Creating a roadmap for hiring new employees = success!

When you own a small business, seeking, identifying, and hiring new employees can be a daunting task.  What questions need to be asked in an interview? What questions might create a lawsuit liability for the company?  What types of records should be kept for the job candidate search to satisfy government agencies?  These questions stymie some business owners simply because they don’t know the answers, don’t have time to look them up, and can’t afford to hire a subject matter expert.

Draw up a road map for the hiring process for the business that becomes a reference policy for hiring actions to avoid mistakes that might cost money and valuable time.  This provides a checklist for action, bullets for task completion, and ensures a fair hiring process for applicants, as well as the company, which helps avoid legal problems.

The first bullet on the hiring plan is to write a job description – not in excruciating detail, but with broad task descriptions, including: 1) expected days and hours of work, 2) required responsibilities performed through a normal workday, 3) physical demands for sitting, computer work, lifting, and 4) to whom to report (supervisor’s title) and whom might report to them. This job description should be provided to every applicant before any interview, allowing them to read and determine continued interest or if they are physically capable of performing the job tasks.

The second bullet is to establish a ‘letterhead’ application form for all job applicants – regardless of what job, when they apply, or whether they are going to be interviewed.  This application provides the company a documented basis upon which to make decisions to interview, allows a peek at past employers, job skills, experience, and education or training.  The application should be completed before the interview regardless of whether a resume is submitted.  The application should be note legal conditions informing the applicant of their and the company’s legal rights, with a section for the applicant’s signature indicating understanding and accepting the legal conditions.

The third bullet is to develop a list of questions for the interview to be asked of every applicant who has reached candidate status based on qualifications.  This fairly ensures no extraneous non-work related questions will be asked. It keeps the interview on a timely schedule and targets only the pertinent KSA information needed to make a hiring decision.  Asking about family size or children, political or religious affiliations, age-related questions, sexual orientation, or ethnic heritage are illegal. Those answers have nothing to do with an applicants’ ability to perform a job in most cases. (If answers are required for the position, the company must be prepared to legally defend the reasoning behind the required information and explain those reasons to the interviewing candidate.)  Hiring managers may ask a candidate if there is anything which would physically keep them from performing the job, and if yes, what accommodations would be needed.  This enables applicants to explain any visible or invisible disabilities, but should not be used as an excuse not to hire if they can perform the job.  If they are the most qualified candidate, handicaps or disabilities should be ignored unless an accommodation is unreasonably cost prohibitive.

It is vital the company keeps a record of all applicants who submit interest via a resume or completed applications coupled with the job description the applicants have considered.  Each of the applications should be kept in a file folder for each job description advertised (if not in an electronic automated tracking system) for review and reporting if the DOL or other government agencies audits the company and its hiring practices. This protects the company by documenting fair hiring practices and protects the company from potential liability issues if applicants make unfair hiring claims against the company.  Any interview notes or questions asked of applicants in an interview should be stapled to the candidate’s application for documentation in the job posting file.

The last to-do on the list is establishing an offer letter. Many businesses have a template ready to complete with the job candidate’s information to make an offer of employment on letterhead stationery.  The offer should include the candidate’s contact information, address, job title, salary offer, hours/days of work, supervisor’s name and number, and other helpful company data, as well as a deadline for the candidate’s response.  If the candidate does not respond within ‘X’ days, the company can legally move forward to the next qualified candidate.  The offer of employment letter should also note the company will perform calls to referrals provided, as well as a background check (if company policy).  It should state any negative commentary from the background check provides the business the legal right to withdraw the offer of employment letter without negative consequences to either party.  When candidates sign the letter and return it, they are providing the legal authority for the company to perform background and reference checks.

Keeping a hiring roadmap on hand keep the process in alignment with company needs and simplifies tasks to be completed.  Documenting each step along the way assists in avoiding potential legal entanglements.  A hiring checklist will enable any hiring manager to easily process applicants, move the qualified job seekers to candidate status, and hire new employees within legal guidelines for a smooth transition.

Dawn Boyer is the owner of D. Boyer Consulting (, a human resources consulting firm for small business and 8(a) government contracting companies.  She can be reached at