There was a time, not too long ago, when the main reason you selected a candidate for a job opening was the good “gut feeling” that you had when you met him/her. Then along came a slew of other methods we could use to help us select the best person for the job: background checks, credit reports, drug tests, the World Wide Web, social media and more. With this additional information, we felt that we had more sign posts to point us in the right direction when hiring.
Now, we are seeing many of these methods come under scrutiny, and many are being outlawed at the state level. The most recent announcement was that Colorado has become the ninth state to prohibit the use of consumer credit reports for employment. In Colorado, the only time you can use a credit report in making a hiring decision is if the employer is a bank or financial institution, or if the employer is required by law to procure consumer credit information. Being in the veterinary profession, that does not include us. Do you know if YOUR state allows the use of consumer credit reports in hiring? It’s time to find out!
Here are a few others concerns to research:
- Background Checks: it has become standard to ask if a candidate has ever been convicted of a felony; however, how you use their answer has fallen under scrutiny. Now there is the perspective that unless the conviction coincides with something related to the job they are being considered for, you cannot deny employment to someone solely based on their history with the law. For example, a drug conviction may help you deny employment to someone who would have access to controlled drugs, but a child pornography conviction perhaps may not since we’re not in the business of childcare. Research your state’s policy on using convictions in hiring!
- Social Media: many states have now made it illegal for an employer to ask for the passwords of a candidate’s or an employee’s social media accounts, for the purpose of learning more about the candidate or keeping tabs on a current employee. What about your state? And the World Wide Web could hold other dangers for employers. Is it legal for you to Google a candidate before making a hiring decision in your state? Should pictures or posts on Facebook eliminate possible candidates? The electronic world is only going to get more complicated, so stay on top of how this affects employment law!
- Drug Testing: for the moment, this one seems to still stand strong. However, with more states legalizing the use of medical marijuana, will these policies need to be altered?
So here’s the deal, we may feel like we are losing sources of valuable information to help us make the best hiring choices. But in essence, we are being asked (i.e., forced?) to consider just the information in front of us, the paperwork and the person. Even references can provide faulty information, because most people will only present a reference who thinks they’re a great person or past employee! Even if you found out about some tainted work history when calling references or asking about the resume or application during the interview, it may be that the candidate was not a good fit for THAT company; but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad fit for YOUR company.
We are left with the task of taking the candidate at Face Value, basically. Yet you don’t have to feel less able to make good hiring decisions. Learn how to apply good and CURRENT job descriptions to stay focused on aspects of the job; care less about what they do with their time off work, and more about their aptitude ON the job. Learn to review and assess information from the resume and application, keeping in mind that an employment application asks for information someone would not readily put on a resume, so they need to present both to you. Learn how to ask the best interview questions to help you find the right fit, keeping in mind that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, so ask them about real life situations they have experienced. Learn how to implement and sustain an effective training program so that you and your team will know within 12 weeks (and many times less than that!) if that new hire is going to be a good fit for the company. Keep in mind it is better to let them go early on, then put time and effort into consistently rehabilitating their actions and attitudes.
After researching the topics above, subscribe to some type of employment law service that will keep you updated on your state law; perhaps your state’s veterinary medical association, state government workforce organization, or a human resources newsletter. Employment law fluctuates not only when a LAW actually changes, but also when a case has established a new precedent that affects the interpretation of an existing law. (This is referred to as “case law”.)
UPDATE: The Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 (H.R. 1406) narrowly passed the House of Representatives, and is headed for the Senate. For more information on this topic, visit SHRM at http://www.shrm.org/Publications/HRNews/Pages/Comp-Time-Bill-Proposed.aspx.