6 Illegal Interview Questions to Avoid

Hiring and specifically interviewing candidates is a task most managers and business owners often dread. As you prepare to interview, you probably create a list of questions you want to ask that person. It’s equally important to know what questions you shouldn’t be asking a potential employee, to avoid legal trouble.

What makes an interview question illegal?

What makes an interview question illegal is its potential for discrimination based on the candidate’s answer. Federal laws under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit discrimination against a job applicant or employee based on a variety of characteristics, including race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, political views and family status. Employers with at least 15 employees are subject to these laws, which are enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

There is no specific law that states which questions are illegal to ask. It is in asking certain questions with discriminatory intentions that makes questions illegal and best to avoid to prevent any claims of discrimination. Here are 6 interview questions to avoid and why:

Here are 6 common illegal interview questions to avoid and why:

  1. How old are you? Though it is legal to request a candidate’s date of birth to run a pre-employment background check for example, directly asking candidates their age or when they graduated high school can be troublesome if a candidate feels that is the reason they were not hired for the position.
  2. Where are you from? or Is English your first language? You can ask a candidate if they are eligible to work in the United States, but asking a candidate specifically where they’re from could be grounds for national origin discrimination.
  3. Are you married? It may seem like a simple topic to initiate small talk, but asking a candidate if they’re married or planning to have children, may open the door for pregnancy or sexual orientation discrimination claims.
  4. Do you have any health conditions? Rather than asking about a candidate’s health, ask questions that are directly related to the demands of the position, such as “Are you able to lift 50lbs several times throughout the day?”
  5. Have you ever been arrested? It’s not illegal to ask about a candidate’s criminal history, but you cannot ask if a candidate has been arrested because the fact that an individual was arrested is not proof that he or she engaged in criminal conduct. An individual’s arrest record standing alone may not be used by an employer to make a negative employment decision.
  6. Are you in debt? You may choose to run pre-employment credit history checks as part of your hiring process, however, you cannot base your employment decision on that information without giving the candidate a pre-adverse action disclosure that includes a copy of the report and a copy of the candidate’s rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Remember, this list is only a sampling of the most common interview questions to avoid.

If you have questions about interview questions, contact our HR team who can help you determine if your interviewing process is on the right track.

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Hiring an Intern: What you need to know

The role of the intern is not what it used to be. Internships these days require more than making a Starbucks run or picking up the boss’ dry cleaning.

Establishing an internship program is a great way for your company to build a pipeline of talent. However, things are not what they used to be. There are several considerations when creating your internship program.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), most interns are considered employees subject to the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements. However, if an intern is not an employee within the meaning of the FLSA, then the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements do not apply. The Department of Labor uses a Six-Factor Test for Unpaid Interns.

The DOL’s Six-Factor Test for Unpaid Interns

Under the DOL’s test, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA if all the following factors are met:

  1. The internship must be like training that would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship must be for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer derives no immediate advantage from the intern, and on occasion, its operations may be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the end of the internship; and
  6. The employer and intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If you’re considering an internship program, consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

When in doubt, it’s best to classify interns as employees and pay them as required under applicable federal, state, and local law. These days, it pays to be cautious.

If you’re a Miami Payroll Center client, we can provide guidance and best practices with respect to internships. Contact our HR Team at (305) 273-4066.

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Job Prospects Looking Up for New Grads

It’s graduation Season. Across the country Colleges and Universities are graduating a new crop of prospective employees who are about to begin their search for the perfect job. The good news for these grads is that 67% of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder said they plan to hire recent college grads this year. The numbers haven’t looked this good in almost a decade. Although employers report that they plan to pay these new hires more than they have in the past, even with this increase more than half of those entry level positions will start at $40,000 or less.

Job Prospects New GradsMuch like in years past, employers are still concerned about the skills their new prospects are graduating with. More than 42% of employers surveyed felt that graduates did not have enough leadership skills, while 37% found that communication skills, both oral and written, were lacking.  While creative thinking, project management, research, math and technical skills were all on the list of items employers felt were lacking in new grads, the overall consensus was that there are not enough real world skills taught in the classroom.

If new grads aren’t up to par, why are so many looking to hire them? According to Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s Chief HR Officer, “In addition to an improving economy, we are beginning to see a rising number of retirements, which is creating more room for advancement and creating more opportunities for entry level candidates.” As reported in SHRM’s Aging Workforce study earlier this year, now that the Baby Boomer generation has reached retirement age, businesses are faced with the reality of losing many workers with key talents, experience and skills. The challenge of dealing with skills shortages as many older workers retire and developing the skills of a younger workforce are on the minds of business leaders across the nation. Many hope that new hires can learn from the Boomers before they go.

The national CareerBuilder survey was conducted online by Harris Poll between February 10 and March 17, 2016, and included a representative sample of 2,186 hiring managers and human resource professionals in the private sector across industries and company sizes. The CareerBuilder press release with survey information can be found here.

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What do applicants take away from your interview process?

Unemployment is down, and the labor market is tightening. What does that mean for you? What should you be doing as a result?

Well, as the supply of available labor shrinks if you are going to land the cream of the crop- now is the time to review your recruiting and hiring processes to ensure you build the best employer brand that you can. And let me be clear- nothing will damage your employer brand more than a broken recruitment and communication process with potential candidates.

Data compiled for The New York Times by Glassdoor found that an average interview process in 2013 lasted 23 days versus an average of 12 days in 2009. And in today’s 2016 world, the pressure is on everyone- not just hiring managers, to make quality hiring decisions and quickly.

Here are five things you should be doing today to ensure your employer brand is working in you favor to attract the best and brightest talent:

  1. Never allow a candidate to leave an interview without knowing the timetable for you making a decision on the position.
  2. If your interviewing process goes beyond the timetable you gave to candidates, proactively update candidates.
  3. If you are going to have candidates deliver work sample to gauge their ability to perform- limit the scope of the work; Candidates don’t work for you yet and tasking them with completing one of your deliverables on a project is unethical.
  4. Be reasonable with your timeline for delivery of any work samples— 3 to 5 business days, never tomorrow.
  5. Lastly, show some respect to candidates. Every candidate who took the time to interview with your company should get a definitive response within the timetable you gave them. Preferably via a telephone call, but at the very least an email thanking them for their time and informing them of your decision on the role.

One last question you want to consider- the first experience candidates have with your company’s culture is during your hiring process. What are you communicating about your company and its culture to prospective candidates?

Take a look at this video by Heineken®. What did they just communicate to their new hire? How did they make their new hire feel- at the end of the process?

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Hire Top Talent Without Breaking the Budget? Think Remote!

Few small businesses have the budget necessary to compete with the biggest companies when it comes to hiring top talent. But money isn’t everything! Offering a flexible work environment that increases work-life balance could be worth its weight in gold.

Let’s face it – the days when 100% of the workforce actually went in to the office every day to work are long gone. Thanks to advances in technology, and a shift in employee priorities as the Millennials joined the workforce, our culture is rapidly changing to one that favors working remotely.

w-l-balanceBy offering a flexible work environment where employees can work one or more days outside the office, you can send a message that not only are you aware of your employees’ need for a better work-life balance, but that you trust them and believe in their professionalism. South Florida is rife with traffic jams, long commutes and terrible drivers. Imagine what reducing an employee’s commute would do for their morale, their wallet and their level of happiness! One less day of gas and tolls, one less day of a frustrating commute that can save an hour or two of time, one less day of professional attire to be dry cleaned.

The results of a 2015 US Department of Labor survey showed that 23% of employed Americans did some or all of their work from home in 2014.  While we don’t have a new report yet this year, it’s a safe assumption that this number has risen to more than 25% of employed Americans. Data from the 2015 report also shows that, on the days they worked, 39% of employed people age 25+ with a bachelor’s degree or higher did some or all of their work at home.

Few companies have a business model that could support a completely remote workforce. However, providing the option to work from home even one day a week might be enough to retain or recruit top talent to your organization.

Have you been successful in offering remote work options for your employees? We’d love to hear what’s been working for you. Post your comments below.

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Are you Paying Too Much – Or Too Little?

Choosing how much to pay your employees can be difficult. Are you paying too much? Too little? How much is enough to keep your best and brightest employed within your organization? Being fair to all employees while also showing that they’re valued takes more than a standard pay scale. While the ability to hire a great candidate is often reliant on salary, retaining a great employee may require a little more than just dollars and cents.

Fairness in compensation within your organization, otherwise known as internal equity, is somewhat of a preoccupation in today’s workplace. Our employees can’t help comparing what they’re making to what their peers are making, both inside the organization and out. While we try to keep salary information confidential, the information is easily obtained, sometimes by word of mouth and by information found online. Creating internal equity can help create and maintain the loyalty of your employees.

Looking at the balance between internal and external salary equity is a great place to start. However, no matter how complex and complete your compensation formulas are in reality (assuming all related laws are considered), it is how they are perceived that can truly impact employee loyalty and happiness. If employees perceive that they are not being paid fairly in comparison to their coworkers, they may not feel valued and may leave. If the employee perceives that they do more work than their peers but are paid the same, this may create a similar outcome.

Wages should not be based on job title alone. The tasks completed are more important than the titles. Similar tasks should earn similar wages. Of course, beyond job tasks it is certainly acceptable to consider an employee’s education and prior experience.

More and more employers are creating compensation plans built on the idea of transparency, which helps them to explain why compensation decisions were made. Explaining the factors that led to a compensation decision will allow employees to understand your exact reasoning, which can result in the perception of being paid fairly. The employee’s perception of being paid a fair wage is just as important as the wage itself.

If you haven’t reviewed your pay or internal equity structure recently, now is the time. Your best employees are probably already aware of how much their peers are making and how much they could be making elsewhere.

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When the New Hire Isn’t Really “New”

Ask any graduate of HR 101 and they will tell you that the employee life cycle is supposed to begin with recruitment and end with departure. Or at least that’s the way it used to be. Introducing the “boomerang employee.”   Or as we like to call it, the not-so New Hire. This new buzz word, in short, refers to all of those folks who left your organization and then return to work for you in some capacity at a later point.

Boomerang-employeesIt wasn’t too long ago that many organizations had a policy against hiring back former employees. According to Workplace Trends, a recent study of Human Resources professionals found that 85% of respondents had received applications from former employees and 40% had rehired almost half of the former employees who applied. Of course, those that were hired had left the organization in good standing.

The same study reported that 33% of HR professionals and 38% of managers agree that the biggest advantage of hiring back former employees is that they are already familiar with the organization’s culture. More than 30% of respondents reported that that boomerangs do not require as much training as a brand new employee, therefore reducing the traditional costs associated with new hires.

With so much experience at stake, employers are creating new incentive programs to ensure that boomerangs stay with their organization, often by offering them back their prior years of service after they maintain re-employment for one or two years. These years of service almost always tie to vacation and sick time, service awards and other incentives.

Boomerangs will mean more than increased competition in the job market. This trend does increase the span of the traditional employee life cycle as we know it. Not only do we see boomerangs being hired in the traditional sense, but we also see employers developing alumni networks of employees and using these networks to hire contract and contingent workers. So even if traditional employment has ended, the relationship may continue for a long time to come.

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