Saint Louis University

Suggested Interview Questions

This guide describes the interviewing process step-by-step:

  • Identifying Position Requirements
  • Coordinating Interviews
  • Reviewing Resumes/Vitas/Employment Applications
  • Predicting Future Performance Based on Past Behavior
  • Legal Compliance
  • Additional Considerations for Behavioral Questions
  • Recording Interview Responses
  • Evaluating and Making the Hiring Decision

Saint Louis University is an equal employment opportunity/affirmative action employer. Consistent with the mission of Saint Louis University, individual and organizational development is the responsibility of every supervisor and department head. This responsibility begins with the recruiting process to assure that faculty and staff with appropriate skills, attributes and potential are brought into Saint Louis University. Effective faculty and staff selection results in increased productivity, decreased turnover, reduced training time, lower costs and increased overall organizational effectiveness. This guide includes a discussion of interviewing theory and suggested guidelines for planning and conducting an interview.

Gathering knowledge of the position and its essential functions is the first step in preparing for your interviews. Essential functions of the position are the basic job duties the faculty or staff member must be able to perform. Refer to the job description, personnel requisition and job posting form to prepare a list of essential functions that identify the aspects of performance essential to "getting the job done." In listing position requirements, examine major duties, expected outcomes, organizational culture and working conditions. In determining essential functions, consider: (1) amount or percent of time spent performing that function; (2) degree of expertise or skill required; (3) whether position exists to perform that function; (4) consequence if the faculty or staff member were unable to perform that function; and (5) other individuals available to perform that function.

There may be more than one person responsible for interviewing each candidate. Be sure to coordinate with the other interviewers to determine the areas that each interviewer will be responsible for covering. This will ensure that candidates will receive different interviews at each stage of the process resulting in more thorough questioning and the collection of more detailed background information. 

In order to maximize your time with the candidate and get the information you need for an effective interview, it is essential to review the resume, vita and/or employment application prior to meeting with the candidate. While reviewing a resume, look for a match between the job requirements and the candidate's background.

Consider the following points:

Positive Patterns of Employment

  • Years of experience related to the
  • Educational background
  • Licenses & professional designations
  • Promotions and transfers
  • Achievements and awards

Negative Patterns of Employment

  • Unexplained gaps in employment history position requirements
  • Frequent job changes
  • Unusual career direction

Current research suggests that the best predictor of future performance is past behavior in similar situations. Behavioral interview questions are designed to lead a potential faculty or staff member into a discussion of actual experiences or accomplishments. This type of interviewing is effective because it is directly related to the position and reveals the specific abilities which will determine performance. Pose questions that direct the candidate to describe past experiences with opening phrases such as: "Describe a specific situation where you . .. "; "Give me an example of . .. "; "Tell me about a time when you . .. "


Components of a Behavioral Example: To ensure that you have obtained enough information to fully evaluate the candidate's response, you should gather three types of information around each behavioral example. All three components must be collected for each critical position requirement:

  • Environment, setting or culture.
  • Response or specific action.
  • Outcome or consequence.

Ask Behavioral Questions:

  • "Describe some different problems you've confronted with employees and how you handled the discussions."
  • "Tell me about the most challenging aspect of your position and how you handled it?"
  • "How did your approach to completing the project differ from the approach used by others in the same job?"
  • "Give me an example of a recent typical day and explain how you planned for it?"
  • "Describe a time when you had to overlook a policy in order to get your work done."

Do Not Ask Non-Behavioral Questions:

  • "What makes a good supervisor?"
  • "What makes you think you can perform the responsibilities of this position?"
  • "Describe your strengths and weaknesses."
  • "Are you well organized?"
  • "How closely do you follow policy?"

Probe for Clarification: In some cases you may feel the candidate has not provided one or more of the three components for a complete response and .should be questioned further. You can follow up with probing questions for clarification, such as:

  • Environment - Can you tell me more about the setting in which that occurred?
  • Response - What did you do? Or ... What was your role?
  • Outcome - What was the consequence? Or ... What was the result?

Questions must be geared toward assessing whether the candidate is qualified to perform essential functions. To avoid the possibility of discrimination, it is important to ask all candidates for the same position similar questions, and all questions should be related to the skills and requirements of the specific job.

Interview questions should not stray into areas unrelated to the position. You may ask rapport-building questions, but even these should be carefully worded.

Candidates cannot legally be asked to state personal views on civil rights, to name their birthplace or that of their relatives, or to list memberships in organizations that may tend to reveal their race, color, religion, sex, age, creed, national origin, marital status, disability, handicap, military eligibility or veteran status.



  • Legal To Ask - "If employed, can you submit proof of your legal right to work in the  U.S.?"
  • Illegal To Ask - "Are your parents, husband, or wife native-born or naturalized citizens of this country? Are you a native-born citizen?"


  • Legal To Ask - "Do you have any relatives already employed at this university?"
  • Illegal To Ask - "What type of work does your spouse, mother, or father do?"

Linguistic Background:

  • Legal To Ask - "Which languages can you write or speak fluently?"
  • Illegal To Ask - "Is English your second language? What is your native language? How did you learn to speak a second or third language?"


  • Legal To Ask - "Are you qualified and able to perform the essential job-related functions of this position with or without reasonable accommodation?"
  • Illegal To Ask - "Do you have any disabilities?"

Arrest Record:

  • Legal To Ask - "Do you have a valid driver's license? Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If so, when?"
  • Illegal To Ask - "Have you ever been arrested? What were the circumstances? What was the outcome?"

Avoid questions related to these areas: Religion, Marital Status, Child Care, Height, Weight, Age, Race and Ethnicity, Disability, and Sexual Orientation. As an Equal Opportunity Employer, our goal is to make fair hiring decisions, and avoid questions that may appear neutral but result in a disparate impact. If you have any doubt about the legality of a question you would like to ask, be sure to review it with your Human Resources representative.


Seek Balanced Information: During the interview, you may feel you are getting a skewed picture, either positive or negative, of the candidate's past behaviors. In order to be objective, balance your opinion of the candidate's performance by asking questions that will provide an opposing dimension of behavior.

If your perception of the candidate is positive, probe for information about situations where the candidate struggled or results were less than satisfactory.

  • "On which decisions have you deliberated longest? Describe the procedure you followed to finally make your decision?" ... Describe an experience in which you were too persistent. What was the result?"

If your perception of the candidate is negative, probe for situations where the candidate excels or results were superior.

  • "Give me an example of a time when you came up with a clever way to motivate a co-worker. How did you handle the obstacles you faced?" ... "Describe your most successful experience in attempting to gain top management's or co-workers' support for an idea or proposal."

Avoid Hypothetical/Theoretical Questions: Effective interviewers intent on obtaining examples of actual behavior must avoid asking theoretical questions. A theoretical question often uses words like "would you," "if you were to" and "could," while behavioral questions use words like "did," "have done," and "currently doing."

HYPOTHETICAL/THEORETICAL: "If you were asked to work extensive overtime, would you?"

BEHAVIORAL: "Have you ever worked extensive overtime? Please describe the circumstances. "

Avoid Leading Questions: Interviewers can easily suggest the desired answer to a question by the way the question is phrased. Leading questions can influence the candidate's response. In their attempt to be successful, candidates will agree with the answers the interviewer has suggested. The following questions are examples of leading and direct questions.

LEADING QUESTION: "As you know, we're a Catholic Jesuit Institution, dedicated to education and healthcare. Is that the kind of organization you're interested in joining? 

DIRECT QUESTION: What do you know about Saint Louis University? What is interesting to you about the business Saint Louis University is in?

LEADING QUESTION: "We use Lotus 123 to prepare our spreadsheets - you are familiar with Lotus, aren't you?"

DIRECT QUESTION: "What computer software have you used? Please describe how often and for what projects."

We normally suggest that you describe the job at the end of the interview to prevent candidates from tailoring their responses to the description.

The Interview Evaluation Form is your guide to conducting structured and reliable interviews. It provides an opening, a place to write planned questions and responses, closing prompts and a method for evaluating the interview. Be sure to plan your behavioral questions prior to the interview and note them on the evaluation form. Make copies of the prepared evaluation form for succeeding interviews; then make notes on the form while conducting each interview. Interviewers who have not taken notes during the interview may forget up to 75% of the information given by the candidate. Fill out the top of the form completely preceding each interview. Avoid the tendency to duplicate information discussed during the interview that is already on the application, resume, or vita. Be careful to note what candidates say without altering their words. Follow the questions on the form, making sure you record behavioral responses. Ask for specific examples of the position's critical requirements. Make note of the environment or setting, behavior or specific action and outcome or consequence of behavior. Probe to collect all three components for a complete answer. It is important to fill in additional comments and your overall assessment of the candidates immediately following the interview. Show objective reasons why applicants were or were not selected. If you base your evaluations on answers to the behavioral questions, you will avoid subjective judgments in making your hiring decisions.

After the interview, complete your notes and add comments regarding the behavioral examples that were provided. Be sure to include only information that is directly related to the essential functions of the position. Review all of the information and consider the following:

Are the behavioral examples:

  • related to the essential functions of the position?
  • significant and meaningful?
  • recent?
  • demonstrating a consistent pattern?

After the responses have been evaluated, you will have produced a profile of the candidate's strengths and weaknesses. Discussions with other interviewers and the outcome should be noted on the Interview Evaluation Form along with any follow-up plans.