With the list of questions we arent supposed to ask seemingly getting longer by the minute, these days its getting tougher and tougher for people who hire other people to conduct even the most rudimentary of job interviews. HR professionals and hiring managers have their work cut out for them, to be sure, but they are only hiring for one company. Imagine interviewing and hiring for dozens of different companies with dozens of unique expectations, cultures, job descriptions, and work environments.

Thats what those of us in the staffing industry do every single day, and its certainly not even close to being easy! As staffing professionals, wed love to peek into a crystal ball and find out about that previous back injury our workers compensation policy is getting ready to buy, that broken down vehicle thats about to cause a severe attendance issue, or those drug-related arrests that are likely to pose a huge problem down the road. We mean well. Wed just like to know if were making a good hire.

Since no such crystal ball exists (sadly), and since asking these and other questions could get us into hot water with enough governmental agencies to keep our lawyers working for years (hey, at least someone would be working, right?), its far better to ask questions that will (hopefully) help us make good hires and stay legal. The desire to protect ourselves, and especially our clients, while at the same time staying on the right side of the law certainly presents a difficult challenge, but its far from insurmountable.

Sometimes it just comes down to knowing the right questions to ask!

Here are four key questions staffing professionals (and yes, HR professionals too!) should ask every interviewee. Their answer will go a long way toward determining whether you place them on an assignment with your client or politely send them to the agency down the street!

1.) Describe a safety issue you were faced with at a previous employer. How did you handle it? On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is workplace safety to you?

As anyone with a workers comp mod knows, safety is job one. Granted, interviewees probably arent going to tell you one of their hobbies is conveyor belt surfing or playing chicken with the forklift driver, but any variation on this line of questioning will give you a pretty decent idea of how they approach workplace safety and/or whether theyve even thought about it. At the very least, it will give you an opportunity to stress the importance of safety should you offer them an assignment.

2.) Have you ever been asked to do something you didnt want to do at work? How did you handle it?

This question speaks to the flexibility of your interviewee. You want to hire someone who is a team player, who is willing to do anything to get the job done. If they are too good to mop up a floor on occasion if asked, even if thats not a part of their job description, they are probably too good to send to your client.

3.) Describe a time where you have handled a difficult situation with a co-worker.

The last thing you want to do is hire a hot-head who cant get along with co-workers or supervisors at your client facility. A question like this will give you some insight on your interviewees approach to conflict resolution. If that approach involves brass knuckles, knives, or guns, feel free to take a pass.

4.) What do you consider an acceptable reason to call out of work?

In any employment situation, but especially for temporary and/or screen-to-hire employees entering entry-level jobs, attendance is absolutely critical. Of course, since applicants will generally tell you what they think you want to hear, you have to take answers to all these questions with a grain of salt but, if their acceptable reasons for calling out of work include weekly veterinary appointments for their diabetic cat or oversleeping after a long night of World of Warcraft, its probably OK to weed those folks out.

Those are four important areas to delve into, but there are definitely more. Feel free to share some other important questions, and the reasoning behind them, in the comment section. I think we can all agree that the key is to ask open ended questions that allow the interviewee to talk about themselves and their past job-related situations. Getting a handle on that will give you a pretty good idea at how they will handle a job for you.