Preparing for the interview season

Residency Program Insider, January 8, 2008

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January is one of the busiest interview months for resident program directors, coordinators, and faculty. To help you through this hectic time, this three-part series from Residency Program Connection will offer you insight and advice on the interview process. Today's issue looks at the fine line between appropriate and inappropriate interview questions.

It is obviously important to find the most qualified and exceptionally talented candidates to fill your institution's precious intern slots. But beyond verifying the candidate's paper credentials-e.g., educational background and performance, research skills, and relevant work experience-you may also have a strong desire to make sure that the candidate is the right fit for your institution's culture. 
With the interview season in full swing, it is both helpful and fitting to offer some reminders about appropriate interview questions and subject matters. Asking an inappropriate question not only creates an awkward situation for you and the candidate, it may also violate your institution's guidelines and federal and/or state law. 
There are certain taboo subjects that you should avoid, such as marital status, age, religion, disability, and ethnicity. For example, it is not appropriate to ask a female candidate, 'Is this your maiden name?' You can, in many jurisdictions, ask the candidate whether he or she attended school under a different name if the diploma(s) do not match up with the résumé. Similarly, you should not ask a female candidate 'Are you expecting?' or 'How many children do you plan on having?' You should not ask whether the candidate will be able to take call on Saturday or Sunday because of his or her religious beliefs.
There is fine line between getting relevant and necessary information and asking inappropriate or illegal questions. Make sure you understand your institution's policies, and if there are no policies, you should inquire about how or when your organization intends to create them. Such policies protect both the interviewer and the institution, and ultimately avoid any controversy with the applicant. 

All the best,

Bruce D. Armon
Saul Ewing LLP
Centre Square West
1500 Market Street, 38th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102-2186
215-972-7985 or 1-800-355-7777, x7985

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