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Episode #343 – Animal Health and Veterinary Job Interview Questions NOT to Ask

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #343 - Animal Health and Veterinary Job Interview Questions NOT to Ask
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Caleb: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health executive recruiter and Veterinary recruiter Stacy Pursell of The VET Recruiter provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s focus is to solve talent-centric problems for the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. In fact, The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health companies and Veterinary practices hire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

Today, we will be discussing Animal Health and Veterinary job interview questions not to ask. Welcome, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Caleb. As always, I’m glad to be here with you.

Caleb: As I mentioned, today we’re going to discuss a crucial topic for both job seekers and employers: questions that employers cannot ask during a job interview. We’ll cover what those questions are, which ones are most commonly asked, and the consequences of asking illegal interview questions. This is a vital topic for ensuring fair and legal hiring practices.

The first part of our podcast episode will address understanding illegal Animal Health and Veterinary interview questions. Let’s get started. Stacy, can you begin by explaining what constitutes an illegal interview question and why it’s important for employers to avoid them?

Stacy: Of course, Caleb. An illegal interview question is one that seeks information that employers are not permitted to consider when making hiring decisions. These questions often pertain to protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. The purpose of these protections is to prevent discrimination and ensure that hiring decisions are based upon qualifications and merit rather than personal characteristics that are unrelated to job performance.

It’s important for employers to avoid these questions not only to comply with the law, but also to promote a fair hiring process. Asking such questions can lead to discrimination claims, damage the company’s reputation, and result in legal consequences.

Caleb: That makes a lot of sense. Can you give us some examples of illegal interview questions?

Stacy: Certainly. Here are a few examples of questions that employers should never ask.

Age-Related Questions: “How old are you?” or “What year did you graduate?”

Marital and Family Status: “Are you married?” or “Do you have children?”

National Origin or Citizenship: “Where are you from?” or “Is English your first language?”

Religion: “What religion do you practice?” or “Do you observe any religious holidays?”

Disability: “Do you have any disabilities?” or “Have you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim?”

Gender and Sexual Orientation: “Are you planning to have children?” or “What is your sexual orientation?”

Arrest Record: “Have you ever been arrested?”

These questions are considered illegal because they can lead to discrimination based upon personal characteristics that are not relevant to the candidate’s ability to perform the job.

Caleb: Let’s dive deeper into some of the most commonly asked illegal interview questions. Why do you think these questions are so prevalent?

Stacy: Many illegal questions are asked out of ignorance or a lack of training. Employers might not realize that certain questions are inappropriate or illegal because they’re trying to get to know the candidate better or assess their fit for the company culture. However, it’s crucial for employers to understand the legal boundaries and ensure that their Animal Health or Veterinary interview questions focus solely on the candidate’s qualifications, skills, and experience.

One common illegal question relates to age. Employers might ask, “When did you graduate?” as a way to estimate a candidate’s age. This question is problematic because it can lead to age discrimination. Instead, employers should focus on the candidate’s relevant experience and skills.

Caleb: Age discrimination is a significant issue. What are some other commonly asked illegal questions?

Stacy: Another common illegal question pertains to marital status and family plans. Questions like “Are you married?” or “Do you have children?” are often asked to gauge a candidate’s commitment or availability. These questions are problematic because they can lead to discrimination based upon family status or gender. Employers should avoid making assumptions about a candidate’s availability or commitment based upon their personal life.

National origin and citizenship questions are also frequently asked. Questions like “Where are you from?” or “Is English your first language?” can lead to discrimination based upon national origin or language proficiency. Employers should instead ask if the candidate is legally authorized to work in the country and if they can perform the job duties required, which might include language proficiency relevant to the role.

Caleb: It’s surprising how common some of these questions are. What other types of questions should employers be cautious about?

Stacy: Employers should also be cautious about questions related to religion and disability. Asking about a candidate’s religion or if they observe any religious holidays can lead to religious discrimination. Similarly, questions about disabilities or medical conditions, such as “Do you have any disabilities?” or “Have you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim?” can lead to discrimination based on disability.

Finally, questions about gender and sexual orientation are also off-limits. Asking a candidate about their plans to have children or their sexual orientation is not only invasive, but also irrelevant to their ability to perform the job. Employers should focus on the candidate’s professional qualifications and job-related skills.

Caleb: We’ve covered what illegal interview questions are and some of the most common ones. But what are the consequences for employers who ask these questions?

Stacy: The consequences of asking illegal Animal Health or Veterinary interview questions can be significant. First, there are legal repercussions. If a candidate feels they have been discriminated against based upon their responses to these questions, they can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a similar local agency. This can lead to an investigation and potential legal action against the employer.

Legal consequences can include fines, penalties, and damages awarded to the candidate. In some cases, companies may also face mandatory training and changes to their hiring practices to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws.

Caleb: Legal issues are certainly a major concern. Are there other repercussions that employers should be aware of?

Stacy: Yes, beyond legal consequences, there are reputational risks. In today’s digital age, news of discriminatory practices can spread quickly through social media and online reviews. A company that gains a reputation for asking illegal Animal Health or Veterinary interview questions or engaging in discriminatory hiring practices can suffer damage to its brand and public image. This can make it difficult to attract top talent, as candidates may be wary of applying to a company with a history of discrimination.

In addition, asking illegal questions can harm employee morale and lead to a toxic work environment. Current employees may become aware of these practices and feel uncomfortable or insecure about their own positions within the organization. This can lead to decreased productivity, higher turnover rates, and a less engaged workforce.

Caleb: Those are some serious consequences. What can employers do to avoid these pitfalls?

Stacy: Employers can take several steps to avoid the pitfalls associated with illegal interview questions. First, they should provide comprehensive training to all employees involved in the hiring process. This training should cover what questions are illegal and why, as well as how to frame questions to focus on job-related qualifications and skills.

It’s also helpful to develop a standardized list of Animal Health or Veterinary interview questions that are directly related to the job requirements. By sticking to a predetermined set of questions, employers can reduce the risk of veering into inappropriate or illegal territory.

Caleb: That sounds like a proactive approach. Are there any other best practices that employers should follow?

Stacy: Another best practice is to have a clear understanding of the job description and the essential functions of the role. This allows interviewers to focus their questions on assessing the candidate’s ability to perform these functions. For example, instead of asking if a candidate has children and might need time off, employers should ask, “Are you able to meet the requirements of our work schedule?”

Employers should also create an inclusive hiring process by involving a diverse group of people in Animal Health or Veterinary interviews and decision-making. This can help to identify and correct potential biases and ensure that the process is fair and equitable.

Caleb: Let’s talk about some legal and better alternatives to common illegal questions. How can employers reframe their questions to stay compliant and still get the information they need?

Stacy: Great question, Caleb. Here are some examples of how employers can reframe their questions:

Instead of asking, “How old are you?” Employers can ask, “Are you at least 18 years old?” This ensures that the candidate meets any legal age requirements for the job without delving into their exact age.

Instead of asking, “Are you married?” Employers can ask, “Are you able to work the schedule required for this position?” This focuses on the candidate’s availability without making assumptions about their personal life.

Instead of asking, “Where are you from?” Employers can ask, “Are you legally authorized to work in this country?” This ensures that the candidate has the legal right to work without discriminating based upon national origin.

Instead of asking, “Do you observe any religious holidays?” Employers can ask, “Are you able to work the required hours and schedule for this position?” This keeps the focus on the job requirements rather than personal religious practices.

Instead of asking, “Do you have any disabilities?” Employers can ask, “Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodation?” This ensures that the focus is on the candidate’s ability to perform the job while complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Instead of asking, “Are you planning to have children?” Employers can ask, “Do you foresee any long-term commitments that would prevent you from fulfilling the duties of this role?” This question keeps the focus on the candidate’s ability to meet the job requirements.

Caleb: Those are excellent alternatives. How can employers ensure they are consistently applying these best practices?

Stacy: Consistency is key, Caleb. Employers should develop and implement a standardized Animal Health or Veterinary interview process that includes a set list of legal and job-related questions. Training interviewers regularly and updating them on any changes in employment law can also help maintain compliance.

In addition, having a diverse hiring team can help bring different perspectives and reduce biases. Conducting regular reviews of the hiring process and seeking feedback from candidates can also help identify areas for improvement.

Caleb: It sounds like creating a structured Animal Health or Veterinary interview process can greatly reduce the risk of asking illegal questions. What should candidates do if they encounter illegal questions during an interview?

Stacy: If candidates encounter illegal questions during an interview, they have a few options. They can choose to answer the question if they feel comfortable, but they should be aware that they are not obligated to do so. Another option is to politely decline to answer the question by saying something like, “I don’t believe that question is relevant to my ability to perform the job, but I’d be happy to discuss my qualifications and experience.”

Candidates can also redirect the conversation back to their skills and qualifications. For example, if asked about their marital status, they might say, “I believe my personal life won’t interfere with my ability to fulfill the responsibilities of this role. Let me tell you more about my experience with [and then they talk about a relevant job function instead].”

If candidates feel that they have been discriminated against, they can report the incident to the company’s HR department or file a complaint with the EEOC or a similar agency.

Caleb: It’s important for candidates to know their rights and how to handle such situations. Do you have any final thoughts or advice for our listeners on this topic?

Stacy: My final advice is for both employers and candidates to prioritize fairness and respect in the hiring process. Employers should focus on creating an environment that values diversity and equal opportunity. By adhering to legal guidelines and best practices, they can build a stronger and more diverse workforce.

For candidates, knowing your rights and how to navigate illegal interview questions can help you maintain confidence and professionalism during the Animal Health or Veterinary interview process. Remember, an interview is a two-way street, and it’s important to ensure that the company you’re considering aligns with your values and treats you with respect.

Caleb: Thank you so much, Stacy, for sharing these valuable insights on illegal interview questions. I’m sure our listeners have gained a lot from your expertise.

Stacy: It was my pleasure, Caleb. I hope these tips help both employers and job seekers navigate the Animal Health and Veterinary interview process more effectively and legally.

Caleb:  Thank you for joining us for The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider. If you are a hiring manager who needs to hire top talent reach out to us at The VET Recruiter. If you are an experienced Animal Health professional or veterinarian, send us your resume so we can keep you in mind for career opportunities.  Okay everyone, we will be back again soon for another episode of The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider.

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