How To Develop a Legal Interview

We live in a very litigious world. This is especially true in the workplace. An offhand remark on a female colleague's dress or physical attributes can be grounds for sexual harassment. Making a light joke or a harmless comment on the race, sexual preference, religion, or physical deformity of your co-worker or subordinate can be used as a basis for a very costly discrimination lawsuit. 

In the same fashion, a simple job interview can be potential source of litigation. Job applicants can misinterpret questions fielded by the interviewer and sue the company for discrimination. As such, many companies now pour thousands of dollars into training their recruiter, hiring manager, and executives on legal ways of conducting an interview. From a big picture, this is better than losing millions of dollars on attorney's fees and settling discrimination charges from disgruntled job applicants. 

So if you are the hiring manager of your company, what steps will you take to make sure that you will conduct a legal interview? Your first course of action will be to conduct a job analysis audit. In simple terms, a job analysis audit refers to compiling objective data of what is required to be successful in a certain job. This can be done through interviewing people who have previously held the job and people with whom they had direct contact with, both superiors and subordinates alike. If there are other several individuals holding the job at the moment, a survey can be done to find out what soft and hard skills are needed to carry out the duties and responsibilities of the job. 

From the information gathered from these interviews and surveys, you can now make a list of competencies, behaviors, thinking and decision-making styles, and technical skills that will be required to successfully carry out the duties and responsibilities of that job position. This list will serve as your guide when developing questions that will be included in the interview schedule and for formulating additional questions that you may have during the actual interview itself.

As a safety net, hiring managers should brief interviewers on how to use the list and the interview schedule shortly before they conduct an interview. Remind interviewers to confine questions pertaining to the job. If possible, give them a list of questions that they cannot and should not ask the job applicant. It would also help to brief interviewers on proper conduct during the interview. This will ensure the conduct of a legal and effective interview. 

Now that you have your litigation-proof interview, here are some more tips on legal and effective interviewing:

  • Do not ask questions about age, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, national origin, and marital status.
  • Avoid asking questions about the job applicant's family and personal life.
  • Do not make discriminatory statements.
  • Avoid making binding contract statements.
  • Do not inquire about physical impairments or disabilities, hospitalization experience and medical history.
  • Do not ask if the job applicant ever filed for a worker's compensation claim.


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