Recruiting and onboarding are critical components of the employee lifecycle and hold significant potential for missteps. These processes often include non-HR team members who may be unfamiliar with employment laws. It is critical to ensure all employees involved in the hiring and onboarding process are trained and understand the applicable regulations.
Employees who are well-matched to their jobs will bring greater energy and interest to their roles and will apply more innovative skills. “On average, companies that did a better job of attracting, developing, and retaining highly talented managers earned 22% higher return to shareholders” (Michaels et al., 2001; The war for talent, Harvard Business School Press). Your HR department should be leading the charge by providing recruiting support that ensures a good fit for your organization and carefully managing the onboarding of new hires to ensure a smooth transition into their new role.
Employee value proposition
Be prepared to communicate your company’s employee value proposition (EVP). An EVP is vital to an employer’s brand, recruiting efforts, and maintaining an engaged workforce. At its most basic level, an EVP is what an employer provides in return for employees’ performance and discretionary effort. Setting clear and consistent expectations is a powerful tool for attracting and retaining employees.
An EVP is not static and can change over time due to shifting economic and labor markets, cultural changes, or rebranding.
Your job posting and initial communication to candidates should share the basic information a typical applicant wants. It is recommended to include:
- The salary range (this should already be known and budgeted, is required by law in some states, and is rapidly becoming an employment law trend)
- Work schedule
- Include information about whether the position is on-site, remote, or hybrid and whether those expectations are temporary or permanent.
Equal employment opportunity statement
Implement an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement to communicate that your organization is an equal opportunity employer. Include it in applications, job postings, and the employment section of your organization’s website. While an EEO statement isn’t legally required unless contracting or subcontracting with the federal government, it is beneficial for showcasing compliance with EEOC regulations, establishing the organization as a diverse and inclusive workplace, and communicating an employer’s dedication to unbiased recruiting, hiring, and employment practices.
When interviewing an applicant, your goal is to get a clear picture of whether the candidate is qualified for the position, can perform the job functions, and is aligned with your company’s culture. It is easy to fall into compliance pitfalls during the interview process that can put yourself or your company at risk. While questions unrelated to the job functions may seem harmless from a personal perspective, they may be perceived as invasive, offensive, or discriminatory and violate EEOC and other employment laws.
Avoid the following topics during interviews:
Salary history is not directly related to a candidate’s ability to meet the job requirements. The current trend in employment law at the state level is to prevent organizations from asking about previous or current pay. While not yet a federal law, it is best to avoid salary history questions regardless of location. The pay for a position should be determined by the specific job responsibilities, the organization’s compensation structure, and the candidate’s skills and experience.
Alternatively, you may ask about the candidate’s salary expectations and compare their response with the established salary range.
Arrest and criminal records
So-called “ban the box” laws are becoming common at the state level. Avoid questions about criminal history and save any necessary pre-employment screenings until the interview process is complete.
Only consider criminal history if it is directly related to the job. If clearing a criminal background check is a condition of employment, wait until after the interview process is complete and before the official hire. Asking questions about prior arrests or convictions may lead the candidate to believe you are discriminating against them and not providing fair opportunities because of their past.
It can be challenging to avoid questions related to a candidate’s age. In fact, it may be indirectly revealed or hinted at by the candidate. Avoid further probing if a candidate brings up historical events, college affiliation, or other details that could reveal their age. You may be tempted to ask the year they graduated or what grade they were in when an event occurred, but the candidate may perceive this age discrimination.
Ensure that questions related to education, experience, or goals for the future are unrelated to the topic of age. These are all appropriate topics but should focus on the candidate’s suitability for the position.
Other topics to avoid
- Marital status or maiden name
- Health history, medical conditions, or workers’ compensation history
- Political or religious affiliations
- Gender or sexual orientation
- Citizenship, national origin, or ethnicity
- Financial status or history
- Family matters, number and ages of children, or childcare
A good rule of thumb is only to ask questions directly related to the candidate’s ability to perform the job’s functions and keep personal conversations to a minimum. If a candidate brings up personal information that should not be considered for employment, change the subject, and exclude it from written notes. We recommend training employees involved in the interviewing process and making them aware of topics to avoid. With a bit of planning, organizations can minimize risk and ensure they find the best-qualified candidates for available positions.
The job offer is an ideal opportunity to entice the candidate to accept the position. Elaborate on the aspects of the role, total rewards, or company culture likely to resonate with the candidate. Explain why they are the ideal person for the job and how the role and the organization align with what’s important to them. Knowing the employer “gets them” places you at an advantage over employers who aren’t connecting the dots between what the candidate has to offer and how they align with the role, team, and company.
When a job offer is presented, the salary should have already been communicated, so when declaring the pay, focus on what informed the pay rate (e.g., their qualifications, work location, internal pay equity).
In some cases, a background investigation may be warranted for the individual to carry out the job functions. If it is necessary for the role, conduct pre-employment background investigations after the candidate accepts a contingent job offer. Pre-employment background checks can protect against negligent hiring lawsuits for some positions. Become familiar with and adhere to applicable state and federal laws.
When sending your candidate new hire paperwork, include the appropriate state W-4 alongside the federal W-4. You can see which states have their own W-4 on the Department of Labor website. It is crucial to ensure that your organization is set up as a business in that state and registered for a state income tax ID and unemployment tax ID. Additionally, it’s important to note that some local jurisdictions may have additional employment taxation.
Form I-9 must be completed for every employee and must adhere to strict procedures and timelines.
- Require all new hires to provide authorization to work in the United States.
- Ensure all employees complete, sign, and date Section 1 of Form I-9 no later than their first day of employment. Every field must be filled in, except the email address and telephone number, which are optional. Provide translator information if one was used.
- Fill out section 2 of Form I-9. The employer, or a representative for the employer, must verify that the documents provided align with section 1 and indicate the individual is eligible to work. The person verifying the documents must see the physical documents provided on the employee’s first workday.
- DO NOT backdate forms. Instead, enter the current date and your initials by the date field.
Handbook & culture
Provide employees with a copy of your employee handbook, review key content, and have them sign an acknowledgment that they have received and read it. Your organization’s employee handbook is critical for setting the tone of your organization, laying a clear foundation for a healthy work environment, setting behavioral expectations for employees, and protecting your organization from unnecessary risk.
A well-written employee handbook should be easy to understand, compliant with applicable federal, state, and local employment laws, include all necessary policies, and be updated regularly to ensure ongoing compliance with employment laws.