RESOURCES

Oxbow Bend, Snake River

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Applications Questions to Reconsider

Kathi Noaker kathi@coolworks.com

Let’s revisit and rethink some of the application questions you’re asking.

Are you asking for height, weight, date of birth?

Any questions you ask on your job application, or any other pre-employment forms, need to be justified by some business purpose – referred to as bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQ) – as set forth by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.
Here are a few examples of BFOQ’s:

  • If there’s a state law requiring servers to be 21 to serve alcohol, then a well phrased question might sound something like: Are you over 21? You must be at least 21 years of age to sell alcohol in our restaurants.
  • Do you offer employee housing on your property? If you do, you probably only offer that to adults. Another question for you application might be: Are you over 18? You must be at least 18 years of age or older to live in our on-site employee housing.

Backing your question up with the reason that you’re asking takes the ambiguity out of the exchange.


Asking for Numbers?

In regards to Social Security and/or Driver’s License numbers, we suggest you ask for that information after an offer for employment has been accepted.

It makes more sense to your future employee that you require their social security number to run their pre-employment background check or to set them up in your payroll system. When employer and employee are a few steps further down the path of their working relationship, it makes for a much more comfortable and appropriate time to ask for this information. With all the identity theft nowadays, we’re all safer by not giving out these numbers.


Asking for a Photo?

Hiring staff from across the country often means no in-person interviews. We all like to put a face to a name, and one way that some have done that is to ask for a photo to be included along with an application. We have received lots of feedback from concerned job seekers regarding requests for applicants to provide photos. This is a big dissuader for a lot of folks. Asking for pictures gets tricky in the same way that asking certain questions can.

Although technically not illegal, the EEO strongly cautions against it:

“Employers should not ask for a photograph of an applicant. If needed for identification purposes, a photograph may be obtained after an offer of employment is made and accepted.”

If you choose not to make an offer of employment for whatever reasons, asking for that photo could be legitimate grounds for an accusation of discrimination. The good news is that the technology of today makes personal interviews possible with free tools like Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts. We have heard from several employers that adopting the practice of video interviews not only gives them that first sense of an introduction, but also allows them to get an even better sense of the applicant’s personality and the types of positions that they may be best suited for.


Thinking about the questions that you probably shouldn’t ask makes it hard to get excited about the challenge of seeking out exceptional employees.

But it should be exciting, or at least a task that we do our best to face with optimism. This process is all about finding the superstars that will light up your business by delivering amazing guest experiences while giving your organization’s reputation some super shine. The good ones are great, and we’ve got to stay focused and excited about finding them and getting them to join our teams. So we’ll leave you with a home run application question that always provides insight and illumination (whether the respondent says a little or a lot) as to their potential to become your future superstars.

“Why do you want to work at ______, and what do you hope to gain from the experience?”

May the force be with you – your friends here at Cool Works certainly are!

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