Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Questions to Ask when Screening Employees

Hiring begins well before we actually have an employee report to work: It starts in the pre-employment phase where we must take the opportunity to ask crucial questions to our potential candidates. This enables managers to determine whether the applicants have a good job-fit and are ethical and honest with their answers.

These pre-employment screening questions can be separated into different categories: Previous employment history, drugs, mental health, alcohol and criminal background. What are examples of the types of questions to be asked?

In all cases, regardless of which questions you ask, or how you phrase the questions; you will need to get independent source of information on these issues. It is unwise to accept the candidates' responses at face value as they may withhold, distort, or embellish their past.

Previous Employment History -- Supplement with Employment Verification
  1. What is your previous employer's name and address?
  2. What was your salary?
  3. What was your job title and what were your responsibilities?
  4. Why did you leave your previous job?
  5. Why is there a break in your employment history?
  6. Have you ever been fired or disciplined in previous jobs?


Drugs -- Supplement with a Drug Test / Behavior Survey
In this category, caution must be taken as to what questions you should and should not ask. For example, you wouldn't ask if the candidate is currently taking prescription drugs or if they've ever used illegal drugs beyond a relevant time period. Nor would you ask if the potential employee has ever been addicted or treated for drug abuse. But here are some examples of questions you can ask:
  1. If a drug test were positive: Are there any medications you're currently taking which would cause such a positive result.
  2. Are you currently using illegal drugs, or have you done so in the last two years?
  3. Have you ever been arrested or convicted for illegal drug abuse?


Mental Health -- Supplement with Personality Test
With mental health, there are also certain questions you shouldn't ask such as, if they've ever been treated for mental health troubles or sought out treatment when overwhelmed with stress or even if they are currently looking for medical services. However here are examples of questions you can ask relating to stress:
  1. Has stress affected your efficiency at work?
  2. Has there ever been a time when you couldn't manage work-related stress?


Alcohol -- Supplement with Drug Test / Behavior Survey
If the job involves driving equipment or vehicles or operating machinery, you'll want to know about drunk driving convictions as it establishes a pattern of behavior. You should also ask about being at work while under the influence (drinking just before or during work hours) as this can have a significant impact on efficiency, productivity, judgement, reasoning, and safety.

Criminal Background -- Supplement with Criminal History Report and Behavior Survey
The main question here is whether they've ever been convicted of a crime which would be relevant or impactful to the position for which they are applying. For example, if hiring for a position where the candidate would be in contact with cash or physical goods (warehouse worker, delivery driver, stock clerk, retail clerk, etc.) knowing that they have a previous conviction for theft (particularly a recent conviction) would be highly relevant, but a citation for jaywalking would not. If the applicant had a history of sex crimes against children, that would be relevant for positions involving contact or association with children.

All of these questions can provide insight as to what motivates the potential employee. Do they go beyond what's expected? Have they learned from past mistakes? These are crucial clues for an employer. Insights such as these can prevent many problems in the future for employers. Think through the questions you want to ask during the pre-screening phase. It takes a little more time initially but could pay off in time and money in the long run.

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