You can’t ask for that! Pop Quiz on Pre-Employment Surveys

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October 4, 2021
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Sarah doar



Category:

Recruitment and hiring


With recent legislative changes and initiatives to eliminate bias in hiring practices, it’s time to brush up on your interview skills.

Here’s a tip: Avoid any issues that might unnecessarily gain a jobseeker’s protected status, including age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, an honorably demobilized veteran or member or the presence of a sensory, mental or physical disability or the use of a trained guide dog or animal of assistance by a disabled person (RCW 49.60.180).

Do you know what questions you can and cannot ask candidates? Let’s find out with this pop quiz! Some hypothetical questions are provided below. Please indicate if you think an employer could ask this question in an interview, then click the Answer link to see how you did.

Interview question 1: Future plans

“We have had to fill a lot of positions lately due to retirements. What’s your five-year plan?

  • Ask anytime
  • Never ask
  • It depends on the context: be careful

Reply

It depends on the context: be careful. While it is generally acceptable to ask if a candidate intends to stay with the employer permanently, asking the question after making the retirement statement might indicate a preference for candidates who don’t. are not approaching retirement age. It is an unfair labor practice to refuse to hire someone because they are 40 years of age or over (see RCW 49.44.090).

However, public employers covered by a Washington State Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) retirement plan are permitted to ask if the applicant has retired from an entity covered by the DRS in order to avoid claims. impact on the potential employee’s benefits.

Interview question 2: Arrests and previous convictions

“This job is a position of trust and involves handling money. Have you been convicted of a crime such as fraud, theft or embezzlement in the past 10 years? “

  • Ask anytime
  • Never ask
  • It depends on the context: be careful

Reply

It depends on the context: be careful. Pre-employment questions regarding arrests or convictions are an unfair labor practice unless the investigation is reasonably related to the duties of the position and is limited to events that have occurred within the past 10 years. In this hypothetical case, there is a direct link between the duties of the post and the nature of the crimes committed. If the job did not involve handling money, previous convictions for fraud, theft or embezzlement would likely not be relevant.

Law enforcement agencies, state agencies, school districts, businesses and other organizations that have direct responsibility for the supervision, care or treatment of children, people with mental illness, people with intellectual disabilities or other vulnerable adults are legally exempt from this rule.

Interview question 3: Relationships

“I notice your last name is Smith. Are you related to Mayor Smith? “

  • Ask anytime
  • Never ask
  • It depends on the context: be careful

Reply

It depends on the context: Be careful. Questions about family members are generally prohibited, but if your jurisdiction has anti-nepotism employment rules, it may be necessary to confirm whether the applicant is related to a current employee or official.

Interview Question 4: Honorific

Our application form has a place for the applicant to choose an honorary title i.e. () Mr. () Ms. () Miss () Ms.

  • Good idea
  • Bad idea
  • it depends on the context

Reply

Bad idea. It is never appropriate. This question essentially asks the marital status of the applicant and, potentially, could also reveal their gender identity.

Interview question 5: Place of birth

“Were you born in the United States?

  • Ask anytime
  • Never ask
  • It depends on the context: be careful

Reply

Never ask. Essentially, it involves inquiring about the applicant’s citizenship or immigrant status, both of which are protected classes. While it is appropriate (and required by federal law) to confirm that the applicant has the right to work in the United States, this legal right is available to anyone with a work visa, not just US citizens, so there is no reason to ask where someone was born.

Interview question 6: Salary information

“We believe that people shouldn’t expect to earn more than 10% more than what they earned in their previous job. What is your current salary? “

  • Ask anytime
  • Never ask
  • It depends on the context: be careful

Reply

Never ask. This is a new limitation in Washington. Employers cannot request the salary or salary history of a job seeker or the applicant’s current or former employer (RCW 49.58.100). In 2019, the legislator formally noted that such wage practices contribute to the persistence of income inequalities for women (see RCW 49.58.005).

How many have you done well? If you were not successful, retake the quiz after viewing the WAC 162-12-140 and MRSC hiring procedures page.

To learn more about strategies to create a diverse workforce and a culture of inclusion in your workplace, join us for Inclusive Hiring Practices for Local Governments on October 28, where we’ll hear from Rachel Bender Turpin of Madrona Law Firm and Juan Padilla, RH. Director of the city of Tukwila.


MRSC is a private, non-profit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible Washington State government agencies can use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, political, or financial questions.

About Sarah Doar

Sarah Doar joined MRSC in September 2018.

Most recently, she served as Assistant Civil Attorney for Island County. In Island County, Sarah has advised on many aspects of government affairs, including compliance with public records laws and opening meetings. She also defended the County in Growth Management Act and land use litigation. Prior to moving to Washington, Sarah practiced land use, environmental, and appeals law in Florida for over eight years.

Sarah holds a BA in Biology from Case Western Reserve University and a JD with a Certificate in Environmental and Land Use Law from Florida State University College of Law.

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