Remind bosses: Don’t let ‘Soft’ traits sway hiring, firing

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Hiring,Human Resources

When it comes to hiring and promotions, one of the quickest paths to the courthouse is relying heavily on a person’s subjective qualifications when objective measures point to a better candidate.

Remind hiring managers to always rate job candidates based on concrete job-related data, such as their education, training, experience and past performance.

Some supervisors—especially rookies—may be wowed by a candidate who gives a great interview but is lacking in skills. While you can consider interview quality in your decision, measure it against the candidate’s “hard” skills, too.

Recent case: Benjamin Everson, who is black, worked for the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) for more than 30 years. When he applied for a promotion, he was the most experienced candidate with the highest evaluations.

The hiring manager, who is white, selected a white candidate. The rationale for choosing the less experienced candidate: He interviewed best, presenting himself clearly and thoughtfully.

Everson sued, alleging race discrimination. The NYCTA sought dismissal, but the judge sent the case to trial. Why? He was skeptical that the hiring manager could have passed over such a highly rated employee for any other reason than discrimination. (Everson v. New York City Transit Authority, No. 1:02-CV-1121, ED NY, 2007)

Final tip: Be able to point to concrete, job-based reasons for your hiring choices.

When interviewing candidates, ask behavior-based questions. For instance: “This job requires ‘X.’ Can you do ‘X’?” Then, probe for specific skills by asking all candidates the same things, such as: “The job requires typing 65 w.p.m. Can you type 65 w.p.m.?”  

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