July 19, 2013
Know How

10 Things To Know About Interviewing Prospective Employees

Are you a budding entrepreneur? Has your business grown to a point where you must hire? Have you thought about the hiring process and what types of employees you should hire? Do you have a budget to do this? Where do you begin?

Here are 10 factors to consider, including examples of questions you should not ask, with alternative questions you can ask:

1. Compliance with hiring laws.

Massachusetts is an at-will employment state. What does that mean? It means that either the business or an employee "can immediately terminate the relationship at any time with or without any advance warning, and with no subsequent liability, provided there was no express contract for a definite term governing the employment relationship and that the employer does not belong to a collective bargaining group.

2. Questions about age

Don't ask: When did you graduate? When do you intend to retire?

Ask: Are you old enough to do this type of work? Can you supply transcripts of your education?

3. Discriminatory questions

Don't ask: Do you have a disability? Have you ever filed a worker's compensation claim? Do you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse?

Ask: Do you require reasonable accommodation?

4. Race

A candidate's race should be at least somewhat evident, but asking race-related discussions or questions may imply a preoccupation with that factor.

5. Religion

Don't ask: What outside activities do you participate in?

Ask: What professional associations are you a member of?

6. National origin/citizenship

Don't ask: Are you a citizen of the U.S.? What country are you from? Where is your accent from? What nationality is your last name?

Ask: If you're hired, are you able to provide documentation to prove that you are eligible to work in the U.S.?

7. Financial issues

Don't ask: Do you own a home (or car)? Have you ever filed for bankruptcy? Are you subject to any garnishments or child support orders?

Ask: Will you sign a form authorizing us to perform a credit check?

8. Military

Don't ask: Please provide the status of your military discharge. Will you miss work to perform military service?

Ask: What experience did you gain in the uniformed service that is relevant to the job you would be doing?

9. Appearance

Employers need to be aware of religious and cultural differences on appearances. You may discuss dress and grooming, but may need to make an accommodation if a worker's religion requires specific clothing or a hairstyle. If either would create an undue hardship on the employer, then the employer may be able to deny that accommodation. Here, the employer should consult with an attorney before denying the accommodation.

10. Arrests and convictions

Don't ask: Have you ever been arrested?

Ask: Have you ever been convicted of a crime? But you must qualify this question by saying a conviction will not automatically disqualify him or her.

Many small businesses wait until they have a problem that requires legal counsel and serious money for legal fees and fines. Focus on what you do best and seek guidance from someone who knows the law surrounding hiring issues.

Nancy Dube is principal of Dube Consulting in Worcester, which advises businesses on human resources issues and social media. Contact her at nancy@dubeconsulting.com.

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