Do surveys on a website count as job interviews?

XixXix Miami/LosAngeles/MoscowRegistered User regular
edited January 2014 in Help / Advice Forum
If a company says they're hiring for some position on their website, and to apply you have to fill out a couple questions in order to get contacted, does that count as a "job interview"?

I ask because if a company is doing stuff like filtering out candidates based on their answers to some questions, isn't this a form of discrimination that could be illegal? The questions aren't related to age, race, orientation stuff like that- they're personality type questions not really related to a specific job or skills. I guess the goal is to find if someone is a good fit for the company culture or a clear thinker. Isn't this super illegal since there are questions like this you can't ask in an interview?

Xix on

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  • knitdanknitdan Registered User regular
    I Am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that the "questions companies can't ask" are generally restricted to medical issues and/or membership in a protected class.

    Trying to find out if you're going to play well with others is a legitimate part of the hiring process.

    “I was quick when I came in here, I’m twice as quick now”
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  • admanbadmanb unionize your workplace Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    Filtering out candidates based on answers to questions is called "the hiring process." If they're specifically questions it's illegal to ask then yes, it's illegal to ask them.

    GaslightYoSoyTheWalrusDhalphir
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    If they're not asking if you're a Mexican jew lizzard or whatever, it's fine.

    Other stuff that may not be illegal but best avoided are things like, "Do you have a car?" when what they should be asking is, "Can you arrive at work on time?". Subtle difference but avoids possible issues.

    "Never believe management about anything anywhere." -Aistan
  • Gilbert0Gilbert0 North of SeattleRegistered User regular
    edited January 2014
    It's a way to filter at the start. I've helped with hiring and for a non-entry level programmer position (3+ years experience). Posting was up for a week, we got over 200 candidates. We do hour long interviews, and a 40 hour work week, that's over a month doing nothing but interviews. I can't imagine a popular position or something entry level. Just too many people to contact.

    I think you'll need to get pretty specific to be discrimination. You absolutely can ask questions based on personality. What's a time you displayed leadership? What happens when you had conflict in the workplace? How did you resolve it?

    To you, what's the offending question? Like @MichaelLC shows above, you can get pretty close but not cross the line.

    Gilbert0 on
  • XixXix Miami/LosAngeles/MoscowRegistered User regular
    What about something like, what books do you read? What music do you listen to?

  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    Xix wrote: »
    What about something like, what books do you read? What music do you listen to?

    Unless the answers are like "The Torah" or "Ave Maria" and even then probably not.

    If it's not religion, race, age, national origin, gender (and maybe sexual orientation) you have nothing. Even if they ask questions that only edge into those areas you only have the very glimmer of a case, probably not enough to pursue unless you're Captain Justice and independently wealthy.

    GaslightDeebaser
  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    It's a job application, not a job interview.

    Open-ended questions such as you provided are an opportunity for you to give a non-canned response that might connect you with the hirer. It is there to provide a point of reference to include you, not to exclude you. In the past 10-12 years or so we've had so many applicants to any position that we ask questions to illicit answers where we hope to find respondents who make us think "that's interesting".

  • admanbadmanb unionize your workplace Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    Djeet wrote: »
    It's a job application, not a job interview.

    Open-ended questions such as you provided are an opportunity for you to give a non-canned response that might connect you with the hirer. It is there to provide a point of reference to include you, not to exclude you. In the past 10-12 years or so we've had so many applicants to any position that we ask questions to illicit answers where we hope to find respondents who make us think "that's interesting".

    Just to clarify you meant "elicit" there. "illicit" would have a very different meaning that still fits the context of this conversation. :P

  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    admanb wrote: »
    Djeet wrote: »
    It's a job application, not a job interview.

    Open-ended questions such as you provided are an opportunity for you to give a non-canned response that might connect you with the hirer. It is there to provide a point of reference to include you, not to exclude you. In the past 10-12 years or so we've had so many applicants to any position that we ask questions to illicit answers where we hope to find respondents who make us think "that's interesting".

    Just to clarify you meant "elicit" there. "illicit" would have a very different meaning that still fits the context of this conversation. :P

    Well, we don't what job they were applying for...

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    "Never believe management about anything anywhere." -Aistan
  • JarsJars Registered User regular
    are you talking about those stupid "do you think it's okay to steal from my employer" questions?

  • LostNinjaLostNinja Registered User regular
    Xix wrote: »
    What about something like, what books do you read? What music do you listen to?

    Is this a "personality" type job? These seem like basic questions just meant to give you a chance to show some personality, something to make your application stand out from the hundred or so other resumes and cover letters that all probably say the exact same thing.

  • XixXix Miami/LosAngeles/MoscowRegistered User regular
    It's not for a personality type job at all, but I was just checking to make sure we weren't breaking any obvious laws in asking personality type questions for it.

  • Gilbert0Gilbert0 North of SeattleRegistered User regular
    edited January 2014
    If the questions were, "What's your favorite passage from the Bible/Koran?" then yes, that's an issue. But just in general about books and music are totally ok.

    Think of it this way. If it was shared office position in HR with four 50+ women, you puting down you like Death Metal, you may not be the best fit. The opposite is true too. If it's a young helpdesk IT position and you say you like Easy listening while Drum and Bass is played at work, your going to have some conflict.

    Gilbert0 on
  • DeebaserDeebaser on my way to work in a suit and a tie Ahhhh...come on fucking guyRegistered User regular
    It's not illegal, but if this is a practice they are thinking of implementing, I would just not bother. People are more than the media they consume and anyone with an ounce of sense is going to lie.

    What is the last book you read:
    "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". It totally wasn't 50 Shades of Gray

  • DeebaserDeebaser on my way to work in a suit and a tie Ahhhh...come on fucking guyRegistered User regular
    One of the best coworkers I have spends a good chunk of his vacation time going to Phish concerts. If I saw that on an application before hand I woulda judged him sooo hard.

  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    If the question is what you can get away with, those questions are not a great idea in my opinion. They aren't a good indicator of anything at all, and could be interpreted as fishing for race/class info. While they quite possibly aren't illegal per se, why go there instead of asking direct questions about work habits unless you are hiding for a store that sells books or CDs?

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • AspectVoidAspectVoid Registered User regular
    These days, personality questions are very important for anything done in a team environment. A team has to be able to function together in order to be as productive as possible, and its a lot easier on HR if everyone has similar personalities and can get along.

    I'm part of an IT department, and we all constantly work closely together. We recently hired two new programmers to join the team. All of us are rather sarcastic and quick to toss jokes at each others expense in good humor. We all know that no insult is intended, and we all both give and take our lumps. Its part of our team bonding experience. We are also all very independent go getters capable of jumping on issues before anyone else knows they exist and who know how to put our heads down when things blow up, stay cool in the crisis, and get things done fast.

    As such, personality assessments were critical in the hiring of the two new people for our team. Someone who is sensitive and works at a slow pace would be crushed in our environment. They could be the best programmers in the world, but if they couldn't get along with the rest of the team, they'd probably end up quickly driven away. And we do use books and movies to judge people. If someone writes down "Monty Python" and "Lord of the Rings" they're far more likely to get a serious interview than someone who writes down "American Idol" and "Atlus Shrugged" because the first set fits in with our team more than the second.

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  • AkilaeAkilae Registered User regular
    I've worked on pre-employment assessments, and without getting into the finer points, my take on what your asking (and it sounds like you're approaching this as an employer, not a prospective employee) is:

    1) If you have to ask, then you need to consult with the company lawyer.
    2) If you don't have to ask, then there are much better ways to get at what you want to know, without any of the inherent legal risks of asking those types of questions, not to mention all on record.

  • kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    edited January 2014
    It's impossible to give you any meaningful feedback without knowing what kind of questions are being asked. That said, people seem to be laboring under the misconception that it's unlawful to ask certain questions. There are laws against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, and sometimes sexual orientation. But it's not discrimination to ask what religion somebody is.

    It's actionable discrimination if you decide not to hire somebody on the basis of their religion. HR departments are generally told not to ask those questions because they can be interpreted as circumstantial evidence of employment discrimination, not because there is a list of "forbidden questions" somewhere, that, if you are asked them in an interview, you can call the discrimination police and have your interviewer hauled off in chains.

    You appear to be filling out an application, but other people in the thread have assumed you are on the hiring side of the equation. If the latter is true somehow, go talk to your company's L&E atty for guidance.

    kaliyama on
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