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Are Your Recruitment Practices Discriminatory?

This article intends to inform you on better recruitment practices for your organization while helping guide business owners and hiring managers towards a place of reality in establishing interview practices.  Small business owners recognize the value of a good hire, and the significant financial loss in making a bad hire.  What this article concerns itself with is the activities you execute during the recruitment process that expose you to ever greater financial risk than a bad hire, a discrimination law suit.

Now you might be thinking, I have diverse hiring practices, I interview and even hire applicants from all races, ethnic backgrounds, gender, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and more.  These are great practices for your business, especially if done in a consistent and compliant manner.  What we need to explore, and will guide you on here, is the inappropriate practice you might implement and execute during the recruiting process that exposes your business to risk and liability, testing.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decades ago adopted the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP) to address concerns of discrimination in employment practices.  The UGESP provided guidance on testing and established validation methods and procedures to ensure that a test used during the selection and hiring process was non-discriminatory.  Specifically, there is a requirement to ensure that the test does not create disparate impact.

Disparate impact is when seemingly neutral policies, procedures, and practices result in a disproportionate impact on a protected group.  This is where many business owners or hiring managers make a mistake in establishing how to narrow down the applicant pool and gain insight to make the most effective hiring decision.  Tests are used that lack direct correlation to the position for which the test is supposed to inform, and tests are used that lack validation to demonstrate statistical evidence that the test results are an accurate reflection of the likelihood the applicant will be successful in the position.

It is not unusual for a business to want to implement a testing tool to aid in the selection process, and it is even more common that the cause of this approach is due to a lack of formal training and guidance on recruitment practices that are effective.  Testing is viewed as a simple way to help make a good hiring decision, when in fact, it may not be the appropriate strategy to implement, and in some situations not only lead you to make a poor hire, but expose you to legal risk.

There are three factors I want you to consider when building your recruitment practices for your organization.  First, are there interview techniques and screening processing available that are effective for the identification of qualified candidates for your positions that help you avoid the implementation of tests that are not validated and could expose you to risk?  If there are, avoid the tests and focus on enhancing your practices to maximize available techniques and strategies to make the best hiring selections possible.  This guidance is especially important for positions that fail to identify specialized skills or abilities to be successful in the role, for which you would be attempting to test for.

Second, if you are adamant about using a test, you must make sure the test questions and results are directly related to the position, and to the ability to be successful in the position.  The test must be validated to demonstrate the correlation between test results and success in your position.  Not just the same titled position in another company, but the position at your organization, since the duties and responsibilities of a position are not consistent from company to company.

Third, you need to track and document the results of your testing practices, and analyze the data and results over time to determine if your recruitment process creates disparate impact.

When educating small businesses on testing practices, so often it comes to light that a test is simply not needed, or fails to accurately and consistently predict job performance or success.  If this is the case, using a test just to make you feel better in the decisions you make when hiring is not a good use of your financial resources, and this approach may exposure you to risk.

I urge you to evaluate your recruitment practices periodically, aligning the interviews and recruitment processes to the essential functions defined in the job description and minimum requirements of the job.  Decide if testing is the only path to uncovering the information you need, and if testing is a must, then ensure the selection and implementation of any testing practices are compliant with UGESP and other federal and state regulations that provide protection to segments of the population.