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Divide applicants based on qualifications

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in Hiring,Human Resources

Do you have more applicants who are at least minimally qualified than you can reasonably interview? Then split up the applicant pool before you begin those interviews.

Separate those who are the most highly qualified from those who barely meet your minimum qualifications. This could help later if you wind up facing a lawsuit from someone who wasn’t interviewed.

Recent case: Debra worked for SEPTA, the Philadelphia-area transit agency, for several decades. When SEPTA announced it was hiring a director of railroad service operations, she applied. Like many applicants, she met the job’s minimum qualifications.

SEPTA received so many applications that it sorted the candidates into two groups. Group A consisted of applicants who had a specialty certification from the Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee, which promulgates railroad safety rules. Debra didn’t have that certification and was therefore placed in Group B.

SEPTA decided to first interview applicants from Group A, moving on to Group B only if it could not hire someone from the first group.

One of the candidates in Group A—a man—was offered the job and accepted it. In addition to meeting the minimum qualifications and having the certification, he also had a locomotive engineer’s license and 20 years of experience.

Debra sued, alleging sex discrimination. A jury concluded that she had been discriminated against, but awarded her just $1 in damages.

SEPTA asked the court to disregard the jury decision, arguing it should never have gone to trial because it had hired the clearly superior applicant. The court agreed and dismissed the case. It was clear that while Debra was marginally qualified, she didn’t have the additional experience and certifications that the successful male candidate had. (Gardner-Lozada v. SEPTA, No. 15-2799, 3rd Cir., 2016)

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