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Are You Pregnant from The Legal Edge

By Jack Garson

(As seen in the SmartCEO Magazine, March, 2012)

One of the first critical steps in building your business is hiring employees. Yet interviewing job candidates is often ineffective and, worse, presents abundant potential for costly mistakes and missed opportunities. Interviewing itself is far from foolproof. I work with numerous businesses on their employment matters, have led executive searches and conducted literally hundreds of interviews for many companies. Interviewing is not enough. Just like some people test well, others give great interviews and then fail miserably at their jobs. You need to do more than interview.

Weeding Do’s and Don’ts

Think of interviewing as one part of the hiring process. A good process increases successful hiring and weeds out candidates who are not suitable for the position. This process might start earlier than you think. For example, if your job posting includes a request for both a resume and a cover letter and someone only sends in a resume, then that person failed the first test.

If providing a cover letter was too hard, imagine what you’re facing once he or she is sitting behind one of your desks. Simply put, the failure to follow reasonable instructions is a disqualifier. Bottom line: don’t even start the interview process with someone who is obviously inappropriate for the job.

Next, weed out bad candidates in the interview itself. As a case in point, one client had gone through many seemingly successful interviews only to end up with employees who didn’t work out. This company required, above all else, extremely detailed-oriented employees the kinds of people who exactly followed instructions. We revamped the hiring process so that each job candidate was given a list of instructions with very basic, but specific, requests.

For example, we asked that interviewees show up at the company office within a narrow band of time on the interview day because the reception area was small and we didn’t want it too crowded. Also, we requested that each candidate bring three copies of his or her resume. Candidates were given several other similar, specific instructions.

Based on whether the candidate followed these instructions, by the time each candidate sat down in front of us for the interview, we knew whether he or she was a good candidate for the job. We gave the good candidates a thorough interview. The ones who didn’t follow instructions got a polite, but short, meeting. With this new process, employee quality and retention soared.

Legal Do’s and Don’ts

The hiring, and especially interview, process also presents many potential pitfalls. You wouldn’t believe the inappropriate questions some employers ask during interviews. When it comes to employers without special training, you might as well lock up half of them and sue the other half. Some interviewers ask whether the job candidate plans to have children. Others inquire what holidays the interviewee celebrates. Still others ask if the potential employee has any disability that will affect his or her job performance.


Jack Garson is the founder of Garson Claxton LLC and leads the firm’s business and real estate practice groups. Jack serves as a legal advisor for numerous local, regional and national companies, focusing on business transactions, commercial real estate, commercial leasing, and construction law. In addition to providing legal counsel, Jack serves as a strategic advisor and negotiator for many clients, providing guidance on issues such as the growth and sale of businesses, liability and risk reduction, the hiring and retention of key personnel, and protecting and enhancing profitability, as well as negotiating the resolution of complex commercial disputes.

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