So you’ve gone through all the resumes and identified the candidates who have the skills, attitude and aptitude mojo your business needs, and now it’s time to move on to the next phase of the hiring process—the interview.

Interviews are important when it comes to testing the impressions you got from the candidate’s resume, and can provide you with a more complete sense of how qualified they are for the role, but remember that the process goes both ways.

They are learning about you as you are learning about them. Both parties should be putting their best foot forward, and on your side of the table, that means having a game plan.

This brief meeting might be the only chance you have to interact with the client prior to hiring them, and you’re going to want to get the most out of the opportunity. Here are a few tips on how to do that.

Before the interview

We can’t overemphasize the importance of communication, and that is especially true during this part of the process.

In addition to letting the candidate know when and where the interview will take place, help them make it on time by giving them detailed traffic information or an alternate route.

If you have a security guard or receptionist on duty, give them a heads up that you have a very important guest coming to visit.

Will the candidate need to show an ID when they arrive? Let them know. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to give the applicant a friendly reminder call or email the day before.

Have your questions lined up

Take a little time to reread the job description you posted and write out the skills that you think will most apply to the open position.

Don’t forget to include relevant soft skills like communication, teamwork, flexibility and problem solving.

Use them as a guide while you’re coming up with questions to ask during the interview. Will you be interviewing multiple candidates?

Make note of which questions apply to all of them and add them to the list.

Read the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines

And while we’re talking about preparation, do you know the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines for pre-employment inquiries? You should. Some interview questions could be used as evidence of discrimination.

In fact, a staggering 35 percent of job seekers reported in an Associated Press and CNBC study that they have been asked illegal questions during an interview.

While the EEOC’s site doesn’t list out specific questions that are forbidden, it does provide a list of topics to avoid, and these include race, sex, national origin, disability status, age, religion and ancestry. 

Familiarizing yourself with the rules can save you potential legal headaches further down the road, including costly lawsuits.

Topics to avoid

A good rule of thumb is to look at each of your questions and ask: Is it related to the job? Will it always be interpreted correctly? Does it apply equally to all? This can wind up eliminating questions that on the surface might seem like harmless small talk.

These can include:

  • What year did you graduate from high school? Anything that hints at ageism should be avoided.
  • Where do your kids go to school? This can be interpreted as an employer trying to learn whether you might be leaving early to pick up kids from school or even miss work due to a child’s illness. 
  • How was the drive in?  This might be construed as implying the candidate lives in a bad area, has a terrible commute or could always be late or working from home.
  • Where is your surname from? This is another example of a seemingly friendly question that can be interpreted as an attempt to figure out a person’s ethnic background. It’s not relevant to the job they are interviewing for and can be used as evidence of discrimination.
  • What does your wife/husband do for a living? This could be construed as trying to suss out not only the applicant’s marital status but their sexual identity.

If you’re looking for more examples that fit in these categories, there are plenty of great articles and guidelines out there that can help you avoid stepping on any legal land mines.

The big questions

Hiring the right person is one of the most impactful decisions your business can make, and the interview is one of the few, if not only, chances you’re going to have to get to know your candidates. Don’t get caught flat-footed. Be ready.

By now, you’re probably thinking through some great questions to ask your interviewee. Hold that thought! We’re going to be addressing some big interview questions that are frequently underrated and overlooked on the pages of this blog very soon.