You want to hire from a diverse group of qualified and talented applicants, so you assume that means you need to ask a diverse set of job interview questions, right?
Let’s face it: the whole process of hiring is flat-out stressful. You’ve got to let people know that you’re hiring. You hope you’ve attracted the best candidates. You spend countless hours sifting through applications to determine who should get an interview. Then you need to make sure your team covers the right interview questions in order to identify the candidate that perfectly embodies the traits of the role you want to fill.
But did you know that by asking the wrong job interview questions, you could not only lose out on a great applicant, but also potentially land yourself in legal trouble?
The Legal Issue of Job Interview Questions
According to a 2014 CareerBuilder study, 20% of managers have asked an illegal job interview question without knowing it. Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that you’ve got five restaurants in your chain. Chances are very good then—based on this survey—that a hiring manager in one of those locations has unknowingly asked a job applicant an illegal question. Sends shivers down your spine, doesn’t it?
If you think this can’t possibly happen to you, take a look at these employers who crossed the line during the interview process:
This Nebraska-based company settled a lawsuit with Edward Wolfe, a previous job candidate who alleged religious discrimination against Voss. During his interviews with the company, he was repeatedly asked religion-related questions which he believes resulted in his not being hired (despite there being a lack of other candidates for the position).
Department of Justice
In his book The Terror Presidency, Jack Goldsmith detailed his experience interviewing with the Department of Justice. In his book, he explained how he was repeatedly questioned regarding his political association and loyalty. His story subsequently helped to expose a pattern of political discrimination in the DOJ.
Joe’s Stone Crab
The well-known Miami dining establishment was found guilty of gender discrimination in their hiring process. While it is not clear if they explicitly asked inappropriate questions during the interview, it was clear to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the judge that Joe’s actively selected only male applicants to fill server positions when hiring.
Abercrombie & Fitch
Samantha Elauf, a Muslim teenager who wore a headscarf, was denied employment by Abercrombie & Fitch because she would not conform to their “Look Policy”. In this case of religious discrimination, A&F made an assumption about Elauf’s beliefs based on how she was dressed and they were consequently found guilty due to their lack of accommodation for applicants (and employees).
How to Interview Someone—the Right (and Legal) Way
The examples above are obviously extreme cases of how companies have used illegal and unethical means to identify applicants in the past. As an employer in the restaurant industry, it’s your responsibility to do better than that.
If you want to know how to interview someone the right way, here is the #1 thing you need to do:
Use open-ended questions that focus on skills and prior experience rather than on who a person is, where they come from, etc. See our list of server interview questions as an example.
If you want to stay on the right side of the law, you’ve got to make sure your entire organization is on board. If you don’t already have an interview plan and process in place, consider the following:
- Learn the Laws: Any discrimination against a job applicant or employee based on their gender, race, religion, nationality, or any other form of personal identifier is illegal.
- Train Your Team: It’s not enough for you to understand what’s legal and what’s not. Ensure that your HR team, management, and any other staff who has a hand in hiring is well-informed on this subject matter by provide thorough training.
- Use Templates: You should already have a consistent hiring process in place. If you haven’t done so already, set up interview question templates that your entire team—and every single location—has access to. You can create different templates for each job to ensure that every question asked falls is legal, ethical, and fair.
- Enhance Control: It’s not enough to create a set of appropriate questions and then assume your team will use them. Make sure you have an HR and operations management solution that will give you full visibility into your company’s interview process.
The first step in creating consistency in the interview and hiring process is to make sure every team member, in every location, is aware of your anti-discrimination policy. Then, by providing them with the proper tools and resources to enforce those policies, you can ensure that everyone is onboard with your fair hiring practices.
If you’d like more information on this subject or a list of questions to get you started, download The Most Inappropriate (and Illegal) Interview Questions You Need to Avoid now.