The 10 Questions to NEVER Ask During an Interview

Here are the 10 questions to put on your Do Not Ask List when you’re interviewing a job candidate.

The last thing you want to worry about are the people you interview but don’t hire. For every position, there are stacks of applications and running your business takes up too much time for you to remember the details of every interview you conduct. However, those details could wind up costing you a lot of time and money. It’s worth your time to refresh on the basics of the interview to avoid potential complications down the road.

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    Even if your workplace is casual, your interviews shouldn’t be

    An interview is like a conversation, but it’s extremely important to remember that it is not a conversation; it’s a formal consultation to evaluate a candidate’s qualifications. Questions that could reveal personal details should never be asked during an interview. As such, the most common pitfall to avoid is casual conversation about personal interests, family, or any other topic that doesn’t have a direct bearing on the position in question. You don’t want to end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

    A CareerBuilder poll found that one in five hiring managers have asked questions during an interview that they later found out were illegal. Further, a full third of employers didn’t realize that all the following 10 questions are illegal to ask:

    • What is your religious affiliation?
    • Are you pregnant?
    • What is your political affiliation?
    • What is your race, color or ethnicity?
    • How old are you?
    • Are you disabled?
    • Are you married?
    • Do you have children or plan to?
    • Are you in debt?
    • Do you social drink or smoke?

    While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act doesn’t explicitly list questions that can and cannot be asked in an interview, the consequences of asking these questions in an interview are very real and can be extraordinarily costly.

    For more information on this topic, contact Alex Gertsburg at 440-571-7775 or ag@gertsburglaw.com. Get more legal tips for your business on The Gertsburg Law Firm blog, with new articles every week.

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    Next up: The Grand Plan for Healthcare in 2016
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  • The Grand Plan for Healthcare in 2016

    When it comes to small business health insurance, one thing is certain: change is guaranteed. In 2016, many small business owners will need to reconsider their current health insurance and make a decision.

    When it comes to small business health insurance, one thing is certain: change is guaranteed. In 2016, many small business owners will need to reconsider their current health insurance and make a decision.

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    To determine if you are one of the groups that will need to re-evaluate your plan, let’s start by reviewing the current benefits landscape. As a COSE small business owner, there’s more than a 90 percent chance you’re currently in a grandfathered or transitional/grandmothered health benefits plan. Or maybe you’ve already made the leap to an Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan. Either way, here’s a quick recap of all three plan options:

    Grandfathered Plans

    Grandfathered plans are defined as those plans created on or before March 23, 2010, that are exempt from certain ACA requirements and might, as a result, be more affordable. For instance, grandfathered plans do not have to cover essential health benefits, annual maximum out-of-pocket (MOOP) limits and preventive benefits that require no cost to employees. There are other benefits to being a grandfathered plan. Grandfathered groups are not subject to community rating, which sometimes results in premium increases that can be drastically higher than grandfathered health plan offerings. Most grandfathered plans are no longer available in the marketplace, so if you like your plan, you may want to keep it. There is no requirement to change.

    Transitional/Grandmothered Plans

    The intent of the ACA was to require all non-grandfathered groups to switch to an ACA plan. In 2014, the president decided to allow non-grandfathered groups to keep their plans until 2015, and then again until 2016. These groups are considered transitional/grandmothered.

    In general, policies in effect on October 1, 2013, and renewed before January 1, 2015, are transitional plans. Groups with grandmothered/transitional plans will need to move to an ACA plan, if their policy renews between October 2, 2016, and December 31, 2016, unless the government grants an extension.

    If you are currently enrolled with Medical Mutual, your grandfathered and/or grandmothered/transitional status can be found in your renewal packet on the benefit summary page. If you are a group with both a grandfathered and transitional/grandmothered section (dual option), you are considered a transitional/grandmothered plan. When transitional relief has ended, you will be required to move into an ACA plan.

    ACA Plans

    ACA plans are all plans that are not grandfathered or transitional/grandmothered. These plans require employers to offer 10 essential health benefits to meet all ACA requirements. Unlike the other plan types, groups with ACA plans can change their benefits every year.

    What should I do now?

    Grandfathered plans: Consider your two options. You can stay grandfathered or make the switch to ACA. If your group’s overall health has worsened, there’s a chance ACA rates are lower and you may see an ACA plan as the better option. However, there are still reasons to consider maintaining your grandfathered status. With grandfathered status, you can continue with an underwritten rate when your group’s health risk improves. You can maintain benefits without the additional cost of ACA requirements, such as essential health benefits. 

    If you are wondering whether you should switch to an ACA plan, we urge you to discuss this with your broker, or contact the COSE Benefits Group at (440) 878-5930 or cosebenefits@medmutual.com.

    If you want to keep your plan, ACA requirements will not impact your group as long as you do not make significant plan changes. Guidelines for maintaining grandfathered status are available in the sidebar with this article. 

    Transitional/grandmothered plans: As of now, you will need to switch to an ACA plan in 2016. You may be wondering if it’s better to make the switch to ACA before it is mandatory. Keep in mind that for as long as you’re a transitional group, you’re not subject to ACA mandatory benefits, community rating or rate benefit design limitations. If your plan is working for you, it may be best to stay transitional/grandmothered as long as possible. There is also a chance that the government will extend this transitional relief again. Also, there may be additional future plan options allowing you to delay your switch to ACA in 2016. We will keep you informed of all government changes and any new product options.

    ACA plans: The only requirement for those with ACA plans in 2016 is they recertify their status as a small group. All small groups have to certify their status as a small group to ensure they are placed in the correct market segment. If you have not done so, contact your broker or Medical Mutual Service Representative to get the information needed for certifying your group.

    If you have any questions on what the future may hold for your group, or if you’re not sure whether or not to switch to an ACA plan, we urge you to talk with your broker or Medical Mutual Sales Representative. 

    How to Maintain Grandfathered Status

    When it comes to staying grandfathered, the list of things you can’t change seems endless. The easiest way to approach the topic is to consider the things you can change and still maintain grandfathered status. This includes:

    • The addition of family members or the addition of new employees.
    • Stopping coverage of one or more individuals who were enrolled on March 23, 2010, (as long as the plan or coverage has continuously covered at least one person since March 23, 2010). 
    • Adjusting plan premiums as long as the adjustments do not affect relative contribution levels. For example, if an employer contributes 50 percent of an employee’s premium, an increase in the employee’s premium contribution is permitted. The employer’s contribution will just need to be increased accordingly.
    • Moving from Medical Mutual to a new group policy or plan with another health plan issuer (either the same or a new company) as long as no changes are made to the plan’s benefit structure that violate other rules for maintaining grandfathered status (effective November 15, 2010).
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    Next up: The Importance of Teamwork
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  • The Importance of Teamwork

    We spoke to Tameka L. Taylor, Ph.D, CDE, president of Compass Consulting Services, LLC, who shared her expertise on team culture.

    We spoke to Tameka L. Taylor, Ph.D, CDE, president of Compass Consulting Services, LLC, who shared her expertise on team culture:

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    Is team building just a waste of time for smaller businesses?

    Absolutely not. In some regards team building is even more important for smaller companies. In larger organizations, it’s easier for employees to avoid interaction and work in silos, but so much of the work in a small business depends on each other, where employees often do a lot of the same jobs and work in close proximity. If people are not effectively working together, treating each other with respect and valuing one another, productivity will suffer.

    How can a poor team culture affect my business?

    If your employees are not happy, you can be sure they are not giving you all that they can give, and there is a Domino effect when it comes to dealing with your customers, clients, vendors and the community-at-large. Unhappy employees do not perform at an optimal level. You’ll see employee and customer retention rates drop which will ultimately affect your bottom line.

    How can I ensure a positive team culture?

    The reality is that the onus for the culture of the workplace in on the owner. Although you cannot control adult behavior, you make the decision as to what behaviors you will and will not tolerate in your business. It’s also important to be a role model of what you expect from others and foster a respectful and trusting environment.

    What are the biggest detriments to a team culture?

    A few of the most damaging behaviors include favoritism or a seeming lack of fairness on the part of an owner or supervisor, dishonesty, and a lack of clear, consistent expectations. Any lack of appreciation or respect in the workplace is also going to have a critical effect on your business.

    Want more expert advice? Check out COSE Expert Network, an online forum connecting business owners with creative solutions to the tough questions they face every day.

    This article originally appeared in the May 11, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.


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    Next up: The Right Way to Hire and Retain Staff
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  • The Right Way to Hire and Retain Staff

    Perfect your hiring process.


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    Next up: The Tangible Benefits of Workplace Wellness
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  • The Tangible Benefits of Workplace Wellness

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    Next up: The Tangible Benefits of Workplace Wellness
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  • The Tangible Benefits of Workplace Wellness

    Healthy, engaged employees are more productive than those who aren’t. In this COSE WebEd Series webinar recap, Sunny Lurie of Advanced Performance, Inc., explains how to put wellness programs into action.

    Healthy, engaged employees are more productive than those who aren’t. In this COSE WebEd Series webinar recap, Sunny Lurie of Advanced Performance, Inc., explains how to put wellness programs into action.

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    The data around the benefits of workplace wellbeing are clear. For instance, in a survey earlier this year by Virgin Pulse, 97% of the 620 business leaders surveyed indicated that wellbeing positively influences engagement. Separately, a recent survey done by The Economist, 84% of senior company leaders said unengaged employees is a top business threat.

    Do you see the connection here? During a recent COSE WebEd Series webinar titled “Creating a Healthy, High-Performing Workplace,” Sunny Klein Lurie, the CEO of Advanced Performance, Inc., said promoting workplace wellbeing can boost both morale and your workers’ performance. 

    There are more benefits as well, Lurie said. For example, medical costs fall by $3.27 per dollar spent on wellness program, according to a report by National Institutes of Health. And putting such a philosophy in place can also help in recruiting, as millennials tend to be more focused on purpose than paycheck.

    So, how do you achieve this state of wellbeing in the workplace? She pointed to engagement—that act of fostering a commitment to work, the company, customers and a genuine connection to co-workers—as being one potential route.

    Wellness in Action

    According to a 2015 American Wellbeing Report done by Gallup, Ohio ranks 47th in the United States in wellbeing. Lurie identified several ways to build engagement and promote wellness that might help to improve this ranking, including:

    • Distribute an engagement assessment to your staff, asking them if they feel have the opportunity to do what they want; if their associates are committed to work; if they receive adequate recognition; if they have friends in the workplace, etc.
    • Do a “FitBit Challenge” that encourages your staff to get up and move.
    • Add a treadmill to one corner of your office, with a sign-up sheet.
    • Hold stand-up meetings for shorter meetings of no longer than 15 or 20 minutes.
    • Add a “Growth Opportunity” day to your company’s calendar. This is a day when staff will be given the chance to work on projects that inspire them. This is a good way to play to your employees’ strengths, their particular blend of talent, skills and knowledge.
    • Institute reading groups, which can help with stress relief.

    For comments or questions, you can reach Sunny Lurie at lurie@FastFocusCareers.com or via phone at 216-397-9900. COSE’s WebEd webinars are just one aspect of the educational programming COSE provides. View a list of upcoming webinars and other events that will give you the resources you need to grow your business.

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