Most companies spend a tremendous amount of time and resources recruiting the right people and developing their talent pool. The last thing any manager wants to do is fight a discrimination charge from a job applicant.

To keep your business safer from such allegations, it's a good idea to implement few simple rules of engagement. These wise moves can help keep you and your company out of trouble-;and help your team conduct better interviews, too.


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 ensure that others can see you. Such open environments protect both the interviewer and the potential employee, allowing others to see both of 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.

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. It may also be a good idea to have future teammates sit in on all or a portion of the interview. Their questions and impressions may be helpful.

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


Ask the same questions of everyone

Think through the most essential functions of the job to be filled, then shape your questions. Ask questions that will 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 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 about the candidate 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 may be subject to their interpretation. Without the structure and context of the related conversation, these notes could make your company vulnerable to discrimination charges.


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 race or ethnicity, age, religion, gender, physical appearance, or sexual orientation, and eliminate those from your hiring decision. Recognize that, under laws enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is unlawful to make a hiring decision based on an individual's person's race, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

Some job descriptions include ability to lift a certain amount of weight as a requirement, even for positions that may rarely need to move items. For jobs like delivery truck drivers, it will likely be a requirement to be able to move heavy boxes. For an office worker, such lifting may be an occasional need, not an essential function, and something that can be accomplished easily by someone else. Keep such accommodation in mind before you automatically dismiss an applicant who is overweight, older, or has a disability.

Keep an open mind. Yes, a doctor needs a medical degree. For a salesperson, 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.


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