How can you write the perfect job description? How can you conduct an interview without crossing any legal or ethical boundaries? We answer these questions and more in our guide to best hiring practices.
Recruiting new employees is an art. Not only do you have to find people who can perform the specified job duties, but you also need a person who meshes well with your company culture and who is willing to grow with the company. Furthermore, you need to always make sure that you are following the best and most legal practices when it comes to finding, screening, and hiring new people, as failure to do so can cause headaches that will last long after the last job interview. With that in mind, we’ve put together a guide that should help to take you through every step of the recruiting and hiring process with best practice in mind—from generating applicant interest to running the pre-employment background check.
The Job Description
Before you can hire someone, before you can start doing interviews, and before you can even start sorting through resumes, you need to write a job description for the position you are trying to fill. The job description is the start of the whole process. It’s what you will post to job boards to catch job hunters’ eyes, or what you will send to headhunters if you choose to go that route. It’s also what you will use as a benchmark for deciding whether or not someone is hirable. In other words, it’s something you want to spend a fair amount of time on.
When it comes to writing the perfect job posting, there are a number of best practices to keep in mind—both for effectiveness and legality. On the former side, you want to make sure that the job description is as detailed as possible, listing all possible responsibilities that the position may require, as well as any objective qualifications or prerequisites you may require from a prospective hire. On the latter side, it should include a number of disclaimers, such as a statement that your company is an equal opportunity employer, and that you will not favor applicants based on age, gender, race, religion, or other qualities that could be viewed as discriminatory.
Simply writing an attractive job description and posting it online can be an effective recruiting technique. Especially in this competitive job market, many strong hiring prospects will come to you instead of the other way around. Still, there are things you can do to broaden your applicant pool and to find the best candidates. Meeting with bright students at nearby colleges and universities, establishing a presence at job fairs, and even asking current employees for recommendations are all things you can do to recruit the best possible team for your organization.
The Job Application
Just like with writing the job description, there are a wide range of do’s and don’ts for putting together a job application for your company. There are, of course, laws about the things you can and cannot ask about on a job application. For instance, you can’t inquire about nationality or marital status, and in some jurisdictions, you can’t ask about criminal history at all.
You can learn a lot about the specific rules for what you can and can’t ask online, but it’s always best practice to review your job application with an attorney before putting it to use. That way, you can get a firm “yes” or “no” answer on whether or not you are adhering to all county, state, and national laws.
Anything you can’t ask about on the job application, you also can’t ask about in the interview. Race, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, information about pregnancy or children, disabilities, age, gender identification, military history: these are just a few of the topics that are off-limits to employers.
If you do bring in a lawyer to look over your job application, consider asking for guidelines or pointers on interviewing as well. Better yet, have your managers go through interview courses or training sessions, instructing them on how to conduct an effective and legally compliant job interview.
Too many hiring managers make the mistake of thinking that conducting a job interview is easy, and that they can just go in and “wing it.” But interview preparation is important on both sides of the fence, and if you are going to be conducting the interview, you need to go in with a list of questions that you are going to ask, as well as with a plan not to deviate from it much.
Of course, no interview script is going to be followed perfectly—an interview is a conversation, after all, and what you say and ask is going to at least be partially dictated by how the job applicant responds to your questions. Still, remembering which topics are off-limits or sensitive is key to conducting an interview that is not only legal, but also that will also find you the right hire.
The Background Check
If you decide to seriously consider an applicant for a position with your company, the next step is the background check.
First, you will have to get express written consent from the applicant to conduct the background check. This consent cannot be given as part of the job application, and must be presented as a separate, standalone document.
Next, you will conduct the actual background investigation. If the check yields information that can fairly disqualify an applicant from consideration—so, if the applicant has a criminal offense on their record that directly inhibits their ability to perform the job at hand—then you will need to provide the applicant with written notification of your decision. All applicants are entitled to a copy of the background check report, and are allowed to dispute the findings. In order to fully understand the best practices of using background check findings to make hiring decisions, make sure to read the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and to review guidelines from the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
As you can see, there are a lot of different things to consider when recruiting and hiring a new employee. From the job description, to the application and interview stages, all the way to the background check, there legal requirements that you will need to be aware of, as well as practices that you should follow in order to make the most of your search. It’s a complicated process, and it can take a little while to master. However, learning the ropes thoroughly the first time you hire a new employee is paramount to establishing good practices for all of the years to come.
Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.