One of the cardinal rules of hiring is that you should ask all applicants the same questions. But even good rules can sometimes be broken … when it makes good sense.
For example, if you are interviewing both internal and external applicants for an open position, it’s perfectly logical to ask internal applicants some different questions, since they’re already familiar with your operations.
Recent case: Shawn Alexander, who is black, applied for a job with CareSource. During the interview, a hiring manager asked Alexander what type of structure she preferred. (The company posed the question to external applicants to check compatibility with the company’s hands-off management style. CareSource didn’t pose that question to internal candidates.)
Alexander said she preferred a well-organized management system with clear communication. CareSource didn’t hire her.
She sued, alleging the company hired only white applicants. Her evidence? CareSource asked her questions that it didn’t ask internal candidates.
The case was tossed out. Reason: CareSource acted in good faith and was free to ask internal and external applicants different questions. (Alexander v. CareSource, No. 08-3880, 6th Cir., 2009)
Final note: The company also kept good records of its interviews.