have great skills and knowledge about their particular areas of accounting, yet may not interview well; they may seem shy and somewhat aloof. Naturally, the candidate isn’t going to admit his or her lack of interviewing skills, so when you’re talking to a candidate, you’ll definitely want to take some time to think about the candidate’s personality. Not only must the person get along with colleagues and others in the firm or company; there’s a good possibility the candidate will have to interact with clients and others.  

What You Can’t Ask
Every question you ask should relate to the position itself. Manager, supervisors, and others find themselves in deep water when they ask questions that do not relate to the position. Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of an applicant’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability. Some state laws also prohibit discrimination based on marital status or sexual orientation.

What can’t you ask? Some of these may be more obvious than others, while others may be a complete surprise. Avoid asking these questions (source: Manager’s Legal Bulletin):

  • Are you married? Are you divorced?
  • If you’re single, are you living with anyone?
  • How old are you?
  • Do you have children, how many, and what are their ages?
  • Do you own or rent your home?
  • What church/synagogue do you attend?
  • Do you have any debts?
  • Do you belong to any social or political groups?
  • How much, and what kind of, insurance do you have?
  • Do you suffer from an illness or disability?
  • Have you been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist?
  • Are you taking any prescribed drugs? Have you been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?
  • Do you plan to get married? Do you plan to start a family? What are your day care plans?
  • Are you comfortable supervising men/women?
  • What would you do if your husband or wife were transferred?
  • Are you likely to take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act?

Focus the Interview on Qualifications and Use Your Judgment
If this list seems logical, that’s a good thing. As a professional, you should know by now what is off limits during an interview versus what is completely legal and logical. Instead of focusing on personal information, you want to assess the person’s ability to do the job. You’ll know some of this from reading the resume or through referrals, but you can’t always trust these sources to be accurate or for facts on paper to be 100 percent accurate! Look what happened to the CEO of Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson who was fired for padding his resume.

Last piece of advice: Avoid hiring based on your emotions. As said earlier, you’ll want to ensure the person can get along with others, but do you really need to like the person more than you like his or her qualifications? If you find yourself unable to make a decision, ask one of your colleagues to interview the candidate. A second opinion is always good to have.


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