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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:

  • Practice Out Loud - You can do this with a partner or even in front of the mirror with common interview questions; it will help you sound more professional and confident.
  • Dress Your Best - Sure, most workplaces have gotten very casual; but you want to give a positive first impression. Casual clothing tells the interviewer that you're not too serious about the job.
  • Be Positive - Most people have had a job that didn't work out or a manager they didn't like, but negative remarks will not help you get the job. Employers want positive employees who are open to new challenges.
  • Ask Questions - You don't want to interview the interviewer, but you should ask some questions to show your interest in the position.
  • Send a Thank-You Note - Thanking the interviewer for their time and interest is standard procedure; not doing so may be red flag. Email is fine in most cases.

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.

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