Interview Guide

This guide provides a framework for interviewing candidates for staff openings. It offers sample interview questions to help you get started. This guide is designed to assist you and includes an optional interview worksheet which may be used to assess and compare candidates. The worksheet may be found on the last page of this guide.

When more than one interviewer will be meeting with candidates, hiring managers are encouraged to meet with their interview team and use this guide to select the questions that each interviewer will ask. If appropriate and practical, also make decisions on what specific competency or area of expertise each team member is to focus on when interviewing.

Basic Interview Structure

Generally, interviews for staff positions should be conducted by the hiring manager and search committee (if applicable), and should not exceed one hour. The following structure is recommended:

1.Welcome (10% of the interview)

a. Thank the candidate for their interest in your open position
b. Build rapport with an ice breaker (nothing personal, though)
c. Make the candidate feel comfortable

2. Organizational Culture and Job Description (10% of the interview)

a. Departmental culture and/or general Yale culture
b. Details of the job or insights which expand upon information in the STARS posting

3. Interview Questions (60% of the interview)

a. Ask open-ended probing questions
b. Ask behavioral-based questions
c. Ensure that the questions you ask are directly related to the position

4. Questions from the Candidate (15% of the interview)

a. Allows candidate a chance to learn more about you and the organization
b. Questions may be seen as indicators of future behavior

5. Closing (5% of the interview)

a. Thank the candidate for their time
b. Describe your process, timeline and what the candidate can expect in terms of next steps
c. Do NOT give the candidate any indication of “how it went”

What to Avoid Asking

To ensure legal compliance, all interview questions and comments must be job-related. To help determine if a question or comment is truly job‐related, ask yourself these questions:

  • What type of information is the candidate likely to provide in response to my question or comment? Is that information related to the job?
  • Is the question that I am about to ask, or the comment that I am about to make, necessary to make a legitimate assessment of the candidate’s qualifications?
  • Could it appear to the candidate – or to anyone else who might subsequently scrutinize this interaction – that I was trying to encourage the candidate to reveal information related to their inclusion in a legally protected class (based on age, race, disability, national origin, marital status, etc.)?
  • Do I really need to know the information that I am about to (or likely to) gather?

The following page contains a list of examples of improper questions, as well as examples of some alternatives that may be asked and that are likely to provide helpful information.

Topic

Do NOT Ask…

Instead, Ask…

National Origin/Work Authorization

“Are you a U.S. Citizen?”
“Of what country are you a citizen?”
“What is your native tongue?”

Do not ask questions on this topic. Instead, defer to your recruiter with questions related to work authorization.

Marriage/Family Status

“Are you married/engaged?”
“What was your maiden name?”
“Are you pregnant?”
“Are you planning on having children?”
“Do you have suitable childcare arrangements?”

“This position requires (state job‐related requirement here). If hired, could you meet the requirements of the position?”

Military Service

“What type of discharge did you receive?”

“Tell me how your experience in the military can benefit the department.”

Age

“How old are you?”
“When did you graduate high school/college?”

Do not ask questions on this topic. If you are trying to determine experience, ask about experience.

Disability

“Do you have any disabilities?”

“Are you able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations?”

Religion

“Which religious holidays do you observe?”
“Do you belong to a club or a social organization?”

“Are you able to work with our required schedule?”
“Are you a member of a professional/trade group relevant to the industry?”

Arrest/Conviction Record

“Have you ever been arrested?”

Do not ask questions on this topic. Our background check process will review conviction records.

What is Behavioral Interviewing?

Behavior‐based interviewing is predicated on the idea that past performance, or behavior, is the best predictor of future performance, or behavior. And, while there are no guarantees, experience has shown this approach to be the most sound, reliable way of undertaking the interview process. When thinking of which behavior-based interview questions you’d like to ask, remember the STAR method:

  • Situation – Candidate is asked to describe a situation one might encounter in the workplace
  • Task – Candidate is asked to describe the task with which they were charged
  • Action – Candidate describes the action he or she took
  • Result – Candidate describes the result of their work

Asking behavior-based questions and using the STAR method are great ways to learn more about your candidate’s past behaviors. However, there is no guarantee that candidates will always answer your questions candidly and honestly. To increase the likelihood that the answers they provide are complete, follow up with probing questions. For example, a candidate might answer your questions by saying what “we” did rather than what he or she did. As the interviewer, you may want to consider a probing question like, “what was your specific role in that instance”. Other instances in which probing questions may be helpful are:

If the candidate says…

You might say…

The candidate segues from the original question, to a different topic – even if that topic is job‐related and seems interesting.

If the topic that the candidate raises is relevant, you probably will already have written another primary question that addresses it. Let the candidate know that he or she will have an opportunity to speak about that particular subject later in the interview.

If the topic that the candidate raises is not relevant:
-Wait until there is a momentary pause in the candidate’s response.
-Briefly reflect back what you hear, in an affirming manner.
-Immediately redirect the candidate back to the original question.

The candidate does not respond to your question right away.

Wait patiently (for up to about a minute) to let the candidate formulate a response. When appropriate, let the candidate know you’re going to move on with the interview – and give the candidate an opportunity to follow‐up at the end of the interview.

The candidate responds in a general rather than specific way, leaving you not knowing one way or the other about the candidate’s ability.

Probe in a specific area to get additional clarity and detail. For example, “you mentioned you are a people person, what does that mean exactly – can you give me an example?”

Creating Interview Questions

When thinking about the questions you might want to ask during an interview, begin by considering the following:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the job description and your hiring needs.
  2. Identify the key competencies you are looking for in a candidate. Identify what skills, if any, on the job description you may be willing to relax/reduce and train in order to hire a layoff or internal candidate.
  3. Consider fact-based questions (e.g. “what was a typical day like for you at your previous position”), as well as behavioral-based questions (e.g. “tell me about a time when you managed a difficult client”). 
  4. Design non-transparent questions to which there is a not a clearly favorable answer. If the answer is obvious, candidates are more likely to tell you what they think you want to hear, and won’t necessarily reveal anything insightful about their decision-making process. 
  5. Retain all interview notes for 3 years.

Your recruiter can assist if you need assistance designing your interview questions. Remember to always ensure that you remain consistent and ask each candidate the same interview questions.

The Office of Staffing and Career Development has an online list of sample interview questions (coming soon). Feel free to browse these options and to come up with your own questions which best meet your interviewing needs.

Process Tips

  1. Take good notes! You want to remember important details about the candidate – either why he or she is your candidate of choice, or why the candidate is not the candidate best aligned to your needs. When determining between 3 top candidates, you will need information supplementary to the resume. 
  2. Try to reduce distraction. Find a quiet room and advise staff they may not come into your office when the door is closed. Forward your phone to voicemail if possible. If you squeezed an interview in between two meetings and are constantly looking at the clock, you will appear more focused on what is next as opposed to the interview.
  3. Consider short hand, so you are able to document important information but can also remain connected to the interviewee to ensure you hear all information the candidate says. It will be difficult to hear the information being shared if you are too engrossed in writing.
  4. To make your final selection, compare your notes of the finalists and be certain to gather the feedback of the other interviewers (if applicable).

Optional Interview Worksheet

The skills identified below are samples and should be tailored to your specific position.

Skills Assessment Key

  1. Exceeds requirement
  2. Meets requirement
  3. Does not meet requirement