Workplace discrimination and illegal hiring practices, even if unintentional, can cost you more than just the right employee. Learn how you can help avoid a compliance misstep at any stage of job recruitment – whether you’re just getting ready to write a job ad or already have candidates to interview.

Create nondiscriminatory job recruitment listings

Job recruitment ads that aren’t carefully worded can derail even the best talent acquisition strategy. Avoid any language that shows preference for a candidate based on protected information. This can include race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy), national origin, disability, genetic information or age. Even asking for “recent college graduates” may be considered discriminatory.

There are plenty of tools online that can help you craft unbiased job descriptions. Or, see if your company has templates from previous recruitment ads that meet best practice guidelines.

Ask skill-based interview questions

During an interview, your job as a recruiter or manager is to determine who is the best fit for the position based on skills and merit alone. Don’t ask questions that:

  • Reveal protected characteristics (race, disability)
  • Pry into a candidate’s personal life (marital status, substance abuse)
  • Disclose affiliations unrelated to the role (union membership, religion)

Inquiring about any of these topics may not only offend a potential employee, but also can also expose you to employment discrimination lawsuits. Instead, ask questions that let candidates demonstrate their skills. And remember, if a candidate does reveal a disability and makes a reasonable request for accommodations, you can’t refuse to hire him or her on this basis.

Secure candidates’ personal data

When a candidate applies for a job, they expect their personal information to be kept confidential. Save completed applications and resumes in a secure location and never leave them lying around the office for others to see. All documentation should be stored appropriately and accessible only by authorized individuals within your organization.

Check criminal background history legally

Background checks must be conducted by someone other than the hiring manager and only after a conditional offer of employment has been made to a candidate. Failure to follow these rules can incur penalties and fees. Some cities and states also have “Ban the Box” laws that prohibit employers from asking a candidate about their criminal history before a certain point in the hiring process.

It’s a good idea to regularly assess your job recruitment process to ensure it still works for everyone involved and complies with the latest hiring laws.