Dear J.T. & Dale: I understand that job candidates cannot be excluded or discriminated against due to their race, gender or other info they provide in an application. However, I’m confused as to why my potential employer is not accepting my answers to the questions for their online background check. When it comes to things like race and gender, I answer the questions as “Decline,” “Don’t wish to provide,” etc. I do not leave any blanks. But, when I submit the form, I receive an immediate follow-up email asking for the info again.
What is the correct action here? It seems that this defeats the purpose of having “decline” as an option. I’m assuming HR is not legally allowed to demand another answer, and by sending it again they are hoping to get a different answer? Please clarify — it’s pretty unsettling. — K.T.
J.T.: It’s disturbing to me that they are requiring this info. I’ve honestly never heard of a company pushing back and continuously asking for such information. My advice would be to message HR and say, “I declined to provide my demographic info as I’ve always been told it’s not a requirement for getting hired. I see that the online platform is not accepting my ‘decline.’ Can you share with me why this additional information is needed? I’d like to understand how it’s impacting my candidacy as I’ve never experienced this before. Thank you for your help.” I think politely inquiring can clear things up and may even make it possible for you to skip over it. Otherwise, I’m not sure there is much else you can do short of deciding not to work for them due to this practice.
DALE: Good idea and it may even end up being advantageous. I say that because I suspect this is just a screw-up, a case where someone inadvertently told the system not to take “no” for an answer. So, by your pointing out the issue, the HR person will take note of your application and that’s a good thing — you’ll stand out. And, while we’re at it, I want to suggest that a good working theory for a happier life is ATB, Assume The Best. You’ll save yourself a lot of angst, and you’ll make more friends. This thought came to me during the last elections. There was a problem with some voting machines near where I live, and the immediate reaction by many was outrage — “fire everyone,” they cried. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that the problem was that the settings on the printers for the tabulating machines were wrong — they were working fine, it’s just that the print was so light it looked like blank pages. Simple fix. ATB.
Best of career resources
J.T.: We’re always looking for new career tools and today we want to give a shout-out to the folks at Indeed.com. While it’s a job posting/search site, they have put together an impressive assortment of career resources. Go to their homepage and you won’t be impressed — all you see is a pair of boxes to input a type of job and a location — but look down below, at the smaller print. Some of what you’ll find there: “Hiring Lab,” which has analyses on the state of the job market; “Career Advice,” with articles (like the recent “How To Advocate for Yourself When Laid Off During a Recession”); and, “Salaries,” with lots of detail by job type.
DALE: Moreover, there’s another corner of the site that got my attention — the section for employers. (Also found via the small print, but in the upper right corner of their homepage.) There’s a suite of tools for those doing hiring, my favorite of which is one for developing job interview questions. You specify the type of job and then you’re given a list of interview questions, and better still, what to look for in the answers. For instance, put in “Assistant Store Manager” and you’ll get questions like “How do you hold up under long hours and stressful situations?” Yikes. Turns out this also works as a nifty tool for job hunters.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2022 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.