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The danger of hiring ‘Best of the worst’ from résumé pile

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Hiring,Human Resources

When hiring, you probably use the job description to establish the minimum requirements for the position. But what if no one in the applicant pool meets those minimum requirements?

If you simply hire the applicant who comes closest to meeting the requirements, you could be asking for trouble.

Instead, it’s legally safer to redraft the job description, repost the position and start again. That’s the only sure-fire way to avoid a discrimination lawsuit.

Recent case: Slippery Rock University posted a job for a locksmith and listed two years’ experience as the minimum job requirement. The school ended up hiring a male who didn’t have two years’ experience. The university promoted him soon after he took the job and another male applicant with less than two years’ experience took his place.

Judy Scheidemantle applied both times but was passed over. She’d taken a home-study course in locksmithing, but had no actual experience. Still, she filed an EEOC complaint, alleging sex discrimination.

On appeal, the 3rd Circuit sided with Scheidemantle and sent the case to trial. In a stinging opinion, the court wrote that “if an employer could, with impunity, appeal to objective criteria to defeat any female job applicant’s challenge to its hire of an objectively unqualified male in her place, discrimination law would be reduced to bark with no bite.” (Scheidemantle v. Slippery Rock University, No. 05-3850, 3rd Cir., 2006)

Final tip: Now is a good time to review your hiring process. Do you always adhere to the minimum job requirements you post in your job announcements? You should.

Also, check to see if your hiring practices favor one group over another. For example, do you regularly hire less-than-ideal candidates from one department with predominately male employees? At Slippery Rock, almost all locksmiths came from the carpentry department and were male. The unqualified males were consistently hired and then trained in locksmithing on the job, while females weren’t given that opportunity.  

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