You might think illiteracy is just a problem affecting immigrants or young people, or that it only occurs in urban areas. However, statistics from Literacy Volunteers of America show illiterate adults exist in every race, age and region. (See charts.)

The first place to gauge an employee's literacy is during the application process. According to the book Managing Human Resources in Small and Mid-sized Companies, you should:

1. Have the applicant complete the job application on site.

2. Provide a written job description during the interview. Ask the applicant to read it and ask questions.

3. Conduct job-related tests. For example, when hiring an artificial insemination technician, have the candidate walk through the steps of proper boar semen collection and processing.

4. Check references and stated educational training.

5. Interview the employee face to face. Ask open-ended questions that allow you to evaluate the applicant's word use, clarity of thought, information organization and analytical ability.

Discovering a low literacy level doesn't necessarily disqualify an applicant. Instead, it makes you aware of the problem, so you can tailor job instructions and duties to the person's ability.