Illegal Interview Questions

Most HR professionals know questions regarding age, race, ethnicity, gender, and disability are off-limits during an interview and can’t be used to decide whether or not a job offer is extended to a candidate. However, others involved in the interview process may inadvertently make inquiries that could have legal ramifications. Here are some common questions that are actually prohibited.

Have you ever been arrested?
An employer can’t legally ask about an arrest record, but can ask an applicant if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime.

Are you married?
Although one may harmlessly ask this question, it’s illegal because it reveals spousal status and could also disclose sexual orientation.

How long have you been working?
This question allows employers to guess an applicant’s age, which is illegal. But, an interviewer can ask how long they’ve worked in a certain industry.

What religious holidays do you practice?
This question reveals an individual’s religion and is unlawful however it is legal to ask if they’re available to work on days of religious observances.

What country are you from?
If a candidate has an accent, this may seem like an innocent question, but it’s illegal because it involves the person’s national origin.

Do you socially drink?
Interviewers cannot ask about drinking habits, because it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What type of discharge did you receive from the military?
This is not appropriate to ask, however it is okay to inquire about the type of education and training a candidate has received while in the military.

Employment laws are constantly changing and what was acceptable yesterday could be illegal today. So, everyone needs to keep up to date with changes. “Oh, we didn’t know we were not supposed to ask that” is NOT an appropriate response to claims of wrongful hiring practices!


It’s That Time Again

There are a large number of firms that have very strict rules about company-sponsored social activities. But the sacred “summer picnics” seem to still be on the approved list of many organizations. Thinking back through the years, weren’t those fun! It was a way for everyone to see everybody else on the same awkward level.

The macho guys always made the rest envious of their net techniques. The macho women loved to out-macho the guys. The not-so-macho folks always made a brave effort not to let anyone see how uncomfortable they actually were trying to play shortstop… trying to field a softball that they couldn’t have… even in their teens.

Of course there were those wonderful contests to see who could pitch a horseshoe… be team captain… or, win at croquet. For the un-athletically inclined, one could always pray for it all to end… or at least for rain. Plenty of people thought the best way to make it through the day was to drink lots of beer… proof of being “cool.”

You betcha! Those were the good old days. Just think, we can all start planning to get together again soon for one of those outdoor parties. So, get out the equipment, your sweatpants and tees. Start practicing your physical prowess; it’s that time again – no matter how much you might hate it!

Moving On Up!

Effective January 1, 2013, our San Francisco office relocated to the 35th Floor of One Sansome Street, also known as Citigroup Center. Located at the intersection of Sutter and Sansome near Market Street our new space is within walking distance to many of our clients’ offices and with direct elevator access to BART and Muni, it also offers easy transitions for those commuting by public transportation.

The Specialists Group is growing and we thank our clients for the business you entrust to us.  Please pass this information to the persons responsible for updating corporate addresses.

The Specialists Group, LLC

One Sansome Street, Suite 3500

San Francisco, CA 94104

* Phone and fax numbers will remain the same

Workplace Humor

With the significant increase of “stress-related-issues” organizations are increasingly looking for ways to keep employees happy and productive. Some firms are apt to discourage laughter in the workplace, seeing it as a distraction from getting the job done.

This mind-set is reinforced by the attitude that many were raised with: “Work isn’t supposed to be fun.” However, managers are learning that stress is not only harmfully impacting morale but also productivity. Employees in a humorless environment can negatively affect the profit and loss of a company.

In situations where we have little control over economic circumstances, much depends on how we react to them. Being able to laugh about our situation and ourselves helps us release tension, regain our perspective, and accept that which we cannot change.

In order to cope people can either choose to laugh or be depressed. Most organizations are full of very funny and quick-witted people who just need to be given permission and encouragement to use their sense of humor on the job. As more and more firms choose to “lighten up” and realize the benefits of workplace wellness it not only results in more productivity, but also increases bonding with the rest of the team.

Leadership After Layoffs and Downsizing

The decision to downsize and layoff people is never made lightly. Once made, however, management can increase the probability of positive results by taking some simple measures.

The period of downsizing and layoffs is not the time for organization leaders to retreat to boardrooms or private offices. Following a major change, leaders should be visible and accessible. Management needs to be sensitive to the concerns of layoff survivors. Calming their fears, if possible, can be an integral part of reducing stress and inspiring a staff of positive thinkers.

Management needs to create a work environment that will build self-esteem and improve employee satisfaction, which will result in a higher level of achievement. It is important to share the organization’s goals with employees and how those goals can be reached. This will help them to feel that they are a part of something greater than just their area of responsibility. To succeed it will take renewed dedication on everyone’s part and emphasis should be placed on more productive work habits.

Feedback is one of the most valuable elements in the motivation cycle. It is important to keep a staff informed about the company’s progress and the role that each one is playing in a recovery plan. Offering positive reinforcement is vital for any organization’s resurgence.

Decision makers and the key players set the tone; not only during recession, but anytime inspirational leadership is needed.