Friday, December 10, 2021

Biased, (and Even Illegal) Interview Questions You Are Probably Asking in Every Interview

The job interview. One of the best tools in a hiring manager’s toolbox, it’s the time that is set aside for a conversation with a job candidate. For some, it is the time to put the candidate on the hot seat to see how they answer a list of pre-structured questions—sometimes even with a group of interviewers. For others it is a time to get the candidate to relax and chat. In this setting the questions are unrehearsed with the hopes of getting the candidate to let their hair down. Though the motive in the latter scenario is good, unstructured interviews using biased and illegal questions can put the interviewers and the organization in jeopardy.

Remove Biases

But we all do it. We use an unstructured interview to explore almost everything we think we need to know about a job candidate. And usually, once the candidate answers one of our questions, we take some side roads to dive deeper into that particular topic. We go down certain paths in hopes of learning more about the character of the candidate. We ask questions like, “What are some of your hobbies?,” and “Do you enjoy living in the city?” to get to know the candidate. 

Some hiring managers believe they are capable of “reading between the lines” to determine whether someone is suitable to hire. Unfortunately not even seasoned hiring managers are that good all the time. That is why various tools like structured interview questions are helpful in not only making the right hiring decisions, but also keeping interviewers out of trouble. 

Even with the tools that are available, businesses still make wrong hiring decisions. A study conducted by Scott Highhouse of Bowling Green State University concluded that, “People are not very predictable, but selection decision aids help.” Some of these aids available today include software that provides job-specific questions that are both legal and unbiased. These include Spark Hire, Kira Talent and Breezy that can help in most interview situations including:    

  • Panel interviews-This format allows different stakeholders to get to know candidates
  • Case interviews-Often used to assess how a candidate would manage a particular problem or situation
  • Competency-based interviews-These seek to evaluate the skills and abilities candidates have used in the past as a way to predict how they will perform in the future
  • Behavioral-based interviews-This style assesses the soft skills and behaviors of a candidate
  • Remote interviews-This format became more common during the Covid-19 pandemic. It uses Zoom or other sources to get to know the candidate remotely.
  • Lunch interviews-Basically helps the candidate to relax and allows the interviewer to get to know the candidate when they are most likely to be themselves. 

Asking the Right Questions

Although some of the questions you ask in an interview might seem harmless on the surface, they may be setting you up for trouble down the road. To ensure you are getting the best results from your interview, (and avoid litigation), consider the following five steps to interview success:

  1. Prepare for the interview-A recent Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) article provides a list of to-dos to prepare for your next interview. This includes making a list of qualifications for the job, review the job description and the candidate’s resume, and plan the interview process and the follow-up.
  2. Frame the questions-Use open-ended questions for the best results. These encourage candidates to expand on their answers.
  3. Avoid certain questions-Particularly questions relating either directly or indirectly to age, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, genetics or disabilities. 
  4. Ask only one question at a time-Listen carefully to the answers and make sure the candidate has finished speaking before going to the next question.
  5. Use follow-up questions- Questions such as, “Can you give me an example of…?” “What I hear you saying is…

Questions to Avoid

The list of questions not to ask continually grows. The best rule of thumb is to plan your questions in advance and run them by a interview committee or group of employees to test them out. Though not an exhaustive list, here are some of the commonly used interview questions you should always avoid: 

  • “Where Were You Born?”

While this question seems innocent enough on the surface, it could be used to gather information illegally about national origin. 

  • “Are you a U.S. citizen?” 

Employers may ask whether you are authorized to work in the United States but not specifically about citizenship. Your I-9s or E-Verify will handle this too.

  • “Are You Married?”

Employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of marital status, so this question is not allowed.

  • “What Is Your Native Language?”

The problem is that this question could be used to determine national origin. The employer can ask whether you know a particular language only if it is required for the job.

  • “Do You Observe Yom Kippur, Christmas, or Whatever?”

You can’t discriminate on the basis of religion, so this question is illegal. However, you  can ask whether the candidate can work on holidays and weekends if it’s a job requirement.

  • “Do You Have Children?”

Seems like a friendly question, but it’s covered by a general prohibition about discrimination over parental status.

  • “Do You Plan to Get Pregnant?”

This question is illegal because it discriminates on the basis of gender and on the basis of pregnancy.

  • “Do You Smoke or Use Alcohol?”

This question opens a can of worms because you can’t discriminate on the basis of the use of a legal product when the employee is not on the premises and not on the job.

  • “Are You in the National Guard?”

Since it’s illegal to discriminate against someone because they belong to the National Guard or a reserve unit don’t ask this question.

Question Your Questions

A good job interview is a chance to connect the dots and determine whether a candidate is really qualified for a job. And it’s not just the questions you ask but also how you conduct the interview that increases the odds of a successful hire. Consider your questions carefully, write them out and say them out loud to yourself and then to others prior to the interview. Examine how the questions could be received and consider using a structured interview process to help eliminate biased and illegal questions.

Monday, December 6, 2021

10 Simple Employee Experience Upgrades You Can Implement Today

 Every business wants their employees engaged, but employee engagement becomes elusive if certain barriers are not eradicated and specific practices are not implemented. Eliminating things such as walls impeding communication and removing obstacles that stifle creativity are helpful in opening paths for engagement. In addition, adding best practices such as taking specific steps to enhance the employee experience are just as, and maybe more, crucial. But what exactly is involved with creating a great employee experience and how can it be accomplished? 

Simply put, a good employee experience is basically what employees expect when they come to work: engaging, productive, fulfilling and an overall enjoyable work experience. Many business and HR leaders today are baffled by what creating a good employee experience entails. A recent Deloitte Insights report discovered that almost 80% of executives rated employee experience very important (42%) or important (38%), but only 22% reported that their companies were excellent at creating a differentiated employee experience. This is partly due to confusion about what constitutes a good employee experience.

The employee experience begins at the recruitment stage including screening, any assessments, interviews, and job offering, and continues through the entire employee life cycle. It involves making the work environment conducive to the role of the employee. But developing steps to improve the employee experience is more than upgrading the employee’s physical surroundings, though those are beneficial. It is taking measures to ensure that the employee has a good emotional experience as well.

In today’s ever evolving high-tech world, ideas for creating a good employee experience can be almost limitless. It involves having your finger on the pulse of employee’s desires and customizing the work environment to provide the most productive setting. 

As George Dickson points out in Why Employee Experience Matters to Your Customers, “Your investment in providing an amazing employee experience is a clear and visible indication that you're committed to providing the kind of environment that inspires engagement.” For help with increasing your investment, try these10 simple steps to provide a great employee experience and increase employee engagement:

All Aboard

The development of a program for a great employee experience should be considered from before the employee is hired. One of the most important phases in the lifecycle of an employee is the onboarding phase. A Society of Human Resources article found that on average, companies lose 17% of their new hires during the first three months of employment. 

This is a critical time and should be used wisely to teach the employee about the culture and values of the company. According to a Harvard Business Review piece, Google uses an electronic checklist to remind managers to discuss the roles and responsibilities with new hires. Create a similar list or assign a new hire with a peer buddy to show them the ropes and start off the journey with a good experience.

Think Like A Millennial

According to a Pew Research Center report, Millennials now surpass Generation Xers as the largest generation in the US labor force. This means that workers in the 18-34 age range, or those most digitally savvy, account for the most people working today, (about 76 million). To create a great employee experience, we have to provide the tools and resources that most appeal to this audience. 

A way to create a great employee experience is to offer opportunities to see what career possibilities exist. A Gallup Workplace Panel study found that 51% of employees were looking for a new job. The cause for this is thought to be that many Millennials are searching for ways to improve their careers. To curb the trend of job hopping, one new initiative, The Future Workplace Forecast, found that employers can improve the employee experience by allowing employees to use career mobility platforms digitally to test drive new positions and experience new roles and skills. The study discovered that 15% of those surveyed use mobile apps for delivering career mobility. 

Show A Purpose

Employees don’t want to just show and up and perform a task without knowing why they are there in the first place. They want to know how the dots connect. That is why the simple step of sharing the business purpose is so profound.

The Future Workplace Forecast also found that, “Aligning employees around a common purpose at work surpasses even workplace flexibility and mentoring and coaching as the most important attribute for creating a compelling workplace experience.”  Keep your employees informed and in tune with the direction of the organization.

Invest in Overall Employee Wellness

Many organizations are instituting wellness programs, providing Fitbits to keep track of number of steps walked and offering incentives for engagement in health initiatives. These programs help to keep employees healthy as well as lower healthcare costs for the company.

But the financial health of the employee should also be a concern. An article in Forbes magazine discusses a recent survey conducted by SunTrust Bank that found that 70% of working adults felt a moderate to high level of financial stress in their lives. To counter this trend, SunTrust started an online financial fitness program to help employees save $2,000 in an emergency fund and to also take one paid day off to set up a will, construct a family budget, or going through the online Financial Fitness program offered free to all SunTrust employees.

Solicit Employee Feedback

If we don’t know how to create a great employee experience it is likely due to the fact that we are not assessing the very people who can help us develop a useful and successful program. 

A recent Deloitte Insights study found that 22% of companies survey employees quarterly or more often, 79% survey employees annually or less, and 14% never survey employees at all. Thankfully, there are several apps in the market today that can assist with soliciting and organizing employee feedback. 

Applications such as 15five that allows employees to take 15 minutes to answer a survey from their managers, and managers only need five minutes to review, and Cultureamp that provides tools to run performance reviews and pulse and culture surveys, and managers can review data based on the lifecycle stage of their employees, are just a couple of the many apps available that wise business leaders can use today.

Listen to Employees

Although artificial intelligence, apps, and digital devices are helpful in creating a great employee experience, it is always important to actually listen to your employees and process the feedback. Not only will you receive great ideas for improving the business, but by listening, you enhance the employee experience. 

In a Society for Human Resources article titled Attention to Retention: Keeping Your Best Employees, Sarah J. Meusburger suggests, “Seek input from employees on ways to drive efficiency while maintaining or boosting the quality of the product or service that the company sells… If employees feel that they are being listened to, they are more likely to share ideas and may suggest something that improves a significant aspect of your business.”

Improving the employee experience requires that leaders not only put tools in place for acquiring feedback and ideas from employees, but also showing employees that they are heard and appreciated.

Make Collaboration Easier

Most employees are not fond of working in a silo. They want the interaction with their peers and to be a part of something larger than themselves. Taking steps to make collaboration part of the organization’s culture can improve both company loyalty and the outcome of projects.

Providing access to tools such as company social media sites and cloud-based collaboration tools makes team work easier. Face-to-face teamwork is ideal, but the use of tools such as Flowdock, a group and private chat platform and Slack, a platform offering instant messaging, file transfers and powerful message search, are just two useful collaboration tools available for use.

Provide Opportunities for Growth

Providing opportunities for growth for employees isn’t just about pointing them to the next promotion opening. It is also about providing avenues for them to stretch their mental capabilities. According to Neuroscience News, employees get excited about learning.

Give employees resources that will help them to learn and grow. Partner with a local university that offers classes, provide team training sessions, start a company library, and pay for online classes are just a few ideas you can begin implementing today to improve the employee experience.

Think Customer Experience

To be successful, businesses look at providing the best customer experience possible. Research has shown that in order to provide the best customer experience, employees need to experience what it is like to be a customer. Last year the Tempkin Group reported that companies who deliver outstanding customer experiences have one-and-a-half times more engaged employees than those ranking at the lower end of the scale.

In other words, learning who your employees are. This starts with empathizing with and understanding all employee’s needs, desires and expectations. This is possible through the use of touchpoints throughout the employee’s lifecycle using smartphones, apps, like those offered by Salesforce, and other digital devices. 

Give Specific Rewards

I was brought into a company as a consultant to get rid of what the owner described as a “union mentality.” As I interviewed various top executives I discovered that one of their main concerns was the shilly-shally way in which the owner rewarded the company’s workers. The owner believed that a yearly cruise was enough to satisfy his employees.

Unfortunately, the employees didn’t see it that way. Though they enjoyed the cruise, there was no individual recognition given to employees. There was no announcement made, no pat on the back, no high-five for the many successes each employee played a role in.  

To create a great employee experience, give due recognition and call out the person by name. Make them a star for a day or more. Show respect and appreciation for a job well done.

The Need for a Great Employee Experience 

From recruitment to termination of employment, job candidates today are assessing future employers and making quick judgments about what life will be like for them in the organization, and how employment with a specific organization will impact their daily lives financially, professionally, and emotionally. 

Creating a great employee experience isn’t just about the layout of the work environment, health care benefits, and the employer’s contribution to a 401K, though those are important. But it is more about discovering what is needed to provide the most fulfilling experience emotionally for the employee. It is caring as much about the employee as we do about the customer, even more.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Denise Lee Yohn states, “If a company attends to its employee experience with the same level of discipline and intention that it does to its customer experience, the results can be seen across the board.” In other words, the most vital contribution as a business leader is to design, build, and maintain the right employee experience so that it encourages and produces the very best in your team throughout the organization.

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