Employment Basics for Employers – Evaluating Potential Employees

In my previous blog, I discussed the risks faced by companies that are looking to hire new employees. This blog focuses on issues employers need to be concerned with once they have found some candidates and need to choose between them.

Once you are ready to interview candidates, you still need to be wary of a discrimination claim for the questions you ask and the information you gather, even if the information is crucial to determining whether the person would be a good fit for your company. So, you have to be very careful about how you obtain information and decide between candidates. Looking up candidates on the web through social networks is the subject of many articles itself. This blog just deals with the old fashioned methods of considering job applicants.

If you require potential applicants to complete a job application, don’t just download a form from the web and think you are safe. The questions you ask must be relevant to the position you are trying to fill. This means that even within your company one application may not be appropriate for all positions. Avoid asking questions about age (including requesting date of birth!), race, religion, nationality, disabilities, gender, marital status and whether or not the applicant has kids, is a single parent, etc. When it comes time for an interview, be prepared with a list of potential questions to ask as well as ones to avoid, and have each interviewer review these questions before an interview. I strongly recommend for employees who have never been the interviewer to go through a practice interview so that he or she can rehearse the role and responses to various questions. Questions should be geared towards a candidate’s past job performance and qualifications, and careful emphasis should be placed on returning the conversation to an appropriate line of questions if the applicant volunteers information that may be considered discriminatory if asked.

Here is a basic list of questions that should never be asked in an interview:
What is your maiden name?
Do you own or rent your home?
What is your birth date?
When did you complete school or what years did you attend school?
What religious holidays do you observe?
Do you have any children and what are their ages?
Where were your parents born?
Do you have any medical conditions?
What non-work related organizations do you belong to?
Do you have any debt?
Do you plan to get married or start a family?

Have you ever been treated for alcoholism or drug addiction?

However, you can ask potential employees to describe or show you how they would do job-related physical tasks. You can also ask applicants to take a drug test (for controlled substances), but you cannot require them to undergo a medical examination until after you have made them a job offer. If you conduct drug tests, make sure you get the written consent from the applicants, and that you use a reputable laboratory.

There are also certain statements that should never be made. For instance, never say anything that would imply permanent rather than at-will employment.