Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Hiring Practices That Could (Really) Get You Sued

For the most part, I believe that people go into hiring with the best of intentions. Very few hiring managers actually want to be discriminatory in their hiring practices; most just really want to ensure they are hiring the best person for the job. That often involves wanting to get to know their applicants very well before making a final determination.

And most of the time, that really does come from a genuine place.

The problem is, not everyone is coming from that genuine place. Hiring discrimination absolutely does exist, and so laws and regulations have been put in place to try to prevent that. Laws and regulations that even you, as a hiring manager who doesn’t intend to discriminate, have to abide by.

It’s not too surprising how often hiring mangers don’t seem to understand these regulations. After all, hiring is often an “other duty as assigned,” and it doesn’t usually come with an instruction manual!  Therefore, all too often, even the most genuine and sincere hiring managers do things that could get them sued.

Asking All The Wrong Questions

I was recently involved in a group interview where one of the interviewers asked a candidate how old he was. As Business News Daily points out, that’s a no-no. Age discrimination laws are in place to prevent you from inquiring about a candidate’s age for any other reason than to assert they are, in fact, of legal age to work in your industry (and in that case, you can only ask if the candidate is older than whatever that legal age is—16, 18, 21—you can’t ask specifically how old they are.)

Other questions on the do not ask list? Anything having to do with religion, politics, marriage, children, sexuality, race or ethnicity.

Even though you are probably just trying to get to know your candidates better on a personal level to assess their fit within your corporation—talking about anything personal is a precarious line to walk, and one that could absolutely get you sued. When in doubt, don’t ask. Interview questions are best kept focused on the job at hand.

Jumping the Background Check

Most companies these days rely on some form of background check prior to making a hiring decision, which is great! A background check can tell you a lot about a potential candidate and their suitability for the job at hand.

But before you run any sort of background check, you must first notify the applicant of the background check and have their permission to run it. Per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, this can’t be wedged into the application somewhere—your notice of a background check has to be provided on a standalone sheet, and the applicant’s signature in agreement must be collected.

Also, if you do wind up making a hiring decision based on that background check—you have to notify the applicant of that fact, letting them know where you obtained the report from and that they have a right to request a free copy and to dispute any inaccurate information they find on that report within 60 days.

What’s all this mean for you? Well, it means you can’t just go haphazardly running background checks on all your applicants prior to scheduling interviews. Best practice involves waiting to run a background check until after you have extended an offer contingent upon passing background and drug testing.

Promises That Can’t Be Kept

When you’re in an interview that is going really well, it can be natural to want to let the applicant know they’re your top choice. After all, you don’t want to let them get away! But unless you are 100 percent in the position to make that decision and extend that offer now—don’t make any promises you may not be able to keep.

Even a simple, “Hey, I’ve met 10 people today and you’re by far my favorite, I think this job is going to be yours!” could have the potential to get you in trouble for fraud if the applicant doesn’t wind up being hired. Especially if the applicant then goes and makes a big decision, like quitting their current job, based on that conversation (which has absolutely happened).

Until you’re making an actual job offer, don’t hint one way or another to where you might be leaning. And when you do make that job offer, do so in writing so that there is no confusion about what the actual offer entails. 

Don't fool yourselves into thinking these reminders are all common sense and faux-pas you would never make. You'd be surprised how often even seasoned hiring professionals slip into a casual mindset when interviewing a candidate they like, asking questions that no hiring manager should ever ask or jumping the gun with background checks they shouldn't yet be pursuing. That's why it's important to have a set of protocols to follow and questions to ask determined long before you ever have that perfect applicant seated across from you.

Better safe than sorry when it comes to hiring mistakes that could legitimately get you sued!

ManUP today for success tomorrow…

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