The home building industry has gotten so good at firing employees over the past six years that managers may have forgotten how to hire well and not get sued in the process. And there’s probably also a need for a refresher course on how to keep your good employees happy when many now have choices.

A home building executive, an attorney, and a couple of personnel head hunters joined forces at the International Builders’ show to talk about the challenges of finding and keeping talented workers for the 2013 recovery. Here are some takeaways from that session.

  • Expect competition for the best employees, Stephanie Pearson, of Terra Search Partners, told the group. To get the best workers, you need to become the “employer of choice,” she says. That means not keeping job interview candidates waiting in halls. Instead, bring the CEO in to meet job candidates to thank them for coming. It makes them feel special and wanted, something everybody desires. “They are a guest in your company,” she says. In the end, if they have a choice, they will choose the company where they think they will be valued.
  • Realize that whomever you hire is a face for your company. “Make sure they understand what your company is about,” advised Gino Cesario, vice president of corporate and strategy services for Pardee Homes.
  • Make sure you have detailed, up-to-date job descriptions. That’s important because if you don’t have a good job description there is nothing to hold the employee accountable to, says Cesario.
  • Recruiting and hiring is just the beginning of your involvement with an employee, he says. After that, you need to develop the employee, measure his/her performance, keep them engaged in their job, and keep them. “People leave [due to] a lack of engagement or development,” Cesario says.
Travis M. Gemoets, an employment and labor attorney at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP in Los Angeles offered some detailed dos and don’ts questions for interviewing job candidates.

AGE 
Do
Are you 18 years or older

Don't 
How old are you?
When did you graduate from high school?
How do you feel about working for a person younger than you? 
You must be getting close to retirement age.

GENDER
Do
Do you have responsibilities other than work that will prevent you from performing specific job requirements such as travelling?
What hours and days can you work?
Did you ever work under a different name?

Don't
Do you have plans for having children?
Child care is so hard to get. Do you have any baby-sitting problems? 
What is your maiden name?
How would you feel working for a man/woman?
Our customers sometimes prefer to be served by men. I hope you don’t have a problem with that.
Do you think your woman’s intuition would come in handy on this job?
Tell me, how did a man come to be interested in this kind of work?

DISABILITY
Do
Are you able to perform the duties of the job with or without accommodation?
If the applicant indicates that she/he can perform the tasks with an accommodation, you may ask:
Now that you have heard the hours, leave policies, and other requirements of this position, do you feel you will be able to meet these requirements?
How many days were you absent from work last year?
An employer may make medical inquiries or require a medical examination of all candidates at the stage where a conditional offer is made.

Don't
Do you have any disabilities?
Are you in good health?
Do you have any physical defects that prevent you from performing certain kinds of work?
That’s a noticeable limp. Those are very thick glasses. How severe is your disability?
How many days were you absent last year because of illness?
What is the prognosis for your condition?
Will you require a special leave because of your disability or its treatment?
Please list any conditions or diseases you were treated for in the last three years.
Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or counselor?
You mentioned your daughter has multiple sclerosis. Will that have an effect on your attendance?
Do you have any family members or relatives who are disabled?

RACE
Do
No questions allowed

Don't
There aren’t many minorities in our department. Will that be a problem for you?
You look like you have an interesting family history. How would you define your race?

SEXUAL ORIENTATION
Do
Request the name of a person to contact in case of an emergency only after the individual is employed.

Don't 
What is the name of a loved one to be notified in case of an emergency?
Are you married?
What is your spouse’s name?
You people are so creative; you’d be just perfect for the job.
This is a real family-oriented company. Is that okay with you?

NATIONAL ORIGIN
Do
Are you legally eligible to work in the United States?
After making a conditional offer, an employer may inform the applicant that they will have to produce documents for work eligibility.
Inquiry into languages applicants speak fluently, if it is a requirement for the job.

Don't
Where were you born?
Of what country are you a citizen?
Yablonski, what kind of name is that?
I see you speak Spanish. Did you learn that in your native country or in school?

RELIGION
Do
Will you be available to work the required schedule?

Don't
What church do you attend?
Will you need to take time off from work to observe [insert religious holiday here]?
I notice you are wearing a headscarf. Although we can’t use you as a sales representative, since our customers won’t like that, there is still work available in the stock room.

EDUCATION
Do
Do you have a high school diploma or equivalent?
Do you have a university degree?

Don't
When did you graduate from high school or college?

FINANCES
Do
No questions valid.

Don't
Do you own your own home?
How long have you lived at your present address?
Have your wages ever been garnished?

MILITARY
Do
What type of education, training, and experience did you receive in the military?

Don't
What type of discharge did you receive?

UNIONS
Do
Inquiry into membership in organizations the applicant considers relevant to the job.

Don't
Are you a union member?
List all clubs, societies, and lodges you belong to.

WORKERS’ COMP
Do
No inquiries are acceptable.

Don't
Have you ever filed for worker’s compensation?
Have you had any prior work injuries?

ARRESTS
Do
No inquiries are acceptable.

Don't
Have you ever been arrested?
Have you ever been stopped for a DUI? 

Teresa Burney is a senior editor at Builder.