For nearly two years, Joyce Dennis worked in progressively more responsible jobs at a South Carolina hospital. But when she interviewed for a promotion to ER registration supervisor, the hiring manager suggested Dennis wouldn't get it because she was rumored to be having an affair with a doctor. Dennis denied the affair and complained to the hospital's CFO, the manager's supervisor.
The CFO then took over the selection process himself. He reviewed Dennis' application but never interviewed her. Nor did he check her references or evaluations. Instead, he hired the husband of a co-worker he knew, a candidate with limited experience.
Dennis quit and filed suit alleging discriminatory failure to promote and defamation. A jury sided with Dennis and awarded her $161,000 in damages. A federal appeals court agreed, calling the hiring process "peculiarly informal." While Dennis didn't possess all the criteria in the written description of the job, the man who got the job was even less qualified. (Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Medical Center Inc., No. 01-1338, 4th Cir., 2002)
Advice: It's tempting to shorten your hiring process or look the other way when hiring managers play favorites. Don't do it. Give managers clear hiring procedures to follow for each new position. Make a checklist, if necessary. Practice the same procedures for internal and external candidates, match qualifications with job descriptions and be able to defend your decisions.