May 28, 2021

Susan Kline Outlines Best Practices When Asking Interview Questions With SHRM

In the article “Interview Icebreakers Can Land You in Hot Water,” The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) turned to labor and employment partner Susan Kline for insight on what employers need to know when interviewing candidates, such as avoiding unlawful questions.

For example, “It’s fine to ask if the candidate had a good weekend or has plans for the upcoming weekend,” explained Kline. “Just train your interviewers to tactfully steer the conversation in safer directions if the candidate volunteers information that touches on protected status, such as sharing information about a church activity.”

Kline also said that if a candidate voluntarily shares information about children, “an appropriate response is polite interest and possibly, depending on the conversation, assurance that the organization tries to be very supportive of working parents and personal family choices.”

“Some interviewers like to play the connections game by asking candidates if they know people the interviewer knows,” Kline noted. “That approach can backfire, as it could imply that the organization’s hiring decision-makers are looking for ‘people like us’ rather than valuing and promoting diversity.”

Kline concluded by saying, “Be intentional about avoiding not just unlawful questions, but those that may reflect unconscious bias — for example, assuming that a tall Black candidate will enjoy talking about basketball, or that all women enjoy talking about shopping.” She added, “Plan icebreaker questions that allow all candidates a similar opportunity to engage with you based on their diverse backgrounds and experiences.”

The full article is available for SHRM subscribers.

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