Employers Guide To A Legally Compliant Interview Process
The process of interviewing a candidate for a position requires crafty skills and more so in today’s ever so aware and informed era where archaic line of questioning cannot bring results and loose questioning could easily land your company in hot waters. While most companies now know that questions relating to gender, age, religion and race are prohibited by law however there are many other questions which fall under the grey area radar and can be legally challenged by job seekers. It is always advisable to be updated with the times and the legalities surrounding employee matters to make sure you are personally and your company vicariously is secure from any potential claims. Here are a few pointers discussing the dos and don’ts of the interviewing process that could help with your decision making process.
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
You could ask them standard questions along the lines of their five year plan or organizational skills or ability to work under pressure or the infamous why we should hire you question and while all of these are valid inquiries to make however usually results in rotted, memorized and repeated replies leaving employers with no real information to work with. On the other hand, another way to go for this could be asking your potential candidates about:
Their achievements. It’s always best to make the candidate feel comfortable by giving them a chance to discuss their own achievements as this also automatically gives you a chance to understand their strengths and for the candidate to self-evaluate their worth in the process. This question reflects a growth mindset as it shows that the company is interested in a candidate’s previous and potential future development.
Why they are interested in your company specifically. Being interested in an industry or a type of job is one thing but to be interested in one specific placement or a specific company is another. This will give the candidate a chance to express why they want to be a part of your team and will automatically create a sense of oneness and ownership for the company well before being hired as well. Also, based on the response, this could be an indicator for the company of a candidates workplace attitude i.e. if he/she is a lone player or a team player.
Employers could list down the value addition their company brings to its employees and then ask the candidate how they can add value to the company. Instead of you questioning them on their credentials let them self-evaluate and do the job for you. It is not uncommon for the HR executives to see the candidate from one-sided view only. The candidate however, if asked the right questions, is best able to bring in pointers that may go unnoticed by the interviewer.
Relevant experience the candidate has to offer. While industry experience is great each job requires a specific type or subset of experience. For example a marketeer for pharmaceuticals and a marketeer with background of e commerce or high end couture will have different experiences and expertise.
Discuss your work culture and try to ascertain if the candidate could fit in. Cultural fit is extremely important to ensure that the motivation and harmony of employees remain intact. Culture does not mean the social culture a candidate may belong to but the work culture the candidate display traits off or the work ethics and value system they bring in. A candidate with bureaucratic background may not be the best fit for the flexible work culture of a startup and would ultimately result in complications and in some cases demotivation in employees. If the employees are poles apart in work culture practice then synergy is difficult to maintain which results in added worries for the HR department of the company.
Travel preferences of the candidate. Most companies require you to travel and often that is a decisive factor in shortlisting candidates for a position. This would be a good time to know whether a candidate is open to travelling for work, how frequently and if they have travelled for work in the past. Discussing this in detail will give you a fair idea of the candidate’s readability and approach towards work related travels.
AVOIDING THE WRONG ONES
There are certain questions that an interviewer simply shouldn’t ask for the basic reason of them being outright discriminatory or appear to be discriminatory. If a question seems unfair to you or has no direct impact on the candidate’s ability to perform their job then it need not be asked. The rule of thumb is – play the questions in your mind, if any question appears to be discriminatory in any way possible, drop it from your list of inquiries.
Some examples of discriminatorily inclined topics could be:
Marital status of the candidate and if single then further inquiry about if they wish to continue working once married.
Inquiry about the nationality, religion, sect, caste and ethnicity of the candidate.
Discussing about the ancestry or parental background of the candidate. Unless you are conducting an interview for a job involving caregiving of minors there is absolutely no reason for you to be inquiring about the parents and/or background of a candidate. Not only is this unnecessary and inappropriate to begin with but also is grounds enough for a rejected candidate to claim that his basis of rejection was not on merit but on discriminatory basis let’s say nepotism and that is one road you wouldn’t want to go down.
Reason for leaving last job. This particularly remains a grey area question. Understand this, if a candidate is still looking for a job after quitting his previous employment then chances are that he was either unhappy with the company or the salary as there is rarely any other reason to quit. Most people quit their jobs because they are unhappy with the company, its management style or work culture or they are dissatisfied with the salary they are drawing and therefore want to grow in stature and status. You see, not necessarily illegal but in essence this is a leading question. If the candidate chooses to respond with either one of these options then he gives away information that is personal and need not be shared to begin with. Many HR executives slyly ask this question to naturally land on the topic of how much a candidate was earning at his prior employment which is next to follow and which is not only inappropriate but also illegal to ask in many states. Candidates shouldn’t be fooled or feel pressured into answering this as they have every right to decline from giving away that information and their potential employer cannot reject them on that basis as these are clear grounds of a legal action against such employers.
Which brings us to the most commonly asked question in Pakistan, a candidate’s last salary draw and expectations. Many companies in Pakistan still follow this archaic line of questioning to gauge the salary band a candidate falls into and (if shortlisted) accordingly make them an offer even if their company’s salary cap allotted for the position is above and beyond such amount and frankly, this is how the vicious cycle of underpaid and overworked starts. Not only is this line of questioning unfair and detrimental to the job seekers but also illegal in many cities including New York and California, and frowned upon in others like Dubai in the UAE as well as many countries in Europe including Germany.
Now employers are well within their rights to ask about the expectations of a candidate they are interviewing however, asking about the last pay scale is not an ideal question to ask and if so asked (as it is still not illegal in Pakistan) the candidates are well within their rights to refuse to give away this information as removal from the shortlist based on this act could, again, be hard grounds for legal action against the company.
LET THE CANDIDATE CHOOSE YOU
Job seekers, you are also well within your rights to inquire about the position and the company you are hoping to work for. You shouldn’t be reluctant in asking as many questions as are needful for you to make a decision best suiting your short and long term career goals. Pakistan being a youth centric country, it remains true that there are many seekers out there for every vacant position. However with the advent of digitization and the boom of the startup ecosystem in the country, employee turnover has significantly increased meaning for every vacant position filled is another position simultaneously being vacated. Hence, gone are the days where your preference and questioning seemed or aptly put treated as subordinated. Here are a few questions to get you started.
Ask questions relating to and revealing the company’s overall mindset including their management style, the work culture they promote and their short and long term goals. Remember you are also choosing them while they are choosing you hence, by asking questions not only you endorse that you are interested to learn about them but also that you are making an informed choice.
You might want to factor in the company’s approach towards promotions. Some companies have a prerequisite time frame which you need to complete at the given organization before you are eligible for a promotion. Hence, knowing this beforehand will not only align your expectations but also help in making your decision by keeping your future goals and timelines in mind. After all it is better to know these things from before and not be blindsided later.
It is only reasonable to inquire about bonuses as well as the statutory and fringe benefits offered by the company. Your package will most likely include gratuity, commute arrangements, phone bill and medical for the most part however depending on the position applied for, your credibility (which also establishes your negotiation power) and your negotiation skills, you may discuss and include other market compatible benefits such as paid leave, work from home or partial off site arrangements.
Given the current scenario, it will not be unlikely that going forward many candidates will be inquiring about the work from home possibility for their position and therefore, so should you. You could discuss a number of related matters here ranging from the prerequisites for WFH, the payment structure i.e. will there be deduction in salary and other relevant verticals which will help you reach an informed decision.
It is always sensible to inquire about a company’s workplace policy specifically relating to their approach and management of workplace harassment. Companies are required to keep their work environment secure for all genders. This is backed by effective policies, educational workshops on what harassment is and how to avoid acts which may culminate to such or make another uncomfortable and what’s the recourse the company follows through in case of a complaint. This is not only informative for you but also gives a clear message to the interviewer that you are a responsible individual who is aware of his/her legal rights and duties.
Learn about the company policy on inability to work for a short term owing to poor health. Say you encounter an accident or a fracture and you are on bed rests for six weeks, you need to know if you are supported during that time. While your temporary impairment is certainly no grounds for dismissal it could be grounds for unpaid leave in some companies. Unless you know of the company’s approach to such issues from the get go chances are it will come off as a shocker to you later.
Policy on maternal/ paternal leave and linked benefits, if any. Many local companies now provide daycare and other services for young parents to smooth in the transition of their work and personal life and knowing what perks are being offered could significantly affect your decision making process.
ILS is here to help your business with employer and employee related matters. Check out our website or contact us for additional information as well as documents, such as employment application and forms, employment contract and/or employee confidentiality agreement. If you still have questions regarding employment laws, we are just a click away!