Q & A on employment law: how to avoid the common mistakes during the hiring process.

Author:Gallinger, Geoffrey S.
Position:Workforce CENTRAL

Q: What is the most important thing employers should keep in mind when they jump back into hiring mode?

A: Start with good updated forms: applications, releases, background checks.

Q: What should be on the application form? Are all applications the same?

A: Definitely not. Many forms are drafted generically and distributed throughout the United States and don't take into account differences in Michigan Employment Protection laws. Also, many application forms are old and outdated and still ask blatantly illegal questions under Michigan law. You may also need to customize your form based upon factors such as: working with children; licensed positions; security or bonded positions; positions which may require special background checks or credit checks. Your application should also be consistent with your personnel manual or policies: post-offer/pre-employment drug screening; "at-will" employment policies; arbitration or dispute resolution policies; resume fraud; EEO policy or affirmative action policy; completeness of the application; how long the application remains "active."

Q: What if someone gives a resume instead of filling out an application?

A: That is a very common mistake. Your application may be the single most important employment document. It has many of your releases, requires disclosure of complete work history, contains important company policies and notices and gives you consistency in the interview process.

Q: What is different about Michigan law?

A: Michigan has some protected categories that many other states do not, such as protection based upon height, weight and arrest record. Additionally, Michigan has some notification periods regarding discrimination claims which must be referenced to be enforceable.

Q: Other than forms, what do employers need to keep in mind about the interview process itself?

A: Conduct the interview in a private setting. Work off your completed forms, such as the completed and signed application and written job description. Do not make notes on the application itself. Make your notes on a work-copy or a separate piece of paper which does not become part of the permanent personnel file. Many application forms have a spot at the bottom or back for "interviewer's notes." This is a dangerous practice you are better off avoiding. If your application form is accurate, it should help you avoid a laundry list of "illegal" questions (see box below). Many topics of ordinary "polite" conversation are illegal...

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