Sunday, May 4, 2008

What to Know About Hiring New Employees… And What to Avoid

What to Know About Hiring New Employees…And What to Avoid

By Jessica Hawthorne, Guest Poster

Due to the complexities of California employment laws, when the time arises to hire a new employee it’s a good idea to eliminate the guesswork.

Many large companies with skilled human resource personnel typically understand where the pitfalls lie in the hiring process. Smaller business owners may also have a solid grasp of the necessary hiring techniques, but grey areas still remain for both.

The hiring process involves three key areas – recruiting, interviewing, hiring.

Recruiting: Creating a job description is sometimes an overlooked facet of the hiring process. It will not only help supervisors more readily define what they are seeking in a new employee, but can later be used to show that person their areas of responsibility.

A thorough description can also be the basis for creating a job advertisement for newspapers, industry publications, professional journals, and online sites such as Craigslist. Don’t overlook an internal job posting as well.

Be careful to avoid any inappropriate terms or discriminating language when posting a job advertisement. The rule is don’t include references to race, sex, religion, age, medical condition, marital status, sexual orientation, and disability or any other protected class.

Below is an example of an unsuitable ad.
Gal Friday Needed: Community newspaper is seeking a woman to answer phones, greet visitors to the office with a smile, and handle faxes and incoming mail. Must possesses lady-like appearance and speak clear English.
This ad is sexist and ethnocentric and should not be used.

Interviewing: It’s always a good practice to conduct a preliminary interview by phone, providing one gives the applicant some advance notice. The phone interview serves as a screening process and will narrow the field of applicants.

Creating a test for applicants is a suitable action that will help provide an accurate measuring stick for a person’s job skills and aptitude. Beware that a reasonable accommodation must be given to a disabled person when they take the same test.

Preparing a core set of questions that will be used for all applicants is another suggested step to follow. Ideally, many of the questions are derived from the job description. Be sure to ask questions that elicit lengthy responses.

Below is an example of an inappropriate question.
"I see your last name is Gonzalez. Does that mean you speak Spanish and are comfortable interacting with Hispanic people?"
The question is discriminatory because its function is to determine the applicant’s national origin and ancestry.

Hiring: On the first day of work, have the new employee review and fill out all the legally required and company-related forms. Be prepared to explain.

To get a new employee properly acclimated, an orientation program is recommended so the person understands the job responsibilities and any safety procedures that accompany the position. Introduce them to the company handbook and review all important policies.

Neglect during the new employee training can lead to various problems, like this one below.

Inadequate training: An employee for a road repair company shows up for his first day of work and is immediately assigned to a crew that morning. No safety instructions are provided and the worker spills hot tar on his uncovered forearm, causing a severe burn that requires medical care.

If an employee suffers an injury that could have been avoided through proper safety training, the company may be liable.

Jessica Hawthorne is an employment attorney with CalBizCentral, a division of the California Chamber of Commerce. This column was excerpted from a series of five booklets called "What Every Manager Needs to Know About", now available from