Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Would They Pose A Risk of Violence?

There was a message on my home answering machine requesting a return call. A former co-worker gave my name as a reference for a job. The company requesting a reference is a national retail chain. The message had a sense of urgency.

Please return my call regarding X. I need you to answer 3 questions before X can be considered as an applicant for a job.

I did not want to hold up my former co-worker's job application. I called the human resource person and was quickly asked 3 questions. The questions were not what I anticipated. I was expecting basic employment information.

The Questions:
Question 1: In your opinion, would the applicant pose a risk of violence?
Question 2: Similar to question 1 but I cannot recall the wording
Question 3: Do you know of anything that would prohibit the applicant from doing the job?

The human resource person thanked me and ended the call. This is not the first time I was a job reference but it was the first time I was asked about the potential risk of violence.

OSHA defines workplace violence:

Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide.
I answered the questions about my former co-worker. Then I began to over-analyze the phone call. I am responsible for interviewing applicants for seasonal positions at my employer. I am not a human resourse professional but I do know there are questions you cannot ask during the interview process.

Should businesses ask opinion questions about violence during the application process? Should I have answered the question? Is the workplace being cautious? Are they protecting themselves against a negligent hiring lawsuit?


Rick said...

I guess when you interview people, you should only recommend people you think you could beat up.

Denman said...

Unless you are the HR rep for your employer, it is best to defer answering questions about former co-workers to the HR department. All sorts of trouble for the employer can be caused by answering questions of callers purporting to be a potential future employer. HR departments of potential employers should know this too by the way.

I realize you may have been friends with your former co-worker, but unfortunately in today's litigious society, when dealing with calls concerning former co-workers, the best course of action would be to defer to the HR department.

I know, sucks doesn't it?

Michele said...

Denman: Thanks for the tip...I was hoping you would stop by and comment on this post. :)

The message was left on my home answering machine. I checked out the number to make sure it was for an actual business before I returned the call. The reference was for my boss at a former employer. Perhaps I was listed as a character reference??

I am more prepared for the next time I get a call asking for a reference.

Journeyman said...

Tough call. I've never heard of those types of questions being asked of a reference. What is even more odd is that there weren't other questions about overall suitability. I must say, it all seems weird.

Having said that, Denman has a good point. You've got to be careful what you say.

I'm often a desired reference by nature of my employment. I've upset a few people, but I've said no to those who that I don't know really, really well. After all, my reputation is on the line as well.

Did the person get the job?

Michele said...

Journeyman: You right about the reputation of the referrer being on line. I have not been in the position where I felt I must decline a request. That must be hard!

I have not heard if my former co-worker got the job. I will have to call him.

Thanks for adding to the discussion!