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Warn managers not to hire on ‘gut instinct’ alone

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Issue: Establishing quantifiable criteria for making hiring decisions.

Risk: Applicants have an easier time winning hiring-bias lawsuits if they can point to weaknesses in your stated reasons for hiring.

Action: Be prepared to cite at least three concrete, measurable reasons why the chosen candidate was the best choice.

Sometimes, when you interview job candidates, it just "feels" right. You can't put your finger on why. It just seems like a good fit.

But, as a recent court ruling shows, it's not legally smart to make hiring choices on gut instinct alone. It's important to link your hiring decisions to concrete, verifiable job qualifications, not just esoteric "chemistry" with the applicant.

The problem: Those "gut instincts" could be masking unintentional discrimination.

If applicants are rejected and then sue you for hiring discrimination, they'll have an easier time swaying the jury in their favor if they can show weaknesses or inconsistencies in your stated reasons for hiring.

Case in point: Gwen Owens, who is African-American, applied for two different news anchor positions at a TV station. She wasn't hired for either job; white broadcasters filled both spots. Management cited the "on-air chemistry" between anchors as the key factor.

Owens sued, claiming that the reference to "chemistry" was really a code word for racial discrimination. A court let her case proceed to trial, saying a jury may see the "chemistry" comment as evidence of improper motives and racial bias. (Owens v. Comcast Corp., No. 02- 1240, E.D. Pa., 2004)

Bottom line: Make sure you and your organization's hiring managers can point to at least three quantifiable reasons (background, education, skills, test results, etc.) for making each hiring decision.

Creating written job descriptions for each position will make it easier to match up applicants and to justify your decisions.

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