Self Managing Employees Tips

download-11One of the most common hiring philosophies among smart leaders is to find great people. By “great,” these leaders often mean hardworking, independent individuals who can essentially manage themselves.

Self-managing employees, or “self-starters,” work efficiently and well with little supervision. These driven professionals keep a company moving forward with their innovative ideas and strong work ethic.

“Promoting leadership and self-responsibility has proven to be more effective within organizations and reflects the new generation of management style,”

Aaron Krane, the CEO and founder of Drive Motors, described self-managing employees as having the following attributes:

  • They know how and when to execute the work themselves, and when to conscript others.
  • They understand the balance between value created and resources invested for any given task.
  • They ask a lot of questions to seek strategic or tactical advice, rather than emotional reassurance.
  • They appreciate, if not welcome, criticism, because one of the most important functions of self-management is self-improvement.
  • They identify issues and propose solutions.


Finding self-starters

When interviewing candidates who claim to be self-starters, the key is to ask the right behavioral questions to determine their personality type, strengths, weaknesses and communication styles, said Walker, of Market America.

Here are a few sample questions you can ask a candidate to assess his or her ability to work independently.

Tell me about a situation at work where you needed help, but couldn’t find anyone to help you. How did you handle it? Self-reliant workers are able to proactively assess difficult situations and determine a solution on their own, Walker said. She suggested asking this behavioral question will show whether a candidate is capable of handling similar situations independently in this new role.

Tell me about the last time you learned something new for the sake of learning, and how you have benefitted as a result. Self-starters want to be really good at what they do, said John Fleischauer, a global talent acquisition manager at Halogen Software, a provider of employee performance and talent management solutions. They don’t need to be told to learn something to improve a particular skill. The right candidate can typically answer this question without hesitation, often naming several examples and resulting outcomes, he said.

“The candidates who say they’re self-starters, but aren’t really, typically trip over this question because they either don’t take initiative or have proof or outcomes of their effort,” Fleischauer added.

How would you measure and attain success for (XYZ) goal? Krane said that self-managing employees are able to take an abstract goal and come up with tactical solutions to achieve it. During the interview, propose a hypothetical goal and see if the candidate can identify a reasonable metric for success, explain the strategy in serialized tasks and recommend the resources required to achieve it.

How would you describe your ability to delegate responsibilities? Employees who like to work independently often take responsibility for a group projects and teamwork, said Dumbo’s Rachmany. Self-starters may admit that they’re not great at letting go of the reins because they want everything done well, and know they can do a good job. This is a tricky area, though, because inability to delegate may present some problems if the candidate ends up in a leadership position.

What is The Next Generation of Workers

images-32The next generation of employees is getting ready to enter the workforce and they have a much different outlook on what they want out of their careers than those who have come before them, new research finds.

The study from the job search site Monster revealed that soon-to-be professionals from Generation Z, those born between 1994 and 2010, are more driven by money and ambition than those who are already working. Specifically, 70 percent of those surveyed from Gen Z said their top work motivator is money, compared with just 63 percent of employees from all other generations.

Being able to work in a job they are passionate about is another motivator. The study found that 46 percent of those from Generation Z, specifically between ages 15 and 20, said the ability to pursue their passion is a top motivating factor, compared with only 32 percent of baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials.

The next generation of workers appears more willing to put in the extra effort needed to achieve their goals. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed from Generation Z said they would work nights and weekends for higher pay, opposed to just 45 percent of millennials, 40 percent of Gen Xers and 33 percent of baby boomers.

Gen Z workers will also head anywhere for a job they want. Nearly 70 percent of Generation Z said they would be willing to move for a good job opportunity, compared with 52 percent of those across all other generations.

Best Retention Strategy

download-10It doesn’t always take attractive benefits or a high salary to keep employees satisfied. Instead, bosses simply need to remember to say, “thank you.”

In a recent report by Appirio, 60 percent of surveyed workers said they put the most value on being appreciated by management, and that appreciation plays a big role in employee satisfaction and retention.

“Our survey found that appreciation, connectedness and emotional safety all outrank compensation as important factors in career decision-making,” Harry West, vice president of services and product management at Appirio, said in a statement. “Employee engagement can’t be solved by simply showering workers with raises and bonuses. Companies must be dedicated to providing transparency, support and technologies that keep high-end tech talent happy.”

Satisfaction isn’t necessarily directly correlated with compensation.According to the survey, employees have issues with leaders who make no effort to form relationships with their workers or show appreciation for employees. Respondents said the worst qualities a boss or manager can have are being emotionally distant and uncommunicative. Some examples are failing to give credit to workers (32 percent of respondents), rarely giving praise or expressing support (28 percent), failing to help employees with promotion (24 percent), and viewing workers as replaceable (13 percent).

Interviewees care most about feeling appreciated by their bosses. When considering a job offer, 60 percent of respondents said that feeling appreciated by their managers is the most important factor. On the other hand, only 5 percent said they were most concerned with climbing the corporate ladder, and only 4 percent said they cared most about raises.

Most workers value a human expression for a job well done. Appirio found that 55 percent of respondents said they’d feel most disappointed if a manager never thanked the employee for a job well done on a big project. Support and gratitude seem to be more motivating and cherished than any other form of reward, West said.

“The human touch is becoming even more important in a world where people spend so much time in the digital space,” he added.

So how do you express your gratitude in an effective way? Timing is everything, West said.

“One of the main ways a manager can show appreciation is by providing … a ‘thank you’ that is delivered in real time, not just at the end of the year or in a formal review session,” he said. “Consistent, verbal feedback is a key motivator for the current workforce.”

Appirio’s results were based on 657 total respondents using an online survey on the SnapApp platform.

How to Successful on Workplace

If you’re worried that a workplace fundraiser will make your employees feel obligated to donate money they can’t afford, think again.

New research from Gallup shows that the vast majority of employees who donate money to fundraisers at work do so because they want to, not because they feel they have to. Just 13 percent of workers donate money to charitable organizations because they feel obligated to do so, while only 4 percent contribute money because their employers support the charity.

“Few employees feel pressured by workplace fundraisers, perhaps because their motivations for donating to them have little to do with their employers,” the study’s authors wrote. “External forces, including their employers, have little sway.”

Employees listed several other motivations for donating that are more important than what their employers do. Those included that it’s the right thing to do, the charity supports someone in the employee’s life, someone in the person’s personal life asked him or her to donate, and the individual sees a personal story of someone the organization is helping and wants to help.

The key to getting employees to donate money to workplace fundraisers is to make the process easy, the research found. More than two-thirds of the employees surveyed said they are likely to donate moneyif their employer makes it easy to do so.

“These findings suggest that employees are more likely to donate money at work if it’s convenient for them,” the study’s authors wrote. “To encourage employees to participate in workplace-giving programs, charitable organizations and employers need to find ways to make the giving process seamless.”

Employers who want run successful workplace-giving campaigns need to be very careful when selecting a charity to support. The researchers suggest choosing charities that have a strong positive organizational identity and that successfully engage their donors.

“Though employees do not necessarily feel pressured by workplace fundraisers, they are more likely to contribute if they believe their money supports a powerful mission,” the study’s authors wrote.

Businesses that do a good job keeping employees engaged are also likely to see better results from workplace-giving campaigns. The study found that people in work groups that had the highest levels of engagement with their employers were more likely to donate. Additionally, these employees donated 2.6 times more money than did people in less-engaged teams.

How to choose the Right of employee

It’s never easy to let go of a worker, especially one who has devoted time and hard work to your company. But the unpleasant reality of running a business is that sometimes, people must be fired. Prolonging the process only leads to further issues that can stunt your company’s growth.

Terminating an employee is complex, and going about it the wrong way may result in an angry former staff member at best, and a hefty lawsuit at worst. Here’s how to go about this difficult process properly, from both a legal and a professional standpoint.

Before the meeting

Firing an employee is never as simple as saying, “You’re fired.” Proper termination is not a rash, spur-of-the-moment decision, but a well-documented process that must prove that you, as the employer, are justified in your actions. Otherwise, you’re inviting the potential for a wrongful termination lawsuit.

“Throughout the entire termination process, HR leaders need to work with the employee’s manager on properly documenting instances of performance and/or behavioral discussions,” said Deb LaMere, vice president of employee engagement at Ceridian, a human capital management technology company. “When it comes to terminating an employee for performance reasons, having those facts documented and vetted by the organization’s legal department or a contracted attorney will not only make the process easier, it will also help validate the reason for terminating the employee, in the first place.”

Employees should not be surprised at a notice of termination. LaMere recommends sharing feedback with employees on a regular basis to ensure you are on the same page.

“Having regular performance discussions — especially when performance needs improving — acts as a warning,” she said. “If managers are not having these types of constant conversations about performance and areas in need of improvement, the employee will be surprised and they may end up feeling that they have been discriminated against and terminated without any kind of valid reason.”

The situation can be a little trickier if an employee is being let go as part of a downsizing initiative. Kathie Caminiti, a partner at labor and employment law firm Fisher & Phillips LLP, said that documentation is necessary to justify not only the reduction in staff, but how you determined which employees got cut. [See Related Story: Should You Fire That Employee? 4 Questions to Ask]

“With a downsizing or reduction … what is the business justification and what is the selection criteria for the person to be terminated?” Caminiti said. “If you’re letting go of three people, the next question is, why those three people as opposed to [other employees]? That’s where companies get into trouble.”

To make sure you’ve covered your bases, Caminiti advised asking yourself these five important questions when preparing for a termination meeting:

  1. What is the reason for the discharge and what documentation exists to support that decision?
  2. What is the employee’s background and history with the company? (Consider age, gender, protected class under EEOC laws, union versus nonunion, whether employee has made complaints against company, etc.)
  3. Am I treating all other employees the same? (i.e., if the employee is being fired for violation of policy, would any other employee also be fired for the same violation?)
  4. Is this termination achieving business objectives?
  5. Am I following my own employer policies and procedures for discipline?

The Impact on the Bottom Line

A new study from Robert Half Management Resources revealed that 53 percent of all professionals wish they had more insight into the effects of their contributions on their companies’ bottom lines.

This is especially true of younger workers. Nearly 65 percent of those surveyed who were between the ages 18 and 34 said they wanted more information on how their work helps their company make money.

“Employees who see the direct correlation between their contributions and company performance are more engaged, make better spending decisions and can identify new ways to increase productivity and growth,” Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, said in a statement.

Currently, 47 percent of the workers surveyed said they are always able to make the connection between their day-to-day duties and how they contribute to the company’s bottom line. Meanwhile,14 percent said they are rarely or never able to connect those dots.

When examined by age group, those typically in leadership roles have the hardest time making those connections. Just 38 percent of those between the ages of 35 and 54 are always able to understand how their work affects the bottom line, while 19 percent said they aren’t able to make those connections on a regular basis.

“It is concerning that so many workers who are 35 to 54 — a group that often serves as managers and top executives — lack a complete understanding of how their responsibilities help their organization’s bottom line,” Hird said.

Since younger workers put more of a priority on knowing how their work is serving a larger purpose, it is critical that employers make sure they are helping them connect those dots, Hird siad.

“Managers who do not have regular conversations with staff about how their work affects the company are missing a major opportunity to develop ideas for improving the business,” he said.

To help employers, Robert Half Management Resources offered several tips for keeping workers more informed about how they are contributing to the company’s financial standing:

  1. Give updates to everyone. Often, employers provide financial updates only to high-ranking managers and executives. Conversations about company performance and how workers are meeting, or not meeting, goals should be held with everyone in the organization, regardless of their level. Giving workers a better understanding of how their contributions make an impact is a good way to help employees improve their performance.
  2. Have regular discussions. Instead of detailing how the company is performing only once or twice a year, employers should have their managers give more specific feedback to individual employees on a regular basis.
  3. Get an outside perspective. It never hurts to hear what those outside the organization think of how the company is performing. Every so often, check in with those in your network, or industry consultants, to not only get their insight into how the company is performing, but also to learn best practices from other organizations.

Know the Best Candidates for Job

Although you should be thorough when searching for and hiring new employees, if the process is too long, you could cost yourself a shot at hiring the best candidates.

A study from Robert Half revealed that when forced to endure a lengthy hiring process, nearly 40 percent of job seekers lose interest in the position and pursue other opportunities, and 18 percent decide to stay put in their current job. In addition, more than 30 percent said a drawn-out hiring process makes them question whether the employer is good at making decisions in other areas.

“The hiring process provides a window into the overall corporate culture,” Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half, said in a statement. “If people feel their career potential will be stifled by a slow-moving organization, they will take themselves out of the running.”

Overall, job seekers find a lengthy hiring process infuriating. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said the most frustrating part of the job search is the long wait after an interview to hear if they got the job. The research shows that 23 percent lose interest in the employer if they don’t hear back within one week after the initial interview, and another 46 percent lose interest after two weeks.

“Candidates with several options often choose the organization that shows the most interest and has an organized recruiting process,” McDonald said.

Because hiring decisions are some of the most critical choices an employer can make, many organizations tend to draw out the process by days, or even weeks, to ensure they are making the right choice, McDonald said. However, by doing so, they risk losing out on a candidate they really like.

To help employers, McDonald offered several tips for speeding up the hiring process:

  1. Know your needs. Go into the hiring process knowing exactly what you need. Are you looking for a full-time employee or a temporary one? Is there any reason you can’t hire someone right away?
  2. Get everyone on the same page. Make sure everyone involved in the hiring process knows your timeline for making the hire. In addition, make sure everyone understands who is making the final decision and that they can set aside time in their schedules to conduct interviews.
  3. Improve interview efficiency. Save time by conducting screening interviews online via Skype or FaceTime. For in-person interviews, try to conduct them all in one day. Once interviews are completed, get immediate feedback from both the hiring managers and candidates to see how interested each is in the other.
  4. Communicate regularly. Keep candidates informed of where things stand. Let them know when a final decision is expected. If the timeline changes, be sure to provide them with an update. Candidates who don’t hear anything will likely take that as a sign you aren’t interested and move on to other opportunities.
  5. Don’t delay in making an offer. When you know who you want to hire, make a verbal offer immediately. However, make it contingent on satisfactory references and background checks.

Businessman that need to know

Many U.S. workers are forgoing the traditional office job to work on a contractual or freelance basis. For employers, having contingent workers could mean a savings of time and money, as they don’t have to take the time to train the worker, pay health benefits or contribute to a 401(k).

However, if your business does choose to use contractors or freelancers, you need to make sure your workers are properly classified. Depending on the specific terms of your arrangement with an independent contractor — hours worked, reporting structure, payment schedule, etc. — you might find yourself in the middle of a misclassification lawsuit.

Joy Child, vice president at law firm Alexander, Aronson, Finning & Co., noted that a company wrongly treating its workforce as independent could be liable for payroll taxes, interest and penalties. Regular employees are entitled to certain legal protections and benefits that independent contractors aren’t, and the IRS and state governments are actively looking for clues that a company might be shirking its responsibilities to its workers.

In the 1990s, Microsoft misclassified thousands of programmers and computer engineers as independent contractors. These long-term temp workers brought a benefits case against the company and were deemed by the courts as “employees.” As a result, the company was required to pay $97 million in penalties and legal fees, and the case yielded a set of guidelines to help employers determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.

Based on a report on the Microsoft case, these are the five most important factors to consider for worker classification:

  1. Control over how work is done: Workers who work when and where they want, using their own methodologies and guidelines, are rightly considered to be independent contractors. If, however, you require a worker to be in the office for a fixed period of time and work according to company policies, that person should likely be classified as an employee.
  2. Equipment and software: Does the worker use his or her own computer, or does he or she use a machine on-site? Does that machine have software on it that the worker does not have? Does he or she use company office supplies? An independent contractor should supply most or all of his or her own materials to complete a job.
  3. Compensation: Freelancers are generally paid by the job. If a company pays a worker a monthly or yearly amount, the IRS will likely categorize that person as an employee. Remember, businesses need to send all independent contractors a 1099 form to report how much the company paid the person over the course of a year.
  4. Training: Businesses shouldn’t have to train independent contractors, according to the IRS and many state labor boards. Independent contractors should be able to begin immediately, producing work that they’ve been hired for. If a worker requires significant training, he or she may be considered an employee.
  5. Exclusivity: True freelancers are self-employed business owners. They often have their own website and business cards, and advertise their services to other companies. Asking the person to exclusively work for your company puts him or her closer to employee status.

Some lawyers routinely advise businesses to cease using independent contractors, or to reclassify them as employees, to avoid the potential for misclassification liability. An updated version of the report details steps companies can take to minimize or avoid future misclassification issues.

If a compliance analysis reveals potential misclassification issues, workers can be reclassified as either employees or independent contractors. This can be done either by a government reclassification program or voluntarily. This does not require that independent workers who are now employees become part of your benefits program, though; voluntary participation is likely to be more cost-effective and less painful for businesses.

Once everything is restructured, the accompanying documents must ensure that the contractor agreement is followed, according to the report.

There are workforce management and staffing organizations that hire or retain some or all of a company’s independent contractors, and they issue those workers a 1099 (independent worker) or a W-2 (employee) based on their proper classification. Miranda Nash, co-founder and CEO of talent marketplace Qeople, advised employers to work with one of these firms to reduce the administrative burden.

Although using these firms doesn’t free employers from liability, staffing agencies can help because they are familiar with the rules and how to manage contract and freelance workers, Nash said.

In a recent webinar by Work Market, co-founder and president Jeff Wald said “a lot of people still have a lot of guesswork” when it comes to determining the compliance of their contingent workforce, and that “60 percent of all contingent labor is unaccounted for in financial planning and forecasting.” The above outline could help take the guesswork out of how to use contingent workers, and help avoid any potential misclassification liability.

Job Applicant Credit History

Earlier this month, I met with a recruiter about an independent contract gig at a prestigious bank in town. At the end of the interview, the recruiter told me he’d check my criminal background history. He then asked me if it was OK to check my credit.

I later learned background credit checks were standard for the financial industry. CNN reports employers include credit checks in their due-diligence process to prevent fraud and embezzlement.

In a NerdWallet blog post, author Lindsay Konsko notes that credit histories ― not your score ― may be seen as a reflection of your personal trustworthiness and responsibility. That’s why 47 percent of employers, even outside of the financial industry, check applicants’ credit reports, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

If your businesses uses credit checks in the hiring process, there are some things you need to consider before using it to evaluate a candidate. First, there are plenty of circumstances where credit doesn’t affect an individual’s ability to work. I was a victim of identity fraud myself, and it can happen to anyone.

Your identity can even be stolen by family members. Editor and publishing professional Alaina Leary said that, at age 17, a family member took money out of a checking account that she did not have.

The same family member started opening credit accounts in her name without paying them off. Leary was hit again with identity fraud two years later when she was 19, when someone used her information to open another account and charged it $1,000.  Now whenever she applies for a job with a credit check, she says she feels so uncomfortable that she’d rather not explain her financial history to a prospective employer.

Similarly, freelance writer Lauren Friel experienced financial abuse at the hands of her ex-partner.

“Basically, [my ex] wanted to ruin my credit so I’d be dependent on him,” she said. “I don’t qualify for anything that’s not offered by a loan shark.”

Friel’s ex had access to her personal information, which allowed him to open and max out credit cards in her name. He also screened her mail for anything from financial institutions, which he’d throw away immediately. Friel hasn’t applied for a job that checked her credit, but would be uneasy if a potential employer did so.

This credit-check process is completely legal in most of the United States. However, some states have deemed it unlawful. Demos reports the states of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have all enacted statewide bans on employment credit checks, in addition to some major cities such as New York City and Chicago.

If your company wants to “level the playing field” for candidates, one alternative to a credit check is fact-checking a resume. According toCareerBuilder, 7 in 10 employers spend less than 5 minutes reviewing a resume. Additionally, more than 1 in 2 employers have caught a lie on a resume. Some real-life resume falsehoods include claiming to be a former CEO of the prospective company the candidate applied to, being a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and having a degree from a nonexistent college. (Yes, really.)

Even if your area hasn’t outlawed employment-related credit checks yet, you’re better off fact-checking a resume before judging candidates based on their credit history.

Job Applicants to Successes

If you want to attract more job candidates, try making the language in your job listings gender-neutral.

A study from the job search websiteZipRecruiter discovered that removing gender-biased words from job descriptions increased the number of applicants by 42 percent.

According to research from the American Psychological Association, words such as “support,” “affectionate” and “understand” are examples of feminine wording, while words such as “leader,” “aggressive” and “ambitious” are considered masculine.

The ZipRecruiter study found that job listings that include gendered wording attract an average of 12 responses, whereas those without gendered wording attract an average of 17 responses.

“When companies remove gender-biased keywords, the payoff can be huge,” Jeanne Anderson, senior vice president of product marketing and optimization for ZipRecruiter, wrote on the company’s blog.

The research found that masculine wording is much more prominent than feminine wording in job listings. Overall, 70 percent of the job listings examined included male-biased words, the study found.

Previous research on gendered wording in job listings published in theJournal of Personality and Social Psychology found that this level of imbalance has the largest effect on women.

“The results of these studies demonstrate that masculine wording in job advertisements leads to less anticipated belongingness and job interest among women, which, we propose, likely perpetuates gender inequality in male-dominated fields,” the study’s authors wrote.

The ZipRecruiter research showed that some industries are more likely to have gendered job listings than others. Specifically, the business industry leads the pack, with 94 percent of job listings including gendered wording. The science and engineering, technology, finance and insurance industries were the other sectors with large percentages of gendered-worded job ads.

When broken down by location, South Dakota had the most male bias in job ads, and New Jersey had the most heavily female-biased ads.

To help employers, ZipRecruiter offered several examples of how to turn gender-biased phrasing into more neutral wording:

Male-biased phrasing

  • Change “we’re looking for strong…” to “we’re looking for exceptional…”
  • Change “who thrive in a competitive atmosphere…” to “who are motivated by goals…”
  • Change “candidates who are assertive…” to “candidates who are go-getters…”

Female-biased phrasing

  • Change “we are a community of concerned…” to “we are a team focused on…”
  • Change “have a polite and pleasant style…” to “are professional and courteous…”
  • Change “nurture and connect with customers” to “provide great customer service”

“Ultimately, ZipRecruiter’s data confirms that the simple act of reframing your ad offers tremendous upside for employers — and ignoring these simple keyword fixes could be limiting the talent that’s attracted to your business,” Anderson wrote. “If you want to make the most out of recruiting candidates, take the extra time to edit your description and make sure you’re keeping the doors wide open.”

You should know about Illegal Job Interview Questions

When you’re preparing to interview a job candidate, you probably have a list of questions you want to ask that person. But it’s equally important to know what questions you shouldn’t be asking a potential employee, in order to avoid legal trouble.

According to a 2015 study fromCareerBuilder, 20 percent of hiring managers have asked a question in a job interview, only to find out later that it was illegal to ask. For the protection of both the interviewer and interviewee, employers need to understand what they do and don’t have a legal right to question job candidates about, said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder.

“Though their intentions may be harmless, hiring managers could unknowingly be putting themselves at risk for legal action, as a job candidate could argue that certain questions were used to discriminate against him or her,” Haefner said in a statement.

“Essentially, you are unable to ask questions that could reveal information that can lead to bias in hiring,” said Reshae Mora, human resources specialist at talent management company Alexander Mann Solutions. “[Asking about] someone’s personal affiliations — social organizations, community organizations, religious groups — could lead to bias.”

In the study, CareerBuilder surveyed more than 2,100 hiring and HR managers, to identify some of the most common questions employers didn’t know were illegal. Here are some of the common ones CareerBuilder found:

  • What is your religious affiliation?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • What is your political affiliation?
  • What is your race, color or ethnicity?
  • How old are you?
  • Are you disabled?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children or plan to?
  • Are you in debt?
  • Do you socially drink or smoke?

Sometimes, the legality of the question depends on how the interviewer asks it, according to CareerBuilder. For example, when discussing candidates’ retirement plans, it’s OK to ask what their long-term goals are, but it’s not acceptable to ask when they plan to retire.

According to CareerBuilder, other questions hiring managers need to phrase carefully include the following:

  • Where do you live? Asking candidates where they live is illegal because it could be interpreted as a way to discriminate based on their location. The better way to phrase the question is to ask candidates if they’re willing to relocate.
  • What was the nature of your military discharge? Asking why a military veteran was discharged is illegal. However, employers can ask what type of education, training or work experience a candidate received while in the military.
  • Are you a U.S. citizen? Although you can ask if a candidate is legally eligible for employment in the U.S., it’s illegal to ask about citizenship or national origin.


What if you accidentally learn protected information?

Even if you don’t outright ask any illegal interview questions, you still need to be careful about a candidate who voluntarily offers information related to an EEOC protected status. Mora noted that candidates may reveal such information in the first few minutes of an interview, when hiring managers typically make small talk to help the candidate feel comfortable. For example, you may think a common question like “How was your weekend?” would be innocuous, but it could lead to answers that reveal protected information.

“This can easily slip into a conversation of talking about one’s spouse or kids,” Mora told Business News Daily. “While this can seem harmless at a surface level, it could lead to a case of discrimination, as it indirectly uncovers a bias of [whether] the candidate can invest the expected amount of time for this role in order to be successful.”

You might also learn some facts about a candidate during your pre-interview research. For instance, maybe you look them up on social media, and they post about their spouse/children, hometown or organizations they belong to. While it’s technically legal to research candidates’ public social profiles, it’s important not to use any information you learn as a deciding factor in hiring them, and you definitely shouldn’t ask any questions related to any protected information you uncover.

In a blog post, contributing writer Louise Kursmark said that carefully planned questions and a structured interview process should help reduce the risk of discovering this type of information. However, if a candidate does volunteer any facts you shouldn’t have learned, the best thing to do is not make a note of it or pursue any further questions about it.

“You can’t erase the information from your memory, but you can eliminate it as a discussion point and selection factor,” Kursmark wrote.