When I look back over my career in the security industry, some of my biggest mistakes occurred with firing and hiring of security officers. The hiring process from the outside seemed so simple, but in reality there are many things to consider including what to look for in an officer’s background, what the starting pay rate should be, or how to conduct a good interview. When you are looking to staff a post, you want to hire the best candidate for the job so conducting a good interview is absolutely essential. Generally speaking, during an interview you will want to find out as much as you can about the candidate to ensure that they are a good fit for your client’s site. Keep in mind that as you are digging for information, there are some questions you just should not ask. Either because the question should be irrelevant in the decision-making process and/or the question could put your company at risk for a lawsuit.
In some cases it just depends on how you ask the question. “The answers to these questions might be relevant to whether a candidate would be a good fit for your business,” says Charles Vethan, founder and CEO of Vethan Law Firm. “However, in the legal sense, you could be liable for violating a number of employment laws.”
Training and knowledge are key to avoiding illegal interview questions, Vethan advises, so make sure everyone knows how to avoid these illegal interview questions when interviewing at your company.
The Blatantly Out-of-Bound Questions
Avoid asking any questions that directly address a candidate’s protected class status. These are questions that relate to race, sex, nationality, religion, military status, disability or genetic information, and pregnancy. There may also be state or local laws that protect other statuses, so you’ll need to review relevant laws beforehand, Vethan suggests.
Examples of blatant questions that violate these protections include:
- “Your name is very exotic; where are you originally from?”
- “How old are you?”
- “How far along are you?”
- “How long have you been working?”
- “Do you have children?”
- “Are you married?”
The Tricky Questions
In an effort to avoid obvious illegal questions but still satisfy their curiosity, interviewers may try to reword the above questions to get the answers they want without spelling it out.
- “When did you graduate from college?” This is still problematic, as the year of graduation can indicate age.
- “I see you live in Lakeville; do your kids go to school there?” It’s illegal to not hire someone because they have children; asking in this way elicits an answer that indicates whether they have kids or not.
- “What accent is that?” This could indicate national origin, which is a protected class.
Help your managers avoid these types of issues by providing questions beforehand. “Thoroughly train any employees that conduct interviews and have them ask questions from a pre-approved ‘cheat sheet’ of questions, and make sure the interviewers know what is clearly off-limits or illegal to ask,” Vethan says.
The Badly Worded Questions
There are some things you need to know about a candidate and that you can ask — but only in ways that don’t invite answers about their status in protected classes. A good rule is to describe the job duty and then ask the employee if they can meet that requirement.
Here are examples of phrasings to avoid, along with acceptable ways to get at relevant information:
- “What religious holidays do you take off?” This question is a direct inquiry into the candidate’s religion. Instead, word it this way: “Would you be able to work on Fridays?”
- “Do you have backup child care if you have to work overtime?” Avoid references to family status; instead say something along the lines of “This job requires overtime twice a month on Mondays. Are you able to make that work?”
- “When did you graduate from college?” If you’re looking for age as an indication of experience, ask about experience instead: “How long have you been working in security?”
- “Can you lift more than 50 pounds with your bad back?” If lifting and moving things are a legitimate part of the job, phrase the question this way: “This position requires being able to lift 50 pounds up to 10 times a day. Can you meet the requirement of the position?”
This is just a brief list of taboo questions, so make sure you consult your attorney or HR professional for more comprehensive rules. But in the meantime, how do you prepare for interviews? What kinds of questions do you ask to get the information you need?
By Courtney Sparkman
OfficerReports.com is a software company that provides security guard companies with an easy way to monitor their officers, better manage their operations, and win new business. Take a tour of our software to see how we combine Electronic Reporting, Real-Time GPS based Tour Tracking, and GPS based Clock In and Out into one easy to use platform.