The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Friday, December 07, 2012

Selection Quandaries

While I have been writing about employee engagement, I have been taking a college course on the selection process. When I first registered for the course, I assumed that I would be learning how to recruit candidates. In other words, I thought that I would learn how to convince individuals to apply for positions within an organization. I soon discovered that my assumptions were incorrect, and I will never be able to look at a job description or an employment application without recalling what I've learned.

Students attending this course were asked to demonstrate their understanding of the material by creating a "staffing handbook" for a fictitious small/medium-sized organization. The requirements for this handbook included: discussing the organization's job analysis methodology, designing a job analysis form to identify a specific position's duties and the KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) necessary to perform those duties, sharing the organization's interviewing philosophy, developing interview questions related to the KSAs identified in the job analysis, the organization's view of pre-employment testing, creating a sample interview evaluation form, describing the performance assessment that candidates would participate in to determine if they were qualified for a specific position, and constructing a sample performance assessment evaluation form.

There were two sections of the handbook that needed to be reviewed by my professor before I could proceed; the job analysis section and the interview questions. Since I had discussed job analysis in a previous course, I was confident in my ability to discuss job analysis methodology, identify the necessary KSAs, and create a job analysis form. I submitted this section to my professor for her to review; I received positive feedback from my professor, and earned full credit for the assignment. Since the feedback provided about the job analysis section was positive; I created a list of situational interview questions that focused on the KSAs I had identified.  My professor noted that my questions were "very focused on the KSAs" and gave me full credit for the interview questions assignment.

Now that I was free to tackle the remainder of the handbook, I found that the application section was the most troublesome for me. To begin, I had to distinguish what questions were legal, "legally problematic," and illegal. To make matters even more complex, I learned that some questions could be asked if rephrased properly. For example: asking an applicant's age could violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but asking if the person is 18 years of age or older is acceptable.

While my textbook addressed some of these issues, some of the advice it provided was outdated. For instance, the textbook stated that asking for arrest information is illegal. I found that it is illegal in some states; however, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated that asking for arrest information is not a Title VII violation if the organization can prove business necessity. My textbook recommended inquiring if an individual has been convicted of crimes on the application; however, the EEOC recommended that questions regarding convictions should be omitted until the candidate is being interviewed. I also discovered that inquiries about an individual's discharge from military service and or an individual's need for reasonable accommodation fall into the "legally problematic" category. In order to ask these questions on a job application, the organization would need to prove business necessity. The legal disclaimer was also difficult to create from scratch; however, since my handbook was relatively free of borrowed material up to this point, I decided to allocate a portion of the 10% borrowed material allowance to assist in writing the disclaimer.

With the EEOC's recommendations regarding arrest and conviction records still fresh in my mind, I was able to address the pre-employment testing section with more confidence. The organization's philosophy will be simple and cost-effective; a background check will not be required until candidates receive a conditional offer of employment.  Since my fictitious organization has 8 locations and employs a total of approximately 500 employees, the performance assessment method used will be situational, and candidates will be asked to spend an "hour in an employee's shoes".  Several store employees will act as customers, and candidates' reactions to predetermined scenarios will be observed and recorded. The evaluation forms for both the interview and performance assessments utilize a simple rating system that will allow managers to compare candidates' responses or reactions to the desired behaviors identified in the job analysis.  Candidates with higher "scores" will demonstrate desired behaviors more frequently than candidates with lower "scores."

On that note, I would like to invite our readers to share what part(s) of the selection process they find problematic and why.

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to your comments and responses. 

Equal Employment Commission. Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964


Anonymous said...

You say you discovered that your textbook was out of date. It makes me wonder what made you realize that and whether you called that matter to the attention of the instructor.

Did the obsolete sections only relate to your state or to all of them?

This sounds like it was a really complex document to write. I'm impressed!

CharityR said...

Thank you for your interest in my post. To answer your first question, I discovered this when I was completing a weekly assignment in which students were given a job application and asked to identify ten illegal or legally problematic questions on the job application. Since I never use my textbooks as primary sources, I went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's website regarding prohibited practices ( to complete the assignment; that's when I found the error.

To answer your second question, I did call the matter to my professor's attention in the body of the assignment, and I am waiting for a response. If I do not receive one when I receive my grade, I will e-mail my professor directly.

In response to your third question, the textbook was correct in that the majority of states do not allow employers to inquire about applicants' arrest records, and require employers to prove business necessity before disqualifying a candidate based upon her/his criminal record. My state protects candidates from arrest/conviction record discrimination. However, for the sake of accuracy, the authors might have stated that asking applicants about their arrest records is illegal in most states rather than implying that federal law prohibits the practice.

It was a rather complex document to write, and I hope my professor is as impressed as you are. Thank you for your support.