One of the cardinal rules of hiring is that you should ask all applicants the same questions. Even good rules can sometimes be broken—when it makes good sense.
For example, if you have an open position and are interviewing both internal and external applicants, it’s perfectly logical to ask internal applicants different questions, since they’re already familiar with your operations.
Recent case: Shawn Alexander, who is black, applied for a job with Caresource as a claims analyst. She was selected for an interview, and when she came in a Caresource manager asked her what sort of structure she preferred.
Caresource posed the question to all external applicants to see if their work style was compatible with the company’s hands-off management. Caresource didn’t ask that question to internal candidates.
Alexander replied that she preferred a well-organized management system with clear communication between management and employees—and Caresource didn’t hire her.
She sued, alleging the company had hired only white applicants. She alleged Caresource had wrongly asked her questions internal candidates didn’t have to answer and then excluded her because of her answers to those questions.
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said Alexander didn’t have a case. It said Caresource was free to ask internal and external applicants different questions and had acted in good faith. (Alexander v. Caresource, No. 08-3880, 6th Cir., 2009)
Final note: The company also kept good records of its interviews.
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