July 15, 2021

With job openings hitting new records in the US, organizations across industries are facing recruiting and hiring challenges. As employers ramp up efforts to compete for top talent, promoting diversity and inclusion and ensuring interview compliance and fair hiring practices can be a competitive advantage.

Every organization is responsible for protecting job applicants from illegal discrimination during the hiring process. However, without taking proactive steps, organizations risk costly claims and lawsuits. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in all stages of the hiring process, starting with posting an advertisement for an open position. It’s illegal to publish a job advertisement that shows a preference for or against any protected characteristic or discourages individuals from applying for a job because of their race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

In addition to complying with federal and state laws, fair hiring practices move the needle on improving diversity, equity and inclusion. And that’s an important factor to candidates. A Glassdoor survey found that candidates are evaluating diversity during the interview process, and more than 3 out of 4 job seekers and employees say that a diverse workforce is an important consideration when evaluating companies and job offers.

These findings underscore the value of incorporating DEI initiatives into talent acquisition and implementing training for hiring managers and others on recognizing and preventing discrimination and biases — conscious and unconscious — as well as microaggressions, those everyday slights, indignities and insults, often stemming from unconscious bias, that may appear to be harmless or even a compliment, but contain demeaning hidden messages that perpetuate stereotypes. 

Words matter
When it comes to fair and legal hiring, words do matter. Among the words and phrases to avoid in job postings are “young, energetic company,” “recent college graduates,” “digital natives” or “handyman” or “salesman.” And phrases like “cultural fit” signals affinity bias — the tendency to relate to and gravitate toward people who share the same race, gender, age or educational background.

Interview questions to avoid
Asking candidates personal questions that aren’t job-related can be problematic and can lead to applicants filing complaints of illegal discrimination during the hiring process. Instead, interviewers should ask everyone the same set of questions. Here are a few interview questions to avoid:

• That’s an unusual name – what does it mean?
Do you have any children?
Where were you born?
Do you have a disability?
What medications are you currently taking?
Have you filed any workers’ compensation claims?
Which church do you attend?
Is English your first language?
What language do you speak at home?
• Are you on any medication?
• Do you have any physical limitations?
• What year did you graduate? 

Onboarding new employees
During the onboarding process, it’s critical to set a positive tone about expectations for conduct and give new employees a clear sense of the organization’s values, priorities and commitment to DEI. And new managers should be trained on their specific responsibilities to comply with workplace laws and guidelines, including promptly responding to complaints, avoiding retaliation and fostering a respectful, inclusive work environment, whether employees are onsite, working remotely or in a hybrid environment.

Traliant Insight
Providing training on interview compliance and fair hiring practices to all employees who are involved in recruiting and hiring is an important step in preventing discrimination and the negative consequences that come with violating anti-discrimination laws. Further, organizations that make fair hiring practices a priority can enjoy a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining a wider talent pool, improving employee engagement and making real progress in diversity and inclusion.

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