Common Hiring Techniques That Inadvertently Break the Law


Many small and mid-size businesses use an informal hiring process. While most business managers know the basics of anti-discrimination law, such as not making hiring decisions based on race or gender, they may accidentally run afoul of these laws if proper checks aren’t in place. Make sure you have clear hiring procedures in place to avoid costly lawsuits.


Social Media Checks

What you’re looking for: You want to make sure a potential hire isn’t engaged in embarrassing behaviors outside of work, or that they at least have the good sense to not post photos publicly. You also might want to see if the candidate’s reputation on professional networks, like LinkedIn, matches what they’re telling you.

What can go wrong: When you view someone’s social media profiles, you gain access to all kinds of information that shouldn’t be considered in the hiring process. This includes their race, age, familial status, and possibly religion.

What to do: Create clear written procedures outlining what HR personnel or hiring managers should look for in social media profiles and reminding them what they must ignore. Have anyone checking social media accounts use a checklist or worksheet that gets placed in the candidate’s file to help rebut any claims of improper use of social media information.

Casual Conversation

What you’re looking for: You may be checking to see if the candidate is a good personality fit, or you might just be trying to break the ice. Maybe you weren’t going to bring up the subject at all, but the candidate started a conversation about a picture on your desk.

What can go wrong: If topics like children or what church you go to come up, it could be construed as you making a decision based on that information.

What to do: Politely steer the conversation back to business. This might be a good time to mention your company’s commitment to diversity and equal opportunity hiring. Consider conducting interviews in a conference room so personal items in your office don’t become a topic of discussion.

Discussing Flexible Scheduling

What you’re looking for: You may offer a flex schedule as a benefit, or the candidate may try to negotiate for one.

What can go wrong: This is another area where forbidden topics like familial status and religion may inadvertently come up.

What to do: Have a clear scheduling policy in place that applies to all employees. If a candidate asks about a flexible schedule, never ask why they want it. Simply explain your company policy.

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