Sometimes employers need to get a feel for exactly how a candidate will react under stress. For example, those in charge of hiring police officers legitimately need to know how an applicant would react if pushed. For such jobs, it’s appropriate to assess behavior and make subjective performance assessments.
Beware, however, that subjective hiring processes often invite discrimination lawsuits from rejected applicants.
Make sure all interviewers can explain why they made their assessments at the time they made them. It will help back up your hiring decisions, and it will be less likely an applicant can successfully challenge the decisions as discriminatory.
Recent case: Anthony Joseph, who was almost 50 years old, attended a Dallas Police Department job fair and asked whether he was too old to become a police officer. The job fair team assured him he could be hired if he passed a rigorous set of tests—a physical exam, polygraph examination, civil service test and interview.
Joseph applied and passed the first few hurdles. Then came the interview, during which seasoned police officers threw hypothetical situations at him and asked how he would respond. The test included responding to a hostage situation, an ambush and a hit-and-run auto accident.
Joseph failed. Several interviewers noted that he seemed inflexible and unable to logically process information.
Joseph sued, alleging age discrimination. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his claim. It said the department offered a legitimate reason for not hiring him: He didn’t respond well to the stressful scenarios.
The court said this was not a case where “the defendant relies on nothing more than an unexplained interview score that might be consistent with discriminatory intent.” Instead, it was clear that the interviewers consistently noted that Joseph didn’t approach the hypothetical situations as they believed a police officer should. (Joseph v. City of Dallas, et al., No. 07-11235, 5th Cir., 2008)
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