For all kinds of reasons, despite the fact that technology has revolutionized the way we now look for and apply to new jobs, the interview process has remained relatively intact. That’s because technology has not come up with a better way for us to assess both a candidate’s professional acumen and skill set for a job than to sit across the table from them and have a conversation.
Therefore, interviewing has and will remain central to the hiring process for employers. Understanding that the interview process is a two part task for employers is still an essential part of hiring process. Employers must both (1) assess the potential candidate and (2) protect themselves from any behavior that could be construed as unfair or discriminatory in a court of law. Wasting time by asking questions that do not assess the candidate properly can sabotage your hiring process, but leaving yourself open to litigation on claims of discrimination is even more dangerous.
To help with both these tasks, the right questions must be asked. While compiling the list of the right questions is a complex task that should come from the contexts of your particular business and industry, there are a few questions you can leave off from the start in order to better protect yourself and assess your candidate:
1. Don’t ask about marriage or plans to have children
Since such plans rarely affect men in the workforce the way they do women (due to the biological necessity of women giving birth), this question’s inclusion in an interview is at best unfair and at worst an aggressively misogynistic attitude that could lead to litigation.
The bottom line is that the personal details of any applicant’s life – be it family, religious, sexual preference, etc. has no bearing on their ability to do the job. Anything having to do with any personal information is just inappropriate to bring up in an interview and ultimately does more damage than good.
Many employers begin asking about marriage and children because the behavior of a past employee, but again, this is unfair. Simply because one employee did not work out in the past and used their role as a parent as the reason for this is no reason to assume another parent would behave the same way.
2. Don’t ask if they belong to “organizations.”
Certainly you may need to know about their involvement and membership in professional organizations, but be specific in your inquiries. If you work in the healthcare industry, it’s very appropriate to inquiry if a candidate is a member of the American Nurses Association for a specific role.
The danger comes up when you start talking about other organizations. In essence, if a candidate discloses they are a member of some social or other organization, this could be seen as a “label” that could be argued in a court of law was used to discriminate against the candidate. To be safe, only ask about membership to specific organizations and use qualifiers like “professional” and “industry” to ensure your inquiries could not be taken for inquiries about different types of organizations.
3. Don’t ask their nationality, race, or religion.
Though this may seem obvious anymore, asking about such things is a direct violation of the federal Equal Opportunity Act. This act specifically states an employer cannot deny employment to any person due to gender, age, creed, race, or nationality.
Additionally, don’t ask questions that could make it look like you are discriminating against physical issues like age or disability. If you need to find out if a candidate is “of legal age to perform the job and physically capable of doing it,” ask them with that phrasing – be specific. When discussing such things, avoid doing anything that could “label” the candidate. This is the type of thing that could lead to discrimination litigation.
4. Don’t ask what their greatest weakness is.
This is one of those interview questions that has been around a long time. It’s become formulaic. Just use Google for a second and you can see all kinds of stock answers to this question. Anymore, all you are finding out is how experienced at interviewing a candidate.
This question just wastes time and doesn’t reveal anything helpful. Instead, ask questions relevant to the job at hand that speak to their ability to perform in the environment they would be placed in.
5. Don’t ask any “creative” logic questions.
This is one of those strange phenomenon that has crept up recently due to the success of certain internet startups that do things differently. Perhaps the most well-known example of a business using crazy interview techniques and questions is Google. They ask candidates crazy questions about aspects of American culture, give them logic tests, and other things completely unrelated to the job function they will be doing.
It might be tempting to look hip and implement interview techniques like this, but the bottom line is such tactics give you little to no information about a candidate’s viability in their new work environment. It ultimately wastes time and, unless you are one of the biggest companies in your industry like Google, it will ultimately drive off seriously minded professionals who are likely the very candidates you want to attract.
6. Don’t ask if they’ve been arrested.
There’s a very important legal distinction between an arrest and a conviction. As the law states, all individuals are innocent until proven guilty with a conviction. That means a person’s arrest record has no real bearing on their job status.
While it’s standard to include questions about felony convictions, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made it clear that using any such conviction as basis to turn down an applicant protected by Title VII is considered discrimination.
To Sum it up…
The interview process should be straightforward and on the table. You should focus on the job and its functions, and examine candidates based upon the type of addition they’d make to your professional team and skill set.
Evaluate candidates based upon how they present themselves – how they speak, their professional appearance, and their past experiences. Follow up on resumes to ensure candidates are honest before trusting them with a position on your team.
1. Don’t ask any questions that could be construed as “labeling” a candidate as this could easily be construed as discrimination.
2. Don’t ask needless questions that waste time and don’t give the proper insight you need into the candidate.
Still have questions?
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