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Hiring? The legal risk of falling for great interview skills

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,HR Management,Human Resources

Does your selection process rely heavily on how applicants handle themselves during job interviews? If so, be aware that courts are often suspicious of such inherently subjective decision-making.

That’s why it’s best to document how objective qualifications—such as education and experience—counted for more than the fleeting impression of an interview.

In fact, if an applicant who belongs to a protected class can demonstrate qualifications that were better than those of the chosen candidate, a court may conclude that interview performance was a smokescreen for discrimination.

Recent case: Paper plant employee Dwayne Hubbard, who is black, wanted a shorter commute so he applied for an opening at a plant closer to his home.  He applied for an opening at a plant that apparently had no black employees.

Hubbard has a bachelor’s degree and is working toward a master’s. He also had many years of experience and met or exceeded all the minimum job requirements.

Hubbard was interviewed but not hired. The stated reason: His poor interview performance. One reviewer said Hubbard wasn’t energetic enough. In addition, Hubbard said someone in HR warned him that he “wouldn’t fit in.”

Hubbard sued, alleging race discrimination. He then discovered that the successful white candidate had been ranked by the same interviewers as “slow or laid back” and “laid off every job he has had before.”

The court sent the case to trial, warning that using subjective measures may be a pretext for discrimination. (Hubbard v. International Paper, No. 2:08-CV-181, SD OH, 2009)

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