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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Slam Dunk Hiring

By: Thomas Eden

Every employer needs an effective and legally defensible approach to hiring that is more than just a gut feeling.  Your job is typically to hire the right person, and to not get the company sued while doing it. There are 7 steps to Slam Dunk Hiring that include: 

1) Identifying needed job skills—typically in a legally drafted ADA compliant job description;

2) Preparing interview questions based on that job description; 

3) Avoiding legal landmines when developing those questions and being most careful when you go off script into casual mode; 

4) Knowing how to actually conduct the interview from rapport building, open ended to probing questions, and how to allow for silence; 

5) Having an evaluation and selection system that weighs technical skills, performance skills and certifications, and also scores each interviewed candidate; 

6) Training on how to deal with difficult interviewing situations by looking for possible warning signs; and finally, 

7) Conducting your background checks, drug screens, and industrial physiological testing knowing that more than a gut feeling is needed to make a good hiring decision.

Common Sense Counsel. The Concept of behavior-based interviewing is simple: your interview questions should target the candidate’s past job behavior, because past behavior is a reliable predictor of future performance. The way a person handled a specific situation in the past gives valid information about how that person will approach similar situations in the future. If a person worked well with customers in the past, he or she will most likely be effective with customers in the future. While you are thinking about all of your preparation, don’t forget to avoid those questions that can turn into Litigation Landmines.

These are the top 5: 

1) Where are you from? Sounds like a great rapport building question but could be interpreted as a probe about race, ethnicity or national origin, all of which are protected categories under Title VII. 

2) What year did you graduate from high school? This question could run afoul of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and seen as another way to ask how old they are. 

3) Are you planning to have a family? That question could suggest women with families are disfavored; it could implicate laws designed to protect the LGBT community from bias or show you favor singles. 

4) Do you have any disabilities you want to let us know about? Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are barred from asking about a disability even if it is related to job performance, unless done most artfully. 

5) How do you spend your free time? This is obviously a question that is not job-related and it can elicit information about someone’s religion, political affiliations, social clubs, etc.  A better question than any of the above is:  “I would like to know more about you and how it relates to your ability to perform the job.” Then if the candidate brings up an out of bounds topic don’t take the bait.

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and West Point, GA and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at or 334-246-2901. Blog at