The Itsy-Bitsy-Teeny-Weeny-Tiny…Interview



Having just spent the Memorial weekend at the beach this song came to mind. If you don’t know to what song I refer, ask an older colleague.  So, here is a short blog for a brief topic…interviews, not bikinis.  Last year Career Builder published a survey in which they found 20 percent of hiring managers reported having asked a question in an interview that they later found was unlawful.  That was a year ago.  So add to that the continuing paternalist push from federal, state and local elected officials to provide even greater protections for job applicants and make other inquiries unlawful.  As I watch these legislative trends I begin to wonder just how brief an interview is these days.  I think back to thirty years ago and what job interviews were like.  There was usually a warm welcome, offer of something to drink or maybe even a snack, some chit chat about this or that and then you got to the usual brass tacks.  Today there are more topics you cannot or do not want to even touch than those you may address.  For example:

Ice breakers – You may want to think twice about offering food or drink. Doing so may be likely to elicit a disability-related response, such as coffee no cream for the lactose intolerant and no peanuts or peanut products for those with a related allergy.

In the interview – We know the basics and train our hiring managers on what questions they may not ask in an interview. We know to not ask any questions that are likely to elicit a response related to a person’s age, race, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity and sexual orientation), religion, national origin, disability, citizenship, military status, protected activity…need I go on?  Now we add to that list state and local trends prohibiting discrimination, which may include pre-employment inquiries related to:

  • Caregiver status
  • Credit history
  • Criminal history
  • Current salary of the candidate (that’s right, have you heard about this one?)
  • Family status or familial responsibilities
  • Marital status
  • Matriculation
  • Occupation
  • Personal appearance
  • Political opinion or affiliation
  • Unemployed status
  • Use of Tobacco or Lawful Products
  • Workers compensation history

So what’s left?  I have to give a shout out to New York, which gives protected status for “displaying the American flag on an employee’s person or work station.”  What’s your favorite?  Tweet it @SHRMNextChat #TinyInterview  

And then what?  How about focusing on the candidate’s ability to perform the essential functions of the job?  Isn’t that what we are really after anyway?  So if we focus on that, yes we may lose some of the warmth of the interviews of yesteryear but we avoid legal liability in the process.  



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