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Putting more weight on interview isn’t pretext for bias

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

Employers that use a hiring committee to decide between candidates can put more emphasis on interview performance as a factor in the selection process. That’s true even if assessing how a person interviews is somewhat subjective.

Just make sure the rest of the process is transparent and that you ask all candidates the same questions during the interviews.

Recent case: Carol Hollaway, who was over age 40, was a longtime Army Corps of Engineers employee with an excellent work record. However, she’d been stuck at the same government pay grade since 1984.

When a higher-paying position came open, she was one of 20 who applied. The Corps used a selection panel to winnow the field to six. The panel used five criteria to rank each candidate. No panel members knew the applicants’ ages.

Hollaway made the top six, and the Corps invited her to a panel interview. All candidates were asked the same questions. The panel ranked Hollaway last on interview performance and fourth overall. The panel unanimously criticized her interview, calling her curt, blunt and evasive.

She was not selected and sued, alleging age discrimination. But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found nothing about the interview process that indicated either direct or indirect evidence of age discrimination. It said an employer was within its rights in assigning a high value to interview performance. It said weighing the interview equally with other factors was “a reasonable and typical exercise of the panel’s discretion rather than a pretextual feint to mask invidious discrimination.” (Hollaway v. Woodley, et al., No. 05-40883, 5th Cir., 2006)

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