As the person doing the interviewing and hiring, you may not think that what you say matters as much as what your candidates tell you. But a good interviewer knows which questions will reveal the most useful information about a potential employee, as well as which questions are useless or even harmful. Of course, each company will have its own set of questions specific to its needs, but keeping these tips in mind can mean that you and your candidate will have interesting dialogue, and you will speed up the overall hiring process.

Three Questions to Ask

What are your achievements?

A lot of interviewers will open the discussion with the generic “Tell me about yourself.” True, your candidate will probably be prepared to hear that prompt, but he or she will be much more excited to answer this one. By phrasing it as a question and using the word ‘achievements,’ you create an effective platform for your candidate to share moments where he or she felt appreciated for being innovative–something you’ll want to know.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In the current economic climate, a lot of the folks you’ll see applying for positions within your company are simply looking to pay their household bills. Therefore, you will want to comprehend your candidate’s extended career path. Does he or she seem earnest in seeking the position? Does the position seem relatively in line with his or her background? By listening carefully to how the candidate answers this question you can often tell if the candidate will be a long-term, valuable fit.

How will you bring value to our company?

This question is your sneaky way of seeing if the candidate did an adequate amount of homework about your firm. If the candidate gives a vague answer then you will know that he or she did not visit your company’s web page, consider what exactly the position entails or think about whether his or her qualities match what your company requires. If you’re looking for a candidate who is diligent about job research (and who isn’t?) this question is important.

Three Questions to Avoid

Do you have relatives or friends who work here or have worked here in the past?

Though this question might seem harmless at first (and often appears in some form on standard job applications) it’s not relevant to the candidate’s competency and should be avoided during the interview. You can always say: “Tell me how you learned about our company,” and let the candidate explain how he or she discovered you. But by inquiring about a candidate’s relatives or acquaintances, you risk indicating that the candidate may be evaluated based on other people’s performances or reputations.

How do you spend your spare time?

Any variation of this question is likely to bring about an uncomfortable situation, since candidates will struggle to say something that you find palatable and you probably will not get an honest answer. It’s best just to avoid the topic completely, especially since what the candidate does outside of the workplace is irrelevant to his or her ability to get the job done.

If you need to travel for this position are you able make arrangements for your family?

Most everyone is aware that interview questions regarding age, gender, religious practices and race are completely illegal. However, asking about childcare is also risky, particularly when you are interviewing a female candidate. It’s not lawful to discriminate against a candidate because of his or her family or personal situation; it’s best to steer clear of any question that signifies to the candidate that your company is seeking someone without children or family obligations.

Remember, the art of a successful interview does not only depend on a prepared candidate–you, the employer, should also be prepared. Just as any meaningful conversation involves two dedicated people, an interview is the same way.

About the Author: Author of this post is Lizzie Wann. Lizzie is the Content Director for Bridgepoint Education. She oversees all website content and works closely with New Media, Career Services, and Student Services for Ashford University.