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Am I Right?: The Too-Candid Candidate

Steer Clear of
Hiring Discrimination

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Discriminatory Hiring Practices Aren't Always Intentional

When most people think of "employment discrimination," they picture an intentional, unfair act on the employer's part. But in many cases, workplace discrimination - or sometimes, the perception of discrimination (which can have equally serious consequences) - is due to nothing more than careless HR practices and confusion over complex employment laws. This is especially true when it comes to hiring.

Here are a few ways that employers can inadvertently fall into a trap of discriminatory hiring practices:

  1. Discriminatory job ads – Job ads can be a landmine of discriminatory language. Words like “young and energetic” or even “recent college graduate” could result in a discrimination claim. Same goes for gender-specific terms such as waiter or busboy (use “server” or “busser/bus person” instead). Listing qualifications that are beyond the actual requirements of the job (for example, “must be able to lift 30 pounds” when the job involves lifting no more than 15 pounds) could also be viewed as a veiled attempt to discriminate.
  2. Illegal job applications – One of hottest trends in discrimination laws, known as ‘Ban the Box,’ involves prohibiting questions that ask about an applicant’s criminal history on a job application. As of late 2017, 29 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 150 cities and counties have Ban the Box laws in place, and many more are considering similar legislation. Beyond criminal history, it’s not advisable to ask questions on an application that would reveal a candidate’s age, national origin, marital status or any other information related to a ‘protected class’ under the law (religion, sex, disability, etc.).
  3. Inappropriate interview questions – Similar to job applications, certain questions should be avoided during the interview process to prevent the appearance of discrimination. Even small talk about the candidate’s family situation or offhand comments about attire or an accent could be construed as discriminatory. As with the “too-candid candidate,” sometimes the interviewee is the one who opens the door to these conversations. In those cases, it’s essential that the interviewer close that door as quickly as possible.
  4. Biased hiring decisions – If a job ad has built-in bias, the job application asks inappropriate questions and the interviewer is not careful with the questions he or she asks, it’s very easy to imagine that the final hiring decision could end up being biased, even if subconsciously. Often, an undisciplined hiring process ultimately results in hiring people who are ‘just like’ their hiring managers, robbing the business of the value that diversity brings and potentially resulting in true discrimination.

How can you make sure to avoid discriminatory hiring practices in your business? Check out the many free resources on this page that can help you establish a fair and legal hiring process from start to finish. And to protect against the risks of asking illegal questions on your job application, consider using ComplyRight job applications, which are guaranteed to be compliant with federal and state laws.

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