Five Questions Employers Should Ask Job Applicants in Interviews for Safe Hiring

By Lester Rosen, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) President

The job interview, along with being an opportunity to find applicants who are a good fit for a company, is also when employers should perform due diligence and try to identify applicants who may be too dangerous, unqualified, unfit, or dishonest for the position.

While employers would not want to start the interview off with questions aimed at past criminal conduct or negative employment experiences, every interview must have a “safe hiring” portion where the job applicant is asked due diligence questions. This would be an appropriate time for the following five suggested due diligence questions to be asked in every interview:

  • “Our firm has a standard policy of conducting background checks on all hires before an offer is made or finalized. You have already signed a release form. Do you have any concerns about that?” This is a general question about background screening. Since applicants should have already signed a consent form for a background check, they have a powerful incentive to be truthful, honest, and reveal any issues.
  • “We also check for criminal convictions for all finalists. Do you have any concerns about that?” This question goes from the general to the specific. Employers should ask the question in a form that is legally permissible in their state of operation. It is important not to ask questions that are so broadly worded that they may lead to applicants revealing more information then allowed by law. Again, employers should make sure applicants understand that they signed a release for a background check and this process is standard company policy.
  • “When we contact your past employers, what do you think they will say?” This general question, which indicates past employers will be contacted, again provides a powerful incentive to be very accurate.
  • “Will your past employers tell us that there were any issues with meeting job requirements?” This question goes again from a general to a specific area, asking about matters that are expressly relevant to the job function or the workplace.
  • “Tell me about any unexplained gaps in your employment history.” If there are any unexplained employment gaps, it is imperative for employers to ask about them to make sure the employment gap was not a result of some negative situation such as the applicant being in custody for a criminal offense.

Employers should always indicate that these five suggested due diligence questions are standard job-related questions asked of all applicants and that they need to be answered. Asking standard written questions in an interview allows for a consistent process so that all applicants are subjected to the same questions. Standard questions also create a more comfortable environment for the interviewers since they do not have to remember every question asked because the questions are written down. If the questions on safe hiring issues make applicants feel uncomfortable, interviewers can simply indicate that these questions are asked of everyone and they are required due to standard company policy.

To help design their own interview template, including these five due diligence questions, employers may access the Free Online Interview Guide Generator Tool from Employment Screening Resources at

Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen and is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) . To learn more about Employment Screening Resources, visit or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or