As an employer, your focus during the recruitment process should always be on finding the most qualified person to fit a specific role within your organization. We’ve found that dealerships hire the right individual about 50 percent of the time. Simultaneously, the average turnover rate for salespeople at today’s dealerships hovers around 70 percent.
When the stakes are this high to make the right hire for your business, it’s critical that every aspect of your hiring process is rock solid. For employers and candidates alike, the in-person interview stage is both a stressful event and one meant to effectively highlight the job seeker’s qualities and qualifications. If you don’t have a documented, reproducible interviewing strategy, it’s likely that you’re falling into the trap of asking the wrong types of questions.
Worse, it’s very possible that you’re asking illegal questions that are not only harmful to the interview process overall, but also puts your dealership at risk for potentially costly litigation.
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Some of the most common errors in interview questioning relate to age, gender, citizenship, national origin or language, marital status, family status, sexual orientation and criminal history.
Here are some examples to give you a clearer understanding how you can easily wander into illegal territory:
- When did you earn your degree? (Age) A seemingly harmless question that often pops up during a discussion of an applicant’s educational background, asking for a graduation date is an easy way to gauge the job seeker’s age. Because of this connection, it’s not legal. It’s more effective to ask about a candidate’s college coursework, relevant projects or research and what types of activities they participated in outside of the classroom.
- Where are you originally from? (National origin) If a job seeker is on the receiving end of this question but not a job offer, they may begin to question whether their national origin was a contributing factor for not getting the job. More to the point, their national origin doesn’t likely have any bearing on their job performance. As a result, it’s better if you leave this question off the list.
- Do you have any kids? (Family status) It’s perfectly natural for family and parenthood to come up during small talk, but, it’s a conversation that doesn’t belong in the interview process at all. Many employers may absentmindedly or subconsciously discuss family commitments during the interview to get a better handle on availability and flexibility expectations. Instead, ask about outside obligations that may inhibit a job seeker’s ability to adhere to a specific schedule. By staying fairly broad, you’re not discriminating against the candidate expressly based on family status.
- Have you ever been arrested? (Criminal history) The big point here, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), is that an arrest doesn’t necessarily mean a person is guilty of criminal conduct. On the other hand, a conviction does signal culpability. However, the EEOC advises not using this as the primary determining factor when making a hiring decision. The best use of this information is to get an idea of the candidate’s character.
- Are you pregnant? (Gender) Employers can’t discriminate against candidates on the basis of pregnancy, something that predominantly impacts —and historically has influenced — the job prospects of women. Not only will you avoid making a major social gaffe by not asking this question, but you’ll also create a more inclusive workplace that encourages a more diverse pool of applicants.
Both state and federal regulatory bodies have established protections against discrimination with respect to these classifications. However, penalties and fines are only one way that illegal questions can harm your dealership.
How These Questions Do Harm to Your Dealership There are three big issues that arise from illegal interview questions — otherwise known as discriminatory employment practices.
First, your dealership will face fines and penalties from state and federal agencies. The EEOC is the primary federal and local governing body for this sort of issue, while the U.S. Department of Labor is also involved in these types of cases.
At the same time, your dealership will have to deal with litigation costs as a result of any legal action taken on the part of candidates who claim you’ve discriminated against them. There are costly legal fees for the attorneys needed to represent your business, but you may be asked to cover the costs of the plaintiff ’s fees, as well.
Finally, you will ultimately create a poor reputation as an employer. With review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, job seekers and existing employees have significant power in helping other candidates form opinions about an employer.
Glassdoor has a review section specifically for job interviews, meaning any improper practices will likely be brought to light. Meanwhile, any cases that get covered in the media will produce negative PR for your brand.
Put the Right Processes in Place Consistency is a strong antidote for illegal interview questions. By putting a hiring process in place, which includes interview question guidelines, you can avoid sticking your foot in your mouth as you recruit new talent. More importantly, you’re also able to avoid negative consequences that can impact your bottom line and future prospects of building a solid talent pipeline.
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