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Interviewing can be a tedious and stressful time. Which questions should you ask, which ones are appropriate? Are you going to pick the right person for the position? This page is dedicated to providing resources for developing interview questions and best practices on the interview process.

Inappropriate Questions

The following table has been added for your convenience and summarizes inappropriate questions for potential employees. It is intended to help formulate questions which will elicit the legal information needed to make employment decisions. As a reminder, ALL applicants for a position must be asked the SAME questions.

SubjectShould NOT AskMay Ask
NameWhether a person has worked under a different name. Questions which divulge marital status, ancestry or national origin.Current legal name. Whether any other information is necessary about applicant's name to check on previous work or educational record.
Marital StatusWhether a person is married, single, separated, divorced, widowed or engaged.Nothing.
Family StatusAbout family planning, number and ages of children, child care arrangements, spouse's employment, salary, travel schedule, whether applicant is "head of household."Willingness to travel if job requires. Ability to meet work schedule requirements.
AgeApplicant to state age or date of birth or to provide proof of age. (This information can be obtained afterhire.)Whether applicant meets the minimum age requirement as set out by law. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act amendment of 1986 eliminates the mandatory retirement age of 70 except for tenured faculty. Therefore, questions about upper age limits are inappropriate.
Race or ColorApplicant's race. Nothing.
PregnancyAbout medical history concerning pregnancy and related health matters. Do not reject applicants because of pregnancy alone.Anticipated duration in the job. Anticipated absences from the job. (Same questions must be asked of males and females)
Physical/Mental DisabilitiesGeneral questions about whether person is disabled or the severity or nature of the disability: questions soliciting information that is not job related.Whether person is able to carry out all necessary job requirements in a safe manner. Employer is required to make "reasonable accommodations" for physical and mental limitations of employees including alteration of duties and physical setting and provision of aids.
AddressInquiry into foreign address that would indicate national origin. Names or relationships of persons with whom applicant resides. Whether applicant rents or owns a home.Applicant's address.
Birthplace/National OriginAncestry/birth place of applicant or spouse, parents or other relatives.Applicant's address.
ReligionAbout religious denomination, affiliation, religious holidays observed.Anticipated absences from job. But reasonable accommodation must be made to the religious observances and practices of a prospective employee.
Language SkillsAbout language skill unless it is a necessary job requirement.About ability to speak, read or write English or a foreign language if the job requires.
Military RecordType of discharge from military.Type of education and experience in service if it relates to the job.
PhotographFor photo before hiring.May require photo after hiring for identification purposes.
CitizenshipWhether the individual is a U.S. citizen, as a basis for exclusion from employment.If you are not a citizen or resident alien of the U.S. does your visa or immigration status prevent you from lawful employment.
*Education and Experience*About education or experience that is not related to job performance. Inquiries specifically asking the nationality, racial affiliation or religious affiliation of the school attended. (Requirements should not be higher than needed for job; that discriminates against poor and/or minorities with less opportunity for education.)*Training and experience related to job requirements, including names and addresses of previous employers, dates of employment, reasons for leaving and schools attended.
ArrestsAbout arrests because the person is not judged guilty by an arrest.Nothing.
ConvictionsAbout convictions unless the information bears on job performance. Note: Do not make indefensible assumptions about future behavior based on conviction.About convictions, if all candidates are asked, and if the information has bearing on job performance of the specific positions. Look at severity and frequency of violation, age of applicant at time of illegal act, time elapsed since conviction, and all aspects of the applicant to determine the seriousness of the conviction in relation to potential job performance.
Credit Ratings or GarnishmentsAbout credit ratings, financial status, car or home ownership, since they usually have little or no relation to job performance. NOTE: It is a civil rights violation to refuse to hire a minority on the basis of a person's poor credit rating, unless business necessity for doing so can be shown.Nothing, unless job related.
RelativesName or address of any relative of adult applicant. Information about friends or relatives working for an employer is not relevant to an applicant's job performance.Nothing.
Whom to contact in case of emergencyDo not ask for this information before hiring.After hire, determine name and address of person to contact in case of emergency.
Sexual OrientationAbout sexual orientation.Nothing.
ReferencesDo not ask for a mere listing of unchecked references.This inquiry is fine if employers actually check with references for employment suitability.
OrganizationsAbout all organizations the person belongs to; organizations which indicate race, color, creed, sex, marital status, religion, or national origin.About professional and job-related organizations, provided the applicant may exclude the name or character of an organization that would reveal the race, religion, color, or ancestry of that organization.
General (for any position)
  1. Why did you decide to apply for this position?
    What appeals most to you about it?  Least?
    What aspects about this position would cause you to consider leaving your current position?
  2. What three characteristics best describe you?
  3. What traits do you value most in others?
  4. What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
  5. What type of work environment and pace of work do you prefer?
  6. What aspects of your current position do you enjoy the most?
  7. What professional accomplishment has given you the most satisfaction?
  8. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond to get a job done.
  9. Tell me about two memorable projects, one success and one failure. To what do you attribute the success and failure?
  10. Tell me about a situation in your professional career that did not work out as you had hoped and what you learned from it.
  11. Please provide examples of professional situations in which you have had to exercise judgment and independently make business decisions.
  12. Please describe a work situation in which you recognized a need for change and how you dealt with it.
  13. What kinds of professional development efforts have you made in the past?  What do you have in mind for the future?
Specific to Position
  1. Please summarize those aspects of your training and career that qualify you for this position.
  2. What areas of this position’s responsibilities are you most qualified for?  Least qualified for?
  3. Describe your skill levels when it comes to working with automated tools:  analytical and quantitative software, spreadsheets, databases, word processing, electronic mail, mainframe systems….?
  4. Tell us about a complicated project you completed in the last year.  What made it complicated and how did you approach it?
  5. Describe your experience with…  and please provide examples… (use this type of question to compare the specific experience a candidate has with what you need for the position).
  6. Situational or hypothetical questions that do not have one correct answer but instead elicit responses that provide insight into the candidate’s approach or thought process.
  7. What distinguishes you from other highly qualified applicants for this position?  OR  What unique experience or qualifications separate you from other candidates?
  8. For supervisory/management positions Describe your supervisory/management experience and style.  Describe a difficult personnel issue you have faced and how you dealt with it.
Diversity
  1. Describe a time when you were able to adapt your communication approach so that you could interact more effectively with a person who came from a perspective, background or culture that was very different from your own. What did you do to find common ground?
  2. Could you please share a project or situation from your own work history that you found challenging because of competing interests, viewpoints, and priorities for constituent groups?  Describe how you managed the situation, including the specific options and strategies you chose to use? What factors did you consider when weighing the various diverse and conflicting viewpoints and priorities?
  3. Provide an example of what you have done in a higher educational setting to improve success for students of color and economically disadvantaged students. Please provide an example of how you do this in your daily work.
  4. The University of Wisconsin values employees with diverse viewpoints and backgrounds.  What has been your experience in working with people of culturally, ethnically, or other diverse backgrounds?
Closing
  1. What were you prepared to tell us that we did not ask?
  2. What will your references tell us about you?
  3. Do you have any questions for us?

 

Equal Opportunity & Access

Securing equity and fairness at UW Oshkosh.