Why Interviews Aren’t Fair….but Pre-Employment Tests Are

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Why Interviews Aren’t Fair….but Pre-Employment Tests Are

“Our attorney told us that pre employment tests are illegal to use.”  If that is your logic and defense for sticking with the interview and resume as your primary screening tools for employee selection, it is time to get with the program. The job relatedness of most interviews and many resumes carries very little weight when defending a discrimination claim by a candidate.

Since anyone can sue anyone for anything, we’ll agree that employee discrimination claims are very real. But that doesn’t mean that all claims are justified.  Ignoring tools that can help companies hire the right people and avoid costly employee turnover is a sign of avoidance, or even ignorance, of the risks associated with different employee selection assessments.

Unbeknownst to many human resource professionals and small business owners, the U.S. Department of Labor publication, TESTING AND ASSESSMENT: AN EMPLOYER’S GUIDE TO GOOD PRACTICES includes employee applications and the interview in the same category of employee assessment as the personality “inventory,” background check, or drug test. In fact, any tool, inventory or procedure used to “assess” the fit of a candidate for hire or an employee for promotion is considered a test.

By this definition, the simple act of observation is considered an employment assessment and in order to be legally defensible, decisions based on observation must be as valid, reliable and job related as interview questions or personality tests.

So let’s look at the manager or human resources director or corporate attorney who views the personality test as fluff, hocus-pocus, or just plain too risky and compare it to candidate observation? How would you defend yourself and your company if questioned about the validity or job-relatedness of any of these questions?

• Are you turned off by a male with a ponytail or a female with a buzz-cut?
• Are you turned on by individuals with athletic builds and turned off by anyone who is obese?
• Do you feel uneasy around other men who walk with a swish and speak with a lisp?
• Do tattoos, body-piercing and purple hair affect how you evaluate job fit?
• Men: do you prefer buxom, petite, and perky blondes to chunky, outspoken middle age women?
• Women: Are you attracted to tall, dark and handsome hunks or short, bald and chubby men?
• Do you notice if other people are wearing a crucifix, Star of David, or a mezuzah around their neck?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are discriminating and put your company at risk for prejudicial hiring. Not one of the observations above is a valid predictor of abilities, skills, knowledge, or job fit.

Whether we intentionally or unintentionally do it, we all have our biases. We respond to the information we receive by valuing some of it positively and judging the rest of it negatively. Like it or not, we all have our preferences. Those things we value more or less bias our observations and therefore impact how we rate candidates for hiring.

In addition to looking through our own rose-colored glasses, how likely is it that our mood at that moment in time might affect our ability to interview fairly and without bias?

The simple act of observing candidates is filled with personal bias, much of which has nothing to do with job fit. The same goes for the process of interviewing. For most companies, observation and interviews fail to meet the required validity, reliability, and job relatedness standards required by law. If and when challenged, companies lose.

On the other hand, many (although admittedly not all) employee screening assessments have gone through extensive validation studies that confirm reliability, job-relatedness, and fairness. Pre-employment tests offer an objective, cost-effective, third party assessment of a candidate’s job fit.

Isn’t it time employers stop throwing stones at pre-employment personality tests when their current screening process is a house of glass?

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