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Hiring

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.

Question: “What questions should I ask when interviewing for a job, and even more important, what questions should I not ask?” — Vicki

When it comes to employment lawsuits, HR is a lot like flying an airplane: The most risky parts of the trip are at the takeoff (hiring) and the landing (dismissal). With hiring, you can limit the employment-law risks by following the legally safe steps and training supervisors to do the same.

If your promotion processes are haphazard—devoid of objective criteria and without a clear system for choosing candidates—you could wind up facing a disparate-impact discrimination lawsuit. That’s one powerful reason to institute a clear promotion policy that includes posting job openings, creating application processes and relying primarily on objective selection criteria.

Generally, public employees are entitled to a hearing before they are terminated. But in some government functions, employees who work at senior levels are deemed to be serving at the pleasure of the head of their agency or unit.

When you hire someone, you have presumably concluded that the new employee has met at least the minimum requirements for job success. Of course, sometimes that turns out to be wrong. But think twice if you’re tempted to fire an employee who isn’t working out, and that person is your first-ever employee belonging to a particular protected class.

Here’s one of the simplest ways to avoid failure-to-hire litigation: Adopt a uniform system for posting openings—and then stick with that system. If you do, employees won’t be able to claim later that they didn’t know about an opening and would have applied if only they knew.

We’ve all heard the good news: The recession is crawling to a resolution and the economy will slowly get back to normal. Most of the executives I know don’t believe it. Employee-focused HR folks are hoping we’ll get back to business as usual on the comp and benefits front. But you might want to run that by your chief financial officer.

Employers sometimes mistakenly believe that hiring a temporary employee through an agency means they won’t be liable if the worker files a discrimination or harassment complaint. The fact is that most temps—even if they are paid and generally managed by an agency—are still “employees” of the organization where they actually perform work. And they’re entitled to work in an environment free of harassment and discrimination.

Does your selection 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. That’s why it’s best to document how objective qualifications—such as education and experience—counted for more than the fleeting impression of an interview.

Employers sometimes use independent contractors as a way to lower their benefits and other labor costs. But that kind of economizing can turn out to be quite expensive if a court decides that the independent contractor is really an employee. One of the deciding factors in such cases is how much independence a worker has to control his work. The greater the employer’s control, the greater the likelihood that the “independent contractor” is really an employee.