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Example Questions and Possible Answers for Interviews

By Julie Burwell, SPHR, Gundars Kaupins, SPHR, and Rachel Prine, SPHR   
 

 

Example questions to ask any employee:

Q: If you saw a coworker doing something dishonest, what would you do? 

A: According to the employee handbook, contract, or past practice, inform the most relevant authority(ies) about specific behaviors witnessed.

Follow handbook, contract, or past practice concerning handling the potential dishonest behavior.

Don’t immediately assume that the coworker is guilty of dishonest behavior. Use appropriate compliance hotlines if available.

Contact human resources for compliance help.

Don’t spread the potential dishonest activity news to employees or others who do not have responsibility over the matter.

Blount, E. C. (2003). Occupational Crime: Deterrence, Investigation, and Reporting in Compliance with Federal Guidelines. New York: CRC Press.

Johnson, R. A. (2003). Whistleblowing: When It Works and Why. Boulder, Col.: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Q: What would you do if someone in management asked you to do something unethical?

A: Determine how the candidate defines ethics.

Determine how the candidate views their role in cases of ethics.

Determine how the candidate views power.

Blount, E. C. (2003). Occupational Crime: Deterrence, Investigation, and Reporting in Compliance with Federal Guidelines. New York: CRC Press.

Q: Tell me about a time that you have experienced a loss for doing what is right.  

A:Determine how the candidate defines “what is right.”

Determine how the candidate defines “a loss.” Is there a loss in terms of fundamentalism, social institutions, moral agency or virtuous organizations as a whole?

Fundamentalism: Financial and legal responsibility only “Business of business is profit.”

Social Institutions: Social contract exists beyond economics and legalities. Need to accommodate stakeholders’ interests.

Moral Agency: Moral obligations similar to people. Morality and ethics are part of culture: The ‘right thing to do.’

Virtuous Organizations: Organizations that foster the good society. Obligation to build a better world.

Hatcher, T. (2002). Ethics and HRD: A New Approach to Leading Responsible Organizations. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.

Sims, R. R. (2003). Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility: Why Giants Fall. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.

Ulrich, D. (2003). Why the Bottom Line Isn’t: How to Build Value Through People and Organization. Hoboken, N. J.: John Wiley.

QIn what business situations do you feel honesty is inappropriate? 

A: In the Movie “Liar, Liar,” the actor Carey portrayed a lawyer who shared his honest feelings to all around him. Sharing honest feelings, especially ones of anger, frustration, and hate, may be inappropriate and also based on inadequate information about another person or situation.

Q: If you knew that your supervisor was doing something unethical, what would you do?  

A: Follow handbook, contract, or past practice concerning handling the potential dishonest behavior.

Don’t immediately assume that the supervisor is guilty of dishonest behavior. 

Use appropriate compliance hotlines if available.

Contact human resources for compliance help.

Don’t spread the potential dishonest activity news to employees or others who do not have responsibility over the matter.

Blount, E. C. (2003). Occupational Crime: Deterrence, Investigation, and Reporting in Compliance with Federal Guidelines. New York: CRC Press.

Fischman, W., Solomon, B., Greenspan, D., & Gardner, H. (2004). Making Good: How Young People Cope with Moral Dilemmas At Work. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Q: Describe from an ethical standpoint, what should the relationship between a supervisor and their employee consist of? 

A: The relationship should be an honest, open, and trusting one where questions can be asked and opinions can be expressed without concern of retaliation.

Watkins, M. (2003). The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.


Example questions typically asked of management personnel:

Q: You have recently been promoted to a manager position.   You are aware of another employee who is using the computer in an unethical way.  This other employee used to be your co-worker.   How would you handle this? 

A: Follow handbook, contract, or past practice concerning handling the potential dishonest behavior.

Don’t immediately assume that the supervisor is guilty of dishonest behavior. 

Use appropriate compliance hotlines if available.

Contact human resources for compliance help.

Don’t spread the potential dishonest activity news to employees or others who do not have responsibility over the matter.

Blount, E. C. (2003). Occupational Crime: Deterrence, Investigation, and Reporting in Compliance with Federal Guidelines. New York: CRC Press.

Fischman, W., Solomon, B., Greenspan, D., & Gardner, H. (2004). Making Good: How Young People Cope with Moral Dilemmas At Work. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Q: How far is too far for monitoring employee movement, within and outside the confines of the company? 

A: There should be a balance between the need to know information about the whereabouts of employees and the need for privacy. Keep up with employee handbook policies and laws concerning this matter.

Persson, A. J. & Hansson, S. O. (2003). Privacy at work: ethical criteria. Journal of Business Ethics, 42, 59-70.

Teicher, S. (2003, December 22). It’s 2 a.m. Do you know where your workers are? Christian Science Monitor, 14.

Q: You feel that you are a very good employee and others, including your boss, are telling you that you don’t measure up – what would you do in this case? 

A: Find out what specific behaviors are inadequate. Even if the impressions are wrong about you, do not retaliate.

Baumeister, R. F. (1999). Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. New York: W. H. Freeman.

Q: You feel that you are a very good employee and others, including your peers,  are telling you that you don’t measure up – what would you do in this case? 

A: Find out what specific behaviors are inadequate. Even if the impressions are wrong about you, do not retaliate.

Baumeister, R. F. (1999). Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. New York: W. H. Freeman.


Example questions typically asked of HR personnel:

Q: How do you deal with employee handbook policies that have contradictory values? (or are ambiguous)  

A:  If the handbook is inadequate, there are several other ways to deal with contradictions such as

1. Consider past practice.

2. Consider joint recollection of what the parties intended to mean when the handbook was written.

3. Consider letters of understanding that help explain the handbook policies.

4. Consider what other arbitrators, companies, or court cases have done in that, or similar, situations.

5. Consider costs (financial, social, ethical, etc.) of doing things in different ways.

Consult with management and human resource management concerning potential contradictory policies.

Zack, A. M. (1989). Grievance Arbitration: Issues on the Merits in Discipline, Discharge, and Contract Interpretation. New York: American Arbitration Association.

Q: There is a former employee of your company who wants to come back to work for you.  You have an opening for which the former employee is qualified.  Should you post the position?  Why or Why not? 

A: Find employee handbook, contract, and legal constraints to not posting jobs first.

Q: If a company has a diversity policy, including sexual orientation, and there were employees who complained about this facet of the policy, what would you do? 

A: According to the Hewlett Packard Case, a company has a right to enforce such diversity policy.

Clark, M. M. (2004, August). Religion vs. Sexual Orientation. HR Magazine, 49, 54-59.

 Q: A Company provided beeper includes several different tones, including the song, “Dixie,” and an employee is offended by the fact that a beeper holder chose this option.  What would you do? 

A: Follow handbook, contract, or past practice concerning handling potentially offensive behavior.

Don’t immediately assume that the employee is guilty of offensive behavior. 

Contact human resources for policy help and interpretation.

Q: If you were new to a company that did not have an ethics or compliance program, where would you start for information? 

A: Check the SHRM website for reports specifically on this subject

Type “Ethics Programs” or “Compliance Programs” on a search engine.

Find existing ethics compliance programs published through the Bureau of National Affairs, Commerce Clearing House, etc.

Check your local library for ethics books and texts.

Check the Journal of Business Ethics.

Find model ethics programs such as the Office of Government Ethics (http://www.usoge.gov/pages/about_oge/ethics_program.html) and

Corporate Ethics Programs: Inspiring the Workforce by Bruce A. Hamm (http://www.refresher.com/!bahinspiring.html)

Q: Your boss has a principle that he/she strongly believes in and the program has decayed.  The program is hurting the organization and the boss wants you to still push this program with the employees, what will you do? 

A: The buck stops at the top. Contact the boss to discuss specific concerns about the program. Discuss alternatives.

Baumeister, R. F. (1999). Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. New York: W. H. Freeman.

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