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Abandoning Responsibility in the Interview?

Newsletter • volume 1 • number 7

Concerns about a person's honesty and judgment are important to any employer, yet questions about family and personal life are illegal in job interviews. How can interviewers legally gain valuable facts that can help them avoid situations like the following unpleasant story?

David Schoo is an engineer for BRK Electronics Inc. in Aurora, Illinois. However, most people in the U.S. know of him as the man who, with his wife Sharon, abandoned their two daughters (four and nine years old) to take a nine-day Christmas vacation in Mexico.

How would you like to see one of your employees handcuffed and escorted by police through O'Hare Airport, charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor, and all these events exposed on the evening news or the cover of People magazine? As Ross Perot might well have asked, "If you can't trust him to take reasonable care of his own daughters, how could you trust him to be responsible for any co-worker, customer or equipment in your company?" Earlier in his career, Schoo surrendered his pharmacist's license after admitting having stolen Valium from his employer.

So, how might an interviewer have learned about the real David Schoo? Three ideas come to mind: Don't let him control the interview. Ask the right questions. Do reference checks.

To keep control of an interview and at the same time draw a person out, particularly someone with Schoo's career history, do not use the resumé as a prop to guide your questioning. The resumé is the candidate's script of how he wants the interview to go. Asking him to tell you about his education and career path might reveal a career in pharmacy that ended abruptly after eight years. Then you are in the position to ask why he gave up pharmacy so suddenly.

Here are some possible questions to understand a candidate's thinking:

- Describe a problem with a co-worker. What was it and how did you handle it?

- Who knows you best at your last place of employment? If I called that person, how would he/she describe you?

- How would you describe your management style?

- How do you handle people who disagree with you?

- If we hired you, what is the one thing your current boss would recommend you improve or strengthen to optimize your performance here?

- Are you satisfied with your career progress to date?

- When you are not working so hard, what do you do to offset the stress of work?

Conclude the interview process with reference checks. As a minimum, confirm degrees and prior places and dates of employment. Also, check the Department of Motor Vehicles for irregularity in a candidate's driving record. Do not abandon your responsibility to fully assess those you interview.