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Employers: Keeping legal during the job applicant interview process

The interview process is of vital importance in determining if a particular candidate meets your hiring needs. While most interviewers know that questions about race, religion and sexual orientation are not permitted by law, they may not be aware of what else is and is not illegal. Here are some tips for keeping your interview legal while getting responses that help your decision-making process.

What to ask during an interview

Most interviewers are courteous and want to put a candidate at ease. A small amount of chatting between you and the candidate is a good idea. Steer clear of conversations about religion, marital status, parenthood, and sexual orientation. Keep the chat light and about nothing more serious than the weather. You will have a chance to probe the applicant’s attitude and abilities further into the conversation.

During the interview, be sure your questions relate to the candidate and his or her ability to perform in the job opening. Open-ended questions are best. For example, if you want to know about the applicant’s organizational skills, ask them to relate a project or ongoing task they have done. You will gain more information than just asking, “Are you organized?”

If you take notes during the interview, never make a note about appearance (i.e., race, age, gender, etc.) even if it is just for you to keep track of who is who.

What not to ask

Before interviewing an applicant, try to consider whether any of your questions make you seem unfair in any way. For instance, if the information from a question has no impact on judging an applicant’s abilities to perform in your organization, then don’t ask it. Drop it from your interview script.

In addition to the areas mentioned earlier, avoid questions about:

  • Ethnicity
  • National origin
  • Parenthood
  • Nationality
  • Ancestry

In October 2017, a law was passed in California, prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about their previous salary. This law went into effect as of January 1, 2018.  An employer is still able to ask what the applicant’s salary expectations are, but instead of relying on the applicant to provide their salary history, it’s always a good idea to investigate what other companies in your area are paying for the position you are hiring. If you want more information you can read about it here.

Rocket Lawyer is here to help your business with employment, incorporation and more. Check out our employment legal center for additional information as well as documents, such as compliant employment application, employment contract and/or employee confidentiality agreement. If you still have questions regarding employment laws, you can ask a lawyer.

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