When you’re interviewing to find the next member of your facilities management team, it’s important to be prepared with the right questions—and know to skip the wrong ones. In this article, we’re taking a look at some behavioral questions you can ask to ensure you make the right hire, plus we’ll review a few questions you should avoid at all costs.
There are two types of behavioral questions, situational (“what would you do”) and past behavior (“what have you done”). In situational questions, interviewers present the candidate with a scenario and ask what he or she would do in that situation, while past behavior questions give the candidate an opportunity to describe how his or her past experience makes them a qualified choice for the position.
‘Tell Me About a Time …’
In both types of behavioral questions, you are inviting the candidate to tell you a story, and these stories can give you valuable insight into whether a candidate will be a good fit on your facilities management team. Situational questions could speak to various job-related competencies, or they could reflect how a candidate may react to common situations, providing a window into his or her problem solving skills or temperament. Here are some examples of situational questions you might ask (you will, of course, want to vary the situations you pose to fit the nature of the facilities job you are hiring for):
- How would you go about finding a qualified contractor for a facility expansion?
- You’ve been placed in charge of a facility that is in an area with a history of experiencing natural disasters. What factors do you consider and what elements do you include in a disaster response plan?
- A member of your crew is showing observable signs of intoxication. How do you handle it?
- How would you craft a facilities management budget? What would you prioritize in purchasing?
- You notice an oil spill in a forklift area. You ask one of the workers there to please clean up the spill. He says he didn’t spill it, so he won’t clean it up. What do you do?
These situational questions can be very effective, but don’t lock yourself into expecting a specific answer. First of all, candidates can’t be expected to be familiar with your culture and your operations, but also, the candidate’s response may be more creative than any response you could expect!
Some behavioral interviewing seeks to find out about how the candidate behaved in the past, with the assumption that he or she will continue to behave that way in the future. Responses to situational interview questions can be compared to the effective past behavior described by the incumbent employee, the supervisor, or other sources. Past behavior interview questions might include:
- What specific duties did you perform on your last job?
- How do you spend a typical day at your current job?
- Tell me about a major project or accomplishment of which you are proud.
- Can you describe an instance when you worked as a team member?
- What are some of the things in a job that are most important to you?
- Tell me about a time when you had to convince others to follow your lead.
- Tell me about a time when you had to do something with which you didn’t agree.
Naturally, the questions you choose to ask depend on the role you are hiring for. Different jobs, specialties, industries, organizations, and interviewers will call for different questions, but the suggestions above are worth a try—you may find a diamond in the rough, or you may avoid a hiring the wrong person for the job.
And speaking of disasters to avoid, you will also want to avoid asking certain questions at all in the course of an interview. And we’re not talking about the notoriously odd curveball questions that some organizations like to ask. We’re talking about questions that, even though they may seem innocent, are outright illegal.
Avoid Unintentionally Illegal Interview Questions
According to a 2015 CareerBuilder survey, one in five employers has unknowingly asked an illegal interview question before. And at least one in three employers is unsure about the legality of certain interview questions. While you may think you’re simply building rapport with a candidate, you could, in fact, be asking something that is highly illegal. Below are some of the not-so-obvious illegal interview questions you’ll want to refrain from asking during any interviews with potential facilities management team members.
“Are you married with a family?” Asking anything about a candidate’s family status is illegal, as it assumes that those individuals with children and a spouse, or who plan to have children or get married, won’t be able to work overtime or may have to take more personal days and time off once they start work. It may also assume that they’ll need more time off for childcare accommodations and that they’ll want benefits packages that include child care and health care for dependents. This question can also be used to reveal the sexual orientation of a candidate, which is illegal.
“Will you need to take time off for certain holidays or religious beliefs?” It’s illegal to ask candidates about their religion and their personal beliefs. Candidates can’t be evaluated based on the faith they hold, their belief systems, where they worship, etc. So you can’t ask them about what holidays they celebrate or what religion they observe. Instead, you can show them your work schedule and ask them if they’re available to work those days and times.
“What country are you from?” Sometimes if a candidate has an interesting accent, you may want to build rapport by asking this question and to learn more about him or her. But it’s illegal because you can’t ask a candidate his or her country of origin or ancestry. You can’t even ask a candidate if he or she is a United States citizen. You can, however, ask a candidate if he or she is authorized to work in the United States.
“What year did you graduate from high school?” This question essentially calls the candidate’s age into question, which is illegal. You aren’t able to ask candidates when they plan to retire or question how young they are. You can’t even ask them what their birthdates are. You can, however, ask them about their experience as it relates to the job.
“Do you have any physical or mental disabilities?” If an applicant is a viable candidate for a job, he or she can’t be discriminated against based on a physical or mental disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination if they can perform a job with reasonable accommodation.
“Have you ever been arrested?” Employers can’t ask about arrest records and can only ask if candidates have ever been convicted of a crime. Depending on what state you’re in, a conviction record shouldn’t even automatically disqualify a candidate for employment unless it substantially relates to the job in question.
If it would be helpful to you, you can keep a list of questions to avoid nearby as a reminder when you’re interviewing candidates. Yale University has a good list here of both legal and illegal phrasing of certain interview questions.