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Hiring: 'doing it right'; How to select your employees--effectively and legally.

Effective pre-employment screening can have a major impact on the "bottom line." For example, by adding tests to their screening systems:

* A health-care organization reduced first-year turnover by over 40 percent.

* A theme park reduced outside medical costs associated with injuries by 43 percent.

* A distribution company found that top-scoring employees were seven times more likely to have outstanding attendance than low scorers.

Here are some tips to make sure your selection methods are effective and avoid legal pitfalls.

Selecting effectively

Five key actions can make sure your selection tools identify the best candidates:

1. Define what counts: Define the requirements of the jobs to be filled. Don't stop at the label level (such as "organized"). Define what the labels mean in actionable statements, such as: "Able to manage multiple projects simultaneously."

2. Focus your tools: Applications, interviews and tests (such as personality, ability, physical capacity) can all supply value. Use the "what counts" factors to decide which tools to use. For example, use tests to assess basic abilities and personality factors, but structured interviews to assess more complex characteristics such as leadership skills.

3. "Validate" each tool: Verify that each tool you use is "valid" (useful and job-related). To validate applications and interviews, make sure they are grounded in your "what counts" factors. For most tests you will want statistical evidence of validity. You can validate a test by administering it to at least 100 incumbents and correlating test scores with job performance. You can also rely on previously conducted statistical studies if they were conducted on jobs that are very similar to yours.

4. Train: Carefully train everyone involved in the selection process, especially your interviewers. The predictive power of selection tools drops very rapidly when screeners "do their own thing."

5. Be consistent: Each candidate should go through your prescribed selection process in exactly the same way. That allows you to make "like-to-like" comparisons. Also, avoid making exceptions to your hiring standards. This usually leads to watered-down standards and poor hiring decisions.

Selecting legally

Applicant screening systems may be legally challenged as being discriminatory or constituting invasions of privacy. By following a few guidelines, employers can protect themselves from legal exposure:

1. Do not seek discriminatory information. Hiring decisions based, even in part, on an applicant's race, age, sex, religion, height, weight, marital status, national origin, physical or mental handicap or genetic information unrelated to the ability to perform the job and (in some geographical areas) sexual orientation--are discriminatory. Screening systems should never directly seek this information nor should employers directly inquire or make notations about these topics.

2. Seek consent prior to all testing or screening. Applicant consent can constitute an absolute defense to any privacy-related claim. Prior written applicant consent to all testing or screening systems should be obtained.

3. Timing. At a minimum, all physical testing should be implemented post-offer, pre-hire.

4. Avoid exposure to "disparate impact" claims. Some screening systems inadvertently exclude a group of applicants all sharing a common legally protected status. For example, requiring applicants to be high school graduates could exclude a greater percentage of minorities. This type of statistical result is referred to as having a "disparate impact" and can constitute illegal discrimination. Employers should regularly monitor the results of screening systems to determine if inadvertent disparate impact is occurring.

5. Tailor your selection tools. Selection tools should be specifically tailored for individual employers and specific individual jobs. Employers should also regularly "self-audit" the results of applicant screening systems to determine whether systemic discrimination may be occurring.

The old saying, "Hire in haste, repent at leisure" has stood the test of time. "Doing it right" may take a bit more time and effort, but the payoffs--in terms of the talent and performance of your team, and reduced legal exposure--are significant.

John Arnold is president of Grosse Pointe Park-based Polaris Assessment Systems Inc., a Bronze-level member of the Detroit Regional Chamber. Barbara VanZanten is a partner at the Detroit law firm of Clark Hill PLC, a Silver-level member.



These pages are brought to you by the Detroit Regional Chamber's Workforce Central ... the first source for meeting regional human resource and workforce needs. To learn more about this initiative, visit or call (866) MBR-LINE.

Check out, a system designed to help you recruit workers for technical positions requiring training beyond high school but not necessarily a four-year degree. For more information, visit the Workforce Central home page on our Website at or contact Robert Troutman at (313) 596-0478 or

You can also find the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey results in the Workforce Central section.

Mark your calendar for the Detroit Regional Chamber's 2005 Workforce Strategies Conference, April 21 at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. See page 10 for details.
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Title Annotation:Workforce CENTRAL
Author:VanZanten, Barbara A.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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