The hiring process involves a number of legal issues, based primarily on federal equal employment opportunity laws and state codes. Just as employers may not discriminate against current employees, for example, they also are prohibited from such bias during the hiring process. For instance, employers may not ask female job applicants if they plan to have children. The question would be irrelevant to the job and may be used to disqualify the candidate. It's also important to understand the legal differences between an "employee" and an "independent contractor," since these classifications are not always used correctly.
The following is a summary of topics covered in FindLaw's Hiring Process section, with crucial information to help job seekers protect their best interests. See FindLaw's Guide to Hiring [PDF] for a printable brochure.
Applying for a Job
There are a number of legal and practical considerations to make when applying for a job. These include being completely truthful on your application and making sure you have both professional and personal references available, among others. And remember: it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of gender, pregnancy, race, color, religion, disability, age, or national origin. This means non-employees may sue prospective employers for discrimination as long as they have solid proof.
From a practical perspective, however, most applicants who are discriminated against and thus denied an interview won't find out. Similarly, some employers may discriminate against applicants based on information gleaned from their social media accounts. Because of this, you should always be careful what you post online.
The Job Interview
When you are called in for an interview, make sure you learn as much about the company and the position as the employer will want to learn about you. After all, employment is a relationship meant to benefit both parties. Do extensive research about the employer and be ready to explain why you're the best fit for the job. Also, you may want to write down any questions you'd like to ask the interviewer in advance.
Other tips for job interviews include:
Job Offers and Negotiations
If all goes well, you may be called in for additional interviews. At this point, the employer most likely has decided that you have the proper qualifications for the job but wants to make sure you're the right fit. If these follow-up interviews go well, you will be offered a job. But you don't always want to take the first offer. In fact -- as with other negotiations -- the initial offer is often lower in anticipation of a higher counter-offer.
You also want to go beyond just compensation (which is important, of course). If your role, day-to-day responsibilities, or time requirements are not clearly laid out, then this is a good time to get clarification. You may also want to find out about job advancement opportunities at this point.
Choose a topic below for more in-depth information -- both legal and practical -- about the hiring process.