Archive for February, 2011

Startup HR: Interviews and Discrimination

February 24th, 2011

Let’s start with the compliance side of things and hiring. It is really all about risk management- how protected do you want to be and how likely are you to be sued.  You’ll never be 100% protected even if you’re doing everything right you’ll still have to foot the bill to prove that’s the case. It is all in how you decide to manage it-just don’t live in fear letting it keep you from doing the right thing or from your core business.

I’ll cover recruiting and interview sample questions later but first a word (post) about interview questions and employment law. If you’ve ever had any training in a company about interviewing discrimination has probably come up. There are various federal, state, and even city regulations that prohibit discriminating when making employment decisions (hiring, firing, promotions etc.).

There are protected “classes” (race, national origin, religion, age, disability, etc.) that vary depending on the law and level (I believe there is a city in CA that has an anti-ugly discrimination law). A lot of typical HR tools or methods, like interview questions, are used so that the company can defend itself against discrimination claims which can be costly.    

However, most startups will tend not to have issues with this because they’re looking for people who can help them execute instead of focusing on other characteristics that have nothing to do with their ability to do their job. That being said the other reason most startups tend not to have issues with this is because the laws don’t apply to them. That’s right you’re above the law or rather below it. Check your local laws but almost all the federal laws only apply to organizations that have 15 full-time employees. 15 is the magic number-If you’ve grown past that number-my condolences-you are now exposed to a lot more liability.

All is not lost though especially if you continue to focus on finding people to do the job. If you are already past 15 employees then make sure you don’t ask questions that would cause someone to think you’re considering one of those non-job related characteristics. The most common mistakes happen during the informal or rapport building part of the interview. Things like, “Wow, that’s an interesting name, where’s it from?” (Basis for national origin discrimination) or asking about family (possible gender or sexual orientation discrimination). You probably don’t want use or at least say anything that would indicate you use Facebook as a background checking tool.

Bottom Line: Just focus on the job and whether they can do it or not and you’ll be fine.

Startup HR

February 23rd, 2011

As part of a recent SBIR funded project to create a search engine for entrepreneurs that can help them locate resources and information, I’ve been looking for HR advice or rules of thumb and have seen not too much.  So I’m going to spend the next few posts sharing what I’ve learned or resources I come across so there isn’t too much of a dearth of information that is hopefully somewhat useful.

So when I think of iconic HR professionals in pop culture Catbert and Toby from The Office come to mind first. Interesting role models, huh? Corporate Human Resources department can play a variety of roles in a large organization but basically boils down into Compliance, Processes, and People.  Though for startups it is mostly about People and the “have to’s” of Compliance. 

Compliance would be anything required by the government and things that are supposed to protect you in the event of a lawsuit. A lot of these things can and ideally should be outsourced, assuming you have the money so you can focus on more important things like adding value to your customers’ lives so they’ll pay you. If you don’t have the money then I’ll try to walkthrough what you need to know about hiring, firing, and paying people as well as what employment laws you might need to watch out for.

Processes in a corporation would be things that you do on a regular basis every year. As a new business you won’t have many of these, especially if you’re searching for the right business model. After you’ve figured out a way to make money in a consistent and scalable way then you’ll start to create processes that are standardized for your protection from wasted time.

People are the most important part. You’ve got to find the right people to help you, convince them to do so, and keep them interested, focused, and productive.

I’ll probably end up breaking it down further as I get into it and try to follow some sort of chronology of an employee or startup lifecycle but no promises.   Let me know if anyone has specific questions as I meander through these topics.

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