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Take steps to reduce liability when conducting employment interviews

November 22, 2010
Practically everyone has been through the interview process, either as the applicant or as the person conducting the interview. For the interviewer, it is an opportunity to observe the applicant's appearance and behavior, and to collect additional information on background, training and experience.
For the applicant, it might be the first exposure to the dealership, which means the employer also has an opportunity to make a good first impression. 
The following techniques can make the most of the interview process for both parties.
• Designate appropriate department managers to conduct job interviews. Ideally, the interviewers should be trained in equal employment opportunity law. Interviewers should limit their questions to information about the applicant's ability to perform the work, such as education, work history, skills and abilities.
• Try to standardize all interviews. That helps an interviewer to stay on track and remain objective. Have each interviewer prepare a list of at least 10 job-related questions and have the interviewer ask all applicants the same questions. Certain questions should be avoided. 
Do not ask questions that directly or indirectly bear on sex, marital status, parenthood, age, race, national origin, religion or handicap. If the applicant volunteers such information, the interviewer should state that the information is not relevant, and refuse to note it.
• One word of caution about note-taking: Make notes on all job-related information, but do not make notes on any factor that may be considered discriminatory. Avoid describing the applicant's physical attributes or other comments related to the applicant's sex or age-"bald," "youthful-looking" and the like. Such notes can be used against an employer to show there was a discriminatory basis for any hiring decision.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from asking questions related to disabilities prior to making a job offer. However, it is permissible to ask whether an applicant can perform all of the essential functions of a position, with or without reasonable accommodations.
• Tell would-be interviewers to avoid making statements that oversell job security. Examples include "You've got a job with this dealership as long as you do a good job," or "This is a permanent position."
For the same reason, when discussing compensation, avoid the term "annual salary." Instead, state the pay in terms of weekly, biweekly or monthly figures, and then state that, on an annual basis, the figures would equal $XX,XXX. (Some courts have held that discussing pay in terms of annual salary equates to a contract of employment for at least a year.)
Once a successful applicant comes to terms on employment, notify all other applicants who were not offered the position. The manner in which all applicants are treated reflects on a dealership's image in the community.
The preceding information was excerpted from an NADA publication, "People Policies: A Dealer Guide to Employment Law." Dealers are urged to contact their own employment law advisors for specific advice about federal and state law requirements on personnel matters.