The Art of Verbal Interviewing

Approach the applicant with a positive attitude. The purpose is not to eliminate the applicant but rather find reasons to hire him or her for the position you have open.

BE AWARE OF THE LAW: You can't ask about a person's personal life, age, race, sexual orientation, or political beliefs. Therefore, DON'T ASK: Are you married? Do you have children? Does your husband (or wife) work? Do you collect Social Security? Are you homosexual? Do you believe marijuana should be legalized? Are you retired? What year did you graduate from high school, college etc. (age discrimination)? In some states you can't ask about military service.

Eliminate barriers like your desk (unless you WANT to intimidate the applicant). The applicant is naturally nervous and you want to establish a comfortable, relaxed, information-gathering atmosphere.

What you DON'T WANT is an atmosphere signaling "I can hire you and change your life so you better give me good answers!" Don't make the verbal interview a Gestapo Interrogation, instead, make it a friendly conversation with the goal of establishing whether this applicant can "fit" into the position successfully.

Hold your telephone calls and other interruptions. Focus on the applicant, it's important to you, the applicant, and the company to conduct a good interview with meaningful results.

Avoid the question WHY? or questions that start with that word. WHY puts the applicant in the position of having to defend an answer or may be perceived as a personal affront to their character. This one little word can destroy the "information gathering" atmosphere you've worked hard to create. Instead, ask questions that start with WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, EXPLAIN, ELABORATE, and GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF to get good responses. When asking questions do so in a voice tone that reflects an "I need more information" stance rather than a tone indicating a "That's really stupid, tell me more" attitude.

Control your body language while interviewing. Your hands are a powerful body language sign. Hiding them under your desk or behind you indicate you are trying to "hide" something. Keep them open and in the applicant's sight at all times. Don't cross your legs; rather keep both feet flat on the floor. Sit on the edge of your seat and lean towards the applicant. Look the applicant in the eye, smile, and nod positively when appropriate. Some people move their hand to cover a portion of their face or mouth. You may think this makes you look contemplative, but in fact it signals you've stopped listening or are trying to hide something. Follow these hints and you will be perceived as open, honest, and interested in the applicant. The same rules apply to the applicant. One additional signal is dress. Remember that the applicant has probably dressed in his or her best clothes for the interview. Does it meet your company's standards?