Oopsy-Daisy: Legal Pitfalls to Avoid When Interviewing

The last thing any manager wants to do is fight a discrimination charge from a job applicant. Who has the time?

It’s much better to implement a few simple rules of engagement. You’ll keep yourself and your company out of trouble, and conduct better interviews, too.

1. Pick the right place, right time

Be cognizant of where you hold interviews. For instance, interview candidates in an open area, a conference room with the door half open or a room with windows to eliminate uncomfortable scenarios. It protects you, the interviewer and the potential employee, if others can see you and your behavior.

Don’t hold interviews at off-times when no one else is around, such as at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. Yes, it can be difficult for a candidate who is currently employed to meet you during business hours, but it is important for other employees to be in the office with you.

Another option: Have future teammates sit in on all or a portion of the interview. Their questions and impressions may be helpful.

If your company doesn’t have a good place to conduct interviews on site, or time is a problem, consider holding the first interview in a neutral location, such as a coffee shop.

Regardless of the location, be aware of the environment, including pictures and art on the walls. That picture on your desk may seem like no big deal to you, but it may be offensive to a candidate.

2. Ask the same questions of everyone

Think through the most essential functions of the job to be filled, then shape your questions. You want to ask questions that help you assess which candidate has the skills and behaviors best suited to fill the job.

Maintain a form or checklist of the questions you will ask, making sure to focus on the job’s essential functions. This helps keep the interview focused and serves to remind you to ask the same questions of each candidate.

Other reminders:

  • Don’t interrogate, investigate. Watch the aggressiveness of your questions. Aim to ferret out skills and temperament without making the candidate uncomfortable.
  • Keep the conversation professional and relevant. Don’t let the interview drift too far or too long into personal tangents, either yours or the candidate’s. Irrelevant tangents can make candidates uncomfortable, distract you from your task of finding a new team member or open you up to allegations of inappropriate conduct later.
  • The best time to write down your thoughts is immediately after the interview, but be careful what you write and where you write it. For example, you may be tempted to write notes on a candidate’s resume during the interview. But if you pass this resume around to your colleagues later, your notes are subject to their interpretation. Without the structure and context of the related conversation, these notes could make your company vulnerable to discrimination charges.

3. Root out your own biases

Put aside your own biases when interviewing candidates. Your job as a hiring manager is to identify the best person to fill the job, not to find the person who fits your preconceived notion of who should have the job.

Be open to identifying your own prejudices, whether those are related to religion, gender, dress, physical appearance or sexual orientation, and eliminate those from your hiring decision. Recognize that it’s unlawful to make a hiring decision based on an individual’s race, gender, national origin, color, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation under federal law (in many jurisdictions).

Many job descriptions include ability to lift a certain amount of weight as a requirement, even for positions that may rarely need to move items.

A delivery driver, yes, probably needs to be able to move heavy boxes. For an office worker, lifting weight may be an occasional need, not an essential function, and something that can be accomplished easily by someone else. Keep that in mind before you automatically dismiss an applicant who is overweight, older, female, has a disability or doesn’t have a certain degree.

Keep an open mind. Yes, a doctor needs a medical degree. For a sales person, knowledge of the product or service may be much more important than a bachelor’s degree.

Finally, remember that accusations of discriminatory hiring can damage your company’s brand. Your job as a hiring manager is to make a good impression on applicants as well as to pick the best person for the job.

Not sure how to recruit the qualified talent you need? Get our free guide, Talent Acquisition: 13 Secrets to Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent, for some tried-and-true best practices.

Talent Acquisition: 13 Secrets to Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent
Download your free e-book

0 responses to “Oopsy-Daisy: Legal Pitfalls to Avoid When Interviewing

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some are essential to make our site work; others help us improve the user experience. By using the site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. Read our privacy policy to learn more.