Hiring gets harder when a dozen or more applicants meet your minimum requirements. How do you pick the best candidate and reduce the chance of unhappy job-seekers filing discrimination lawsuits?
The best approach is an organized one. Use consistent criteria for winnowing down the applicant list to those you consider serious candidates. Then come up with the questions you will ask in job interviews.
Use a checklist to stay focused during interviews—and retain those checklists to document the hiring process. Not even the best HR professional can remember the details of every interview, much less exactly how each applicant answered each question.
Recent case: When the U.S. Postal Service in Chapel Hill needed to hire two supervisors, Jeffrey was interested. He had worked for years as a letter carrier and wanted to go into. Jeffrey, along with 19 others, expressed initial interest in the position.
Using Postal Service guidelines for hiring new managers—spelled out in a 39-page document—management picked several applicants who met the minimum requirements specified in the position description.
Then they selected a scripted interview opening statement and interview questions.
Jeffrey made the interview cut for both openings. Everyone was asked the same questions. A female applicant who scored a perfect 12 on the interview was selected. Jeffrey was one of three male applicants who scored a 10, the second-highest score.
He then moved on to the interview for the remaining job. Five men and five women were interviewed. The top candidate, a woman, scored an 11. Jeffrey and one other man received 10s. Management picked the woman.
Jeffrey’s supervisor then allegedly told Jeffrey that he hadn’t been picked because he might have trouble supervising his former co-workers.
Jeffrey sued after deciding that the woman picked for the second job “clearly didn’t know anything.” His theory was that management had picked women over men in order to create a workplace where women essentially made all the decisions.
The Postal Service introduced its checklists and interview notes, which clearly showed that everyone was asked the same questions. Plus, while women scored highest for both jobs, there were other women who scored lower than Jeffrey and other male candidates.
The court tossed out the case. The court said the Postal Service’s hiring process was clear, fair and nondiscriminatory. (Furlow v. Donahoe, No. 1:11-CV-862, MD NC, 2013)
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