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Selecting and Interviewing Applicants for a Staff or Administrative Positions

Sample Interview Questions

Boost your interviews and better align with BYU's Mission with some of our sample interview questions.


BYU recommends interviewing at least three (3) qualified applicants. If fewer than 2 applicants are selected to be interviewed, we suggest the department re-open the job to allow more applicants to apply.

If you are not getting the right candidate applying for the job, this might be an opportunity to reevaluate what you want this position to do. This might mean taking another look at the job description.

Once you have selected candidates, the next step is designing interview questions that are open-ended and that will give you the answers you need. For example: "What experience do you have using Microsoft Word?" Instead of: "Are you good at using Microsoft Word?"

Learn the rules of legal interviewing and play by them.

In general, do not ask questions that cover the following:

  • Age
  • Date of Birth
  • Place of Birth
  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Arrest Record
  • Marital Status
  • Gender
  • Anything About Children and Childcare
  • Height and Weight
  • History of Alcohol or Drug Addiction
  • Hobbies and Sports Activities
  • Disabilities or Physical Limitations
  • How They Feel About Unions

Appropriate Interview Questions

  • Can you PERFORM the essential job functions listed on the job announcement and as we have discussed them?
  • Would you DESCRIBE to me how you would perform these functions?
  • Would you DEMONSTRATE to me how you would perform the essential functions of the job?
  • You may provide information on your attendance requirements and ask if the applicant can meet those requirements.

Focus on Specific Job Functions:

Are you able to perform this task with or without accommodations?

If the applicant indicates they can perform the function with an accommodation, what accommodation would it take?

How would you perform this task? Please demonstrate how you would perform the task.

Inappropriate Interview Questions

The following questions may reveal a disability that could find you liable for discrimination.

  • Do you have any disability or impairments that may affect your performance?
  • Have you had any major illnesses?
  • Have you been hospitalized recently
  • Is there any health-related reason that would prohibit you from performing the job?
  • Do you use any prescription drugs?
  • Have you ever filed for Worker's Compensation?

Other Topics to Avoid Regarding a Disability:

  • The Nature
  • The Severity
  • The Cause
  • Any Prognosis
  • Future Treatment Requirements
  • Need for Special Leave of Absence

The same set of questions should be asked of all applicants. However, if an applicant has a "known" disability that would appear to interfere with or prevent performance of a job-related function, he/she may be asked to describe how this function would be performed even if other applicants do not have to do so.

Respect for the candidate and his/her personal information should be exercised. The following shows what is considered lawful or unlawful to discuss in an interview.

Exceptions: When is it lawful?



Potentially Unlawful


Must be a bona fide job qualification or necessity. Distinctions based on gender are uncommon (e.g. issue attendant in locker room, actor or actress playing a part).

Employment decisions should not be based on gender, but on the ability to perform the job.

Marital & Family Status

Whether candidate can meet specified work schedules.

"This job works from 8am to 5pm. Are you able to regularly work those hours?"

"Are you married, single, divorced, engaged etc.?" Number and age of children. Any questions or references to pregnancy.


Inquiry as to minimum age requirements, by law, to work.

"This job requires that you are at least 18 years old. Are you at least 18 years old?"

Inquiries regarding age, retirement, etc. The law protects individuals over the age of 40 from being discriminated against because of age.

Disability Accommodation

This question must be asked of each candidate: "After reviewing the essential job functions, are you able to perform them?"

Any pre-employment inquiry about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability.


"Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?" This question must be asked of each candidate.

"Of what country are you a citizen?" "Do your parents originate from the U.S.?" "I see you were born in…"


Languages that the candidate reads and/or speaks fluently, if it is job related.

Inquiries into lineage, ancestry, native language, etc. How foreign language was acquired (Including missions)


None. (Race and ethnicity are now obtained via voluntary self-disclosure through Yjobs)

Discrimination should not occur on any basis related to the race of the candidate.


Whether the applicant has any actual convictions. (If the candidate answers yes, then contact Employment Services)

Any inquiries about arrests.

Credit Rating


Inquiries about credit rating, charge accounts, etc.


"Do you have work or school records under a different name?"

Inquiries which would indicate candidate's lineage, national origin, previous name of candidate where it has been changed by court order, marriage, etc.

Best Practices for Interviewing

Each member of the interviewing panel should review these guidelines as well as the Americans with Disability Act.

Interviewing and Questioning Techniques

In making the transition from small talk to the interview proper, the first question asked should be open and not difficult to answer. For example: "Please tell us about your experience and training as it relates to this position". See sample interview questions for more ideas.

Interviews should flow more like a conversation, not an interrogation. To achieve this, comments and spontaneous conversation about relevant topics are encouraged; however, if the candidate self-discloses information that would have been inappropriate to obtain, further probing or documentation of the information should not occur.

Interview Objectives

David Cherrington in The Management of Human Resources gives 4 purposes of interviews:

  • To obtain information about the applicant.
  • To sell the organization.
  • To provide information about the organization.
  • To establish friendship.

80/20 Rule

The job of the interview committee is to ask questions and listen for predictive information from candidates. Candidates should do approximately 80% of the talking, interviewers 20%.


Interviewers do not need to be overly concerned about silences. Sometimes it takes a minute for the candidate to think of a good example to answer your question. Candidates will fill in a silence with important additional information; however, the situation should not be allowed to turn awkward.

Follow Up Questions

Probing or follow up questions will encourage further conversation. These questions can elicit useful information beyond rehearsed responses. Basic example: "Can you provide more detail on that?" or "Then what did you do?"

Consistency in Questioning

Generally, all candidates should be asked the same series of questions. It helps to write down a few interview questions that you will ask all candidates. It is much easier to compare candidates if everyone is measured against the same criteria.

Inviting Questions

Candidates should be invited to ask questions. The committee's answers will assist candidates in evaluating their "fit" for the job. Remember, interviews are a two way thing. You are both evaluating each other to see if this is the right fit. The quality and quantity of questions asked by candidates also provides useful information to the interview committee.

Scheduling Considerations

  • Determine the length of time for each interview.
  • Hold the interviews relatively close together to provide a better comparison of the candidates.
  • The interview room or location should be free from interruptions.

Informing the Candidates

  • Day, time and location of the interview.
  • Directions and parking instructions.
  • Approximate time to allot from arriving on campus to departure.
  • What he or she can expect in the interview.

Setting the Stage

  • Interviews should be free of interruptions (no phone calls, visitors, etc.).
  • Interviewers should not be late to the meeting or act rushed.
  • A warm greeting and suitable introductions should be made.
  • "Small talk" at the beginning of the interview can be made; however, interviewers need to be cautious to avoid small talk that could lead to inappropriate questions.
  • Candidates should be informed as to what will occur in the interview.
  • The position should be explained, including working hours and any special schedules (required to work weekends, swing shift, etc.).

Be Aware of the Candidates

  • Give them a chance to sell themselves.
  • Give yourself a chance to evaluate their qualifications.
  • Stay neutral in the interview.
  • Don't be overly positive or optimistic.
  • Explain how you will handle the selection process and when the candidate will expect to hear from you.
  • The interview should be ended with a friendly, positive "Thank you."
  • Candidates should not be rejected until the entire process is completed and a candidate has accepted an offer.

What is HireVue?

HireVue is an on-demand digital screening tool that BYU utilizes to help applicants and selection committees connect in a more efficient and convenient manner. Each applicant selected to participate in a HireVue screening will receive an email invitation, asking them to answer a few questions at their convenience. Their answers will be recorded for the selection committee to review. Following a HireVue screening, if an applicant is selected to move forward in the process, they will be contacted to participate in a live in-person interview.