Here’s an important reminder to managers and supervisors who interview candidates and use subjective characteristics to make hiring and promotion decisions: They’d better be able to explain exactly what led them to make the decisions they made.
Interviewers should keep careful notes, including the specific questions they asked, as well as a detailed account of how the candidate answered the question. For example, if qualities were important, the notes should explain how each candidate met (or didn’t meet) that requirement—with specific examples.
Recent case: Barbara Johnson, who is black, applied for a promotion and was selected as one of the candidates to be interviewed. However, a younger black male eventually got the job.
She sued, claiming sex and age discrimination.
The supervisor who conducted the interview said that he chose the black male because he showed greater leadership qualities. He had observed both candidates on the job and gave specific examples of how each either rose to the occasion and led their teams or shied away from that role. Johnson, he said, fell into the second category.
That was good enough for the court, which said employers are free to use subjective judgment as long as they can clearly explain the process they used and the conclusion they drew. (Johnson v. City of Mobile, No. 08-14854, 11th Cir., 2009)
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