OK — you’ve looked at the resume and invited a perspective employee in for the all-important interview. This should not be a problem. It’s a common occurrence, with no possible traps in this, right? After all, they want the job, and you are making the decision.
While you are indeed in charge of the decision, know that an interviewee may not only come back on you but may have even planned to come back on you when he or she doesn’t get the job!
Before we go any further, be aware that there are three kinds of behavior: overt, inadvertent and opportunistic. It’s the last one that matters here. Opportunistic behavior can also be called predatory in that the individual sees an opportunity to take advantage of someone and then does. An interview can be the breeding ground for this behavior. Picture this scenario:
You are interviewing someone and the candidate offers the information that he or she is a single parent with four children, all under the age of five. You did not ask anything that would warrant or require that information because, as a law-abiding employer, you know it’s illegal to ask for marital or dependency information, aka the Department of Labor (DOL). However, at some point in the interview, this information was offered and, worse yet, you put it in your notes.
That’s a big problem. Whether you purposefully or accidentally included it in the interview notes, and even if you didn’t use that information to decide on employment, if the interviewee can accuse you of discriminatory behavior if he or she does not get the job.
Back to our scenario — spurned candidate and legal counsel come calling. You protest, claim, swear etc. that the information had nothing to do with your employment decision. No matter what you say, the opportunistic interviewee and said legal counsel will assert that it was important enough to be notated. Gotcha!
This sort of assertion is worth a $7,000-$10,000 settlement to avoid a nuisance suit. I have known individuals who pull this stunt four or five times a year on inexperienced interviewers. This is opportunistic behavior in its most glaring light. Watch for it.
Be ready for the interview. Make sure you are only asking legal questions and writing down information that is directly relevant and material to the job. As an interviewer, carefully plan your interview with previously prepared questions for the candidates to answer. Consciously discredit any unavoidable “chit chat” or unsolicited information. Only take notes that matter — responses to your DOL-approved questions.