Best Hiring Practices and Interview Questions

Bringing on new employees is a significant long-term investment for any small business, and finding, hiring, and retaining the right talent plays a pivotal role in your company’s success. Read on to learn the best practices for recruiting staff, making sure your interview practices comply with federal and state laws, and creating an inclusive recruiting and hiring process.

Craft an Effective Job Posting

The first step in the hiring process is sourcing qualified candidates. This can be done by creating a job posting on a popular job search platform like LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, or others. 

Many job boards offer screening services that parse resumes based on how well they meet a job’s criteria. To attract the best-matched candidates for any position, keep these tips in mind when you create the job post:

  • Make sure the job title is clear, direct, and specific. Many job-seekers apply based on the job title alone, without reading the full job description.
  • Write a job description that helps candidates visualize a typical day at work.
  • Put the salary range and employee perks and benefits on top, followed by the candidate requirements and qualifications needed for this job. 

It takes time to filter applicants, interview them, and train the right person. You can reduce the number of initial applicants by laying out some non-negotiable requirements and the preferred skills you’re seeking. Sending out screening questions to applicants can also help reduce the pool of candidates.

Interviewing Top Candidates

The more you learn about a candidate, the more you can make a confident hiring choice. Hold multiple interviews and invite other staff members to meet with job candidates before determining your final pick. 

The purpose of the interview is to ask questions that aren’t already answered on their resume and to get a sense of how the applicant thinks and performs. You can also get clues about their attitude, work style, adaptability, and problem-solving skills.

To give you a better idea of how a candidate might fare in these categories, below are some questions from Monster that you might consider asking. Of course, interview questions will vary based on your specific business and the position you’re looking to fill.

  • Explain a time when you didn’t know how to complete a task. How did you get the help you needed?
  • What personality types do you find particularly difficult to work with?
  • What are some of your non-work activities and hobbies, and what can they tell me about you?
  • How do you adapt to change? Can you give me an example from one of your past roles?
  • How would your past or current co-workers and managers describe you, both positive and negative?
  • Besides compensation, what else do you value in a job?
  • What were some of the opportunities for improvement listed in past performance reviews?
  • How do you define success? What are some of your greatest professional accomplishments so far?
  • Describe a workplace conflict in which you were involved and how you managed it. Were you able to get it resolved?

Be transparent with candidates on your hiring process’s timeline and next steps to keep them informed and interested in the position until you’re ready to make an official offer. When you make your final selection and a candidate accepts the job, be sure to let the other candidates know that the position has been filled. (You can add that your company will keep them in mind for future opportunities.)

Federal and State Recruiting Laws

In addition to screening applicants based on their skills and whether they’re a good fit for your company culture, you must also make sure that your hiring process complies with federal and state laws. Otherwise, you could risk possible legal action against your business. 

Federal Hiring Rules

It is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, or pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. This ban on discrimination applies to various hiring practices you must observe through your company’s job postings, recruitment practices, and screening methods.

You can review the federal rules that apply to hiring best practices and some interview questions a hiring manager can and cannot ask on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website here

Oregon Recruiting Rules

The state of Oregon has its own requirements that impact recruiting and hiring. Below is a summary of the rules that Oregon businesses must follow

  • Ban the box: An employer cannot require an applicant to disclose a past conviction on an employment application or before a conditional job offer has been made.
  • Criminal checks: An employer must advise job applicants that criminal offender information will be sought and must confirm for the Department of State Police that the applicant has been advised and how they were advised. Oregon law prohibits the use of expunged juvenile records in making employment decisions.
  • Drug testing: Employers are allowed to conduct pre-employment drug tests but must follow state law in how the testing is done. Positive test results that will cause denial of employment must be confirmed by a clinical laboratory or an equivalent out-of-state facility before the result is released.
  • Credit checks: Employers are generally prohibited from obtaining or using credit history information for employment purposes unless such information is substantially related to the candidate’s job. Exceptions to this rule include federally insured banks or credit unions, law enforcement officers, and where state or federal law requires the use of credit information.
  • Salary history inquiry restrictions: Employers are prohibited from asking job applicants about their salary history or seeking such information from a current or former employer. However, an employer may ask a prospective employee for written authorization to confirm prior compensation after the employer makes a job offer that specifies compensation.

Where there may be overlap between federal, state, and/or local laws, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

How to Hire Inclusively

The inclusive hiring process actively recognizes the diversity and broad range of qualities and perspectives that candidates bring to their workplace. While there are laws to prevent discrimination, implementing inclusive hiring practices helps strengthen a business’s reputation, which in turn helps with talent acquisition in a competitive job market. 

Additionally, research has shown that having diversity within an organization leads to higher levels of productivity and innovation, and helps improve employee retention rates. You’ll want to make sure your business uses inclusive hiring practices to level the playing field for all applicants and eliminates recruitment bias and discrimination in any form.

Here are some best practices to ensure equity and inclusion in your hiring and recruitment process:

  • Craft inclusive job descriptions. Use inclusive language that invites candidates in. This means no gendered language, jargon, or idioms that can make potential candidates feel excluded. It’s also a good idea to state your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion within the job description.

  • Ensure inclusive video interviews. Video call interviews, especially in the early stages of the interview process, have become the new norm in hiring people. But it’s important to note that candidates may not have access to the latest technology at home, or their living space could lack private or quiet areas. Remember that these factors do not impact how well a candidate could do the job.

  • Use the same questions for all candidates. Asking the same interview questions in the same order provides each candidate an equal opportunity to effectively showcase their fit for the role. Avoid questions that are superfluous or that could exacerbate bias.

  • Select questions that focus on capabilities. Your interview questions should focus on capabilities over direct work experience. This way your business can be inclusive of varying backgrounds and perspectives in the interview process.

  • Utilize work samples to assess skills. Requesting work samples or asking applicants to complete a skill test during the interview process allows employers to evaluate job candidates’ abilities objectively. Also, if two candidates are given the same test, they can be evaluated side by side based on their work and not the employer’s unconscious bias that may influence the hiring decision.

By following these best practices, you can be sure that your company is hiring people who are right for the job—and that the time, money, and resources spent on your recruiting process are being used effectively.

The Oregon SBDC Network is here to help small business owners. Find the SBDC closest to you to access the resources you need by visiting OregonSBDC.org.