When hiring employees, negligent hiring practices can doom the process. Learn from your colleagues’ successes – and avoid their pitfalls.

Smart interview questions, well-written job descriptions, and sharp interviewing result in hiring employees that work out well, AND make you look good in the process.

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Does your organization’s hiring process rely heavily on how applicants handle themselves during job interviews? If so, be aware that courts are often suspicious of such inherently subjective decision-making. If an applicant who belongs to a protected class can demonstrate qualifications that were at least as good or better than those of the chosen candidate from a different class, a court may conclude that interview performance was a smokescreen for discrimination.

Northbrook-based Allstate Insurance has agreed to pay $4.5 million to 90 former agents who alleged the company’s move to turn employee agents into independent contractors disparately impacted older agents and violated the ADEA.

As hard as it is to believe, some managers still think they can use sex or race as the reason to hire one qualified applicant instead of other qualified candidates. Of course, that’s wrong, and it could trigger a discrimination lawsuit if word gets out. That’s why you should remind everyone involved in the hiring process that his or her decision must be blind to personal characteristics.

Employers are free to create reasonable rules for submitting job applications and make potential employees follow those rules. As long as your rules aren’t enforced in a way that favors one group of applicants over others, courts will let you reject an applicant for failing to follow those rules.

Employees who run out of FMLA leave and are fired under a policy requiring mandatory dismissal for excessive absences may be invited to apply for other open positions when they recover enough to work. Be careful how you handle those reapplications, especially if one of the terminated employees was off because she was pregnant and ran out of leave before being able to return.

We’ve all heard the good news about the economy: that the recession is crawling to a resolution and things will slowly get back to normal. Most of the executives I know don’t believe it. Now that we have reduced our workforces, frozen salaries, eliminated bonuses and suspended 401(k) matches, the question remains: When the recovery does occur, is any of that going to change?

Most managers rely too much on a list of standard interview questions for which most applicants have canned responses. Instead, try these queries, each designed to get applicants to really tell you about themselves and their skills. Plus, read the winning entries from our just-concluded HR Professionals Week question: What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve ever experienced in a job interview?

Because employment laws and your business are in a constant state of flux, it’s critical to keep your personnel policies up-to-date. As spring approaches, one item on every HR professional’s spring cleaning list should be a review of the organization’s employee handbook. In light of recent legal changes, be sure your policies include these updates:

Q. I am considering putting a policy in place to prohibit hiring any job applicant found to have an arrest record. Are there any legal risks?

Could an oversized waistline put your future career at risk? Career columnist Anita Bruzzese says, “If you’re carrying too much weight—enough to be considered overweight or obese—then you’re a concern to employers.”

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