What Can’t You Do in a Job Interview?
There is so much you can’t do, how can you possibly find out anything about a candidate? Before attempting to answer that questions let’s go over what you can’t do first.
You can’t ask anything about the candidate’s family, such as:
- Are you married, divorced or what?
- Are you living with someone, not just as a roommate?
- How old are you–when did you graduate from high school or college?
- Tell me about your children–how old are they? Where do they go to school or what grade they are in?
- What church do you go to? Or, why don’t you go to church?
- What political party are you supporting? Why?
- Who do you owe money to?
And then you come to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Tell me any illness or disabilities that you have.
- Have you ever been hospitalized? Why?
- Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist?
- How many days of work did you miss last year because of illness?
- Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?
- What prescription drugs are you taking?
So, what can you possibly talk about? Well, the job the applicant is applying for. You can ask just about anything about their previous work experience or environment that doesn’t cross the above points. Get details to these questions when you don’t get a clear answer. Describe your current work conditions and how would the applicant work under the conditions. You can’t ask the applicant if he or she smokes, but you can make clear that any employee who smokes must do so outside the building and there are no times other than scheduled breaks that leaving work to go out for a smoke is acceptable.
You can ask salary history, but there is a movement afoot to ban this question. You can ask why they have left each job on their resume and discuss how they worked with people and their supervisor at each job listed. Ask about their best time at the job, and their worst. How did they solve problems during the worst times? You can ask for references. Explain that the references you will take seriously are people they worked for and with. You won’t call family members or clergy.
You can ask an employee to perform a basic task from the job they are applying for. If you are hiring a shop glazier, ask them to cut a piece of double thick to a pattern. If hiring for the office, give a short letter to be typed in your word processer. You can ask to see a driver’s license and to see if it is the correct class to drive trucks in your state.
When you offer a job to a candidate, state that this offer is conditional based on a drug test and a physical. You are going to be with people, for the most part, who are lifting glass or metal. At this physical they will be asked to lift a certain weight, say 50 pounds. Their backs will be tested and they may have to walk on a treadmill for five minutes. The physical may take only 20-30 minutes and will answer many questions. The facility doing the test won’t tell you specifics of the test, just that they passed or didn’t pass the tests needed to do the job.
Drug testing is changing these days as well. Many states allow marijuana. Many employers are dropping this from their drug testing panel. This is up to you. I would consult with the agency you use before making any changes in your drug testing program.
So, keep your questions related to the job and you are all set. Ask away.
In Massachusetts you can no longer ask salary history.
Paul – Great insight as always. Now, can you put the shoe on the other foot?
What can you say or not say about a past employee when they’ve given your name in their employment history, or used your name as a reference?
Chuck, I have seen employers vary greatly from large corporations HR departments where they will be as conservative as only recognizing the fact that they worked there and giving no other details to smaller businesses where they will tell you anything and everything.
When it comes to legality, there are no FEDERAL laws restricting what information an employer can – or cannot – disclose about former employees. Its really about companies being worried about defamation claims that leads them to be conservative on their comments. However, legally, they can say anything that is objectively true.