The Interviewing and Hiring Process: Five Things every HR Generalist should know*.

October 29, 2007

Many managers view the efforts of HR to bring order to the hiring process as meddlesome, bureaucratic and dilatory. “Just find me someone to fill this position” is the usual approach. There are several things that an HR generalist can bring to the table in terms of education and organization without slowing the process:

Uniformity of Process: Companies should develop an interview process and follow it. Haphazard hiring practices are difficult to defend from discrimination claims. Every interview process includes the following actions:

  • Identify in writing the minimum qualifications of the position and review the job description.
  • Establish criteria for an “applicant” including whether you will consider unsolicited resumes, internet inquiries, and recruiter referrals.
  • Identify the qualified applicants and the process for selecting the most qualified.
  • Develop a base set of job related questions for interviewers.
  • Develop a simple applicant assessment form.
  • Document the reasons for selection of the successful candidate.
  • Make sure the process is followed.

Documentation:   In response to any government investigation or as part of discovery in litigation, an employer will be required to turn over its written documentation of the hiring and interview process. To the extent possible, I recommend controlling the documentation that is created so that there are no smoking guns. Many legitimate hiring selections are called into question because of things that are written by interviewers in the margins of resumes. Try to review the interview forms for inappropriate comments and send them back for revision, if necessary. Furthermore, an “institutional memory” is created by written documentation that survives the departure of interviewers and other personnel.

Prohibited Questions:   Many state anti-discrimination laws and regulations prohibit certain types of employment inquiries. For example, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (43 P.S. Section 955 (b) (1)) prohibits employers from eliciting information or using any form of application that contains questions or entries concerning race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, past handicap or disability. Federal law prohibits asking for disability information except as part of a voluntary questionnaire under an affirmative action plan for the purpose of applicant tracking.  Otherwise, it is unlawful to discriminate and ask for medical information prior to an offer of employment under federal law.  There is not an absolute prohibition on soliciting other protected class information, but it should be done only as to a bona fide occupational qualification.

Applicant Communication:   Many organizations take a minimalist approach to communications with applicants foregoing acknowledgment of applications and rejection letters. While this correspondence may seem like a recruiting nicety, it serves a legal purpose by defining the applicant pool for a particular position.   If the parameters of consideration are not defined, enforcement agencies will look to all applicants to analyze discrimination claims.  At a minimum an employer should identify who was considered for a position and how long an individual’s application will remain active for future consideration. This exercise is very important for government contractors that may face OFCCP audits; particularly in light of the agency’s definition of “internet applicant”.

Training:   Very few managers and supervisors are good interviewers. Asking irrelevant questions, seeking unlawful information, or alienating good prospects are only some of the problems. Without training, many managers do not obtain enough information to critically evaluate the abilities of the applicants they have interviewed. Training on the interview process and techniques might prove invaluable to reducing turnover created by poor hiring decisions.

*Not meant to be an exhaustive list.