Wednesday, Jul 06 2011 08:30 PM

ROBIN PAGGI: You're hiring? Carefully screen applicants

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    Robin Paggi

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BY ROBIN PAGGI, Contributing columnist

Experts say that hiring the wrong job candidate can cost up to three times the employee's salary. Screening, checking, and testing job applicants can help employers put that money to good use by hiring the right people the first time. In the first of a three-part series, today's article will focus on the variety of ways employers may legally screen applicants including job applications, interviews, and social media.

Job applications provide legal and practical advantages over resumes because they help to prevent employers from receiving inappropriate information from applicants (such as marital status, religious affiliation, etc.), they ask important questions (such as the reason for leaving a previous employer), and they advise applicants of critical matters (for example, that dishonesty or omissions on the application are grounds for termination if hired). Employers should review their current application to ensure it does not contain inappropriate questions such as maiden name, social security number, date of birth, birthplace, citizenship, physical or mental disabilities, arrests, dates attended high school, reason for military discharge, native language, languages spoken by the applicant, or religious days observed. A careful review of a job application submitted by an applicant allows employers to spot a number of red flags (such as incompleteness, frequent job changes, and reasons for termination) that could help eliminate applicants at this step in the process.

Interviews are a valuable screening tool if done correctly. Interviewers should create a list of open-ended questions that ask for specific examples of past job performance (such as asking applicants for a customer service position to "tell about a difficult customer you had and how you handled the situation"), which indicates how the applicant will perform in the future. All applicants for the same position should be asked the same questions, and interviewers should document their responses and attach the documentation to the application. Employers are advised to retain the applications of those they do not hire for three years in case they need to defend their hiring practices due to complaints of discrimination.

Social media is also being used to screen applicants, and a 2010 Microsoft survey found that 70 percent of the responders had rejected applicants based on information they found online. According to employment attorney Katy Raytis, employers who use social media for screening purposes should adhere to the following guidelines when doing so:

* Use consistency with searches

* Act on information consistently

* Document and record the searches performed (i.e. "screen capture")

* Document how information was used (if at all)

* Document steps taken to exclude information that should not be part of employment decisions

* Train and educate those who will conduct searches (what to search, where to search, etc.)

* Do not have searches done by the hiring manager

* Carefully consider the risks before conducting a search

Carefully screening applicants can be just the first step in making the decision whether to hire or not. Employers are also allowed to conduct background checks on applicants and have them take a variety of tests, which will be the topics of subsequent articles.

Robin Paggi is a Certified Human Resources Professional with KDG Human Resource Solutions, a division of the Klein, DeNatale, Goldner law firm. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.

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