This script was developed from Dr. William S. Swan, Interview Guide; Mary
Rudder and Dale P. King, "Interviewing and the ADA: How Do You Get Beyond
Strengths and Weaknesses," Americans with Disabilities Act Forum on the Progress
of Implementation, Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 1993. These guidelines apply to
all interviews. You can use — or eliminate — any of these questions, but be
careful about adding any that aren't business related.
After you have selected the applicants you wish to meet with, it pays to plan
out the interview in advance. Having a fixed agenda, knowing what questions you
will ask and what information you will provide can expedite the process and
reduce the time you have to spend with each candidate. It also goes a long way
in providing uniform information regarding the job applicants.
This sample interview script can easily adapt for your own business. Note
that the interview process is divided into two parts. In the first part, the
information gathering stage, you obtain information about the applicant. In the
second stage, you let the applicant know about the job and your business.
Following this two-part approach can save even more time. If it is clear, after
the first part of the interview, that the applicant is not suitable, there is no
need to proceed to the second part.
Job Applicant Interview Script
When the applicant
arrives, put him or her at ease using a friendly, businesslike attitude. Let the
applicant know that you're glad that they've come and that you have set aside
sufficient uninterrupted time to conduct the interview. You can start the
interview with chatter about hobbies, interests, etc., if you are comfortable
doing so and are confident that you can stay away from personal questions that
might be considered discriminatory. Or you can simply ask one of the following
"How did you happen to become interested in our organization?"
"How did you hear of the opening?"
Depending on the response, you can work in an overview of what you have
"Before we start, let me give you some idea of what I'd like to cover today.
I want to review your background and experience so that I can decide whether the
job is suited to your talents and interests. So, I'd like to hear about your
job, education, interests, outside activities and anything else you'd like to
tell me. And after we have covered your background, I want to give you
information about our organization and the job, and answer any questions that
you might have."
A discussion of work experience should
vary widely based, in part, on how long the applicant has been employed.
Questions appropriate to a recent high school or college graduate will make
little sense when interviewing a professional with 15 years of experience. For
an applicant with substantial experience, a reasonable starting point would be a
discussion of the most recent position. In addition to focusing on the jobs
themselves, it might also be helpful to discuss why the applicant has changed
jobs in the past, the duration of each prior employment, chronological gaps in
employment, etc. The following script would be appropriate when interviewing
someone who has not been working long.
"A good place to start would be your work experience."
"I'm interested in the jobs you've held, what your duties and
responsibilities were, your likes and dislikes, and what you felt you may have
gained from them."
"Let's start with a brief review of your first work experiences, those you
might have had part-time during school or during the summer, and then we'll
concentrate on your more recent jobs in more detail."
"What do you remember about your very first job?"
Select specific follow-up questions for each job and move forward
chronologically. It's been suggested that you move forward chronologically
because there's a more natural conversational flow and you can see patterns of
Your follow-up questions should ask for specific examples of behavior, not
general or hypothetical responses. Don't ask "Are you dependable?" because all
you will get in response is a "Yes."
Instead, say, "Tell me about a day you got to work on time, only because of
extra effort." It is focused on specific examples of behavior. Similarly,
instead of asking, "Are you organized?" say "Tell me about a time when your
organizational skills made a project successful" or "How did you organize your
work in your last position? How did you handle the unexpected?"
Ask specific, clear questions one at a time and let the applicant answer
uninterrupted. Resist filling in every lull in the conversation; wait to see if
the applicant will do so.
Avoid either verbally or physically giving the applicant a clue as to how you
regard their answers; remain neutral.
To draw the applicant out without revealing what you're thinking, try using
his or her own words. If the candidate says, "I like to work
independently," you could respond with "Independently?" Of
course, you could also use the opportunity to ask the applicant to give an
example of what he or she did working independently.
After you have covered the applicant's work experience, you could move on to
As in the case of the work experience portion
of the interview, the education discussion must be tailored to suit the
applicant's educational level. The sample interview that follows would be
appropriate for a younger applicant who has not been out of high school for any
length of time. When interviewing for a professional position, the focus would
shift to the professional education.
"You've given me a good review of your work experience — now let's talk about
your education. Why don't we start with high school briefly and then cover more
recent schooling and any specialized on the job training you may have had. I'm
interested in the subjects you preferred, your grades, extracurricular
activities, and anything else of importance."
"What was high school like for you?"
Select specific follow-up questions for each educational experience and move
forward chronologically. Don't necessarily accept answers at face value.
Chronology reveals patterns. Take the information and patterns of behavior that
you're being told and analyze them in terms of the performance skills you
determined that you needed before the interview began.
Activities and Interests
"Turning to the present, I'd
like to give you the opportunity to mention some of your interests and
activities outside of work — hobbies, what you do for fun and relaxation, any
community activities, professional associations, or anything else you'd like to
mention that you think might be relevant to our job. What would you like to
Select specific follow-up questions.
Show interest and attention, as well as respect for the applicant. Don't talk
down. Do use an appropriate language level.
"Now let's try to summarize our
conversation. Thinking about all we've covered today, what would you say are
some of your strengths — qualities both personal and professional that make you
a good prospect for any employer?"
Select specific follow-up questions as needed.
"You've given me some real assets, and now I'd like to hear about areas you'd
like to develop further — all of us have qualities we'd like to change or
improve. What are some of yours?"
Select specific follow-up questions as needed.
Transition to Information-Giving Phase
If you are still
interested in the applicant, proceed to this phase of the interview. On the
other hand, if you have already decided that the applicant isn't suitable, there
isn't much point in describing a position that the applicant won't be
"You've given me a good review of your background and experience, and I have
enjoyed talking with you. Before we turn to my review of our organization, and
the job, is there anything else about your background you would like to
"Do you have any specific questions or concerns before I give you information
about the job and the opportunities here?"
“All right, now I have some information I'd like to give you."
Review the organization, the job, benefits, location, etc.
Tailor your presentation as appropriate to your interest in the
"Do you have any other questions about us, the
job, or anything else?"
Close the interview graciously. If you have already decided not to offer the
applicant a job, you can let them know at this point. Do so cordially and
uncritically; you needn't be specific about why you've rejected the
"I've enjoyed talking with you today, but we won't be able to offer you this
If you think that you would consider the applicant for another position in
the future, say so. You've already spent the time on an interview.
If pressed for a reason why an applicant won't be offered a job, you always
have the option of telling the applicant that you do not discuss the reasons for
your hiring decisions. Or, you may explain that, for example, you have already
interviewed other, more qualified applicants. Use your judgment, realizing that
it can create a very awkward situation if you merely tell an applicant that he
or she is "unqualified" or "lacking experience." Be honest, but don't be
If you've found a promising candidate, you can continue.
"What is your level of interest in us at this point?"
Explore any doubts or reservations the applicant might have.
"Let me review what the next steps are."
Let the applicant know what's likely to happen next, whether another
interview will be needed, and how long it will be before a decision is made.
"I want to thank you for coming today."