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How to Document a Behavior-Based Structured Interview

October 1, 1999
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Executives, managers, and supervisors have good reason to protect themselves against potential charges of discrimination in hiring. Most plaintiffs to date are successful in such suits, and court awards regularly run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially when legal fees are included.

If a hiring discrimination suit is brought against your company, the court will insist on knowing the following information. These items are "must-haves" for documentation of the interview process:

  1. Document the job analysis process. How is the job defined? How did you determine the specific behaviors necessary for performing the job successfully?
  2. Document the process by which questions were created. Who participated in their creation? Why were these people deemed competent to create the questions? How does each question asked in the interview relate to a behavior necessary for performing the job? In what ways do the number, type, and arrangement of questions reflect the proportionate importance of particular behaviors necessary to perform the job?
  3. Document the system by which applicant responses were scored. What is the system? Who created anchoring responses? How do these anchoring responses relate to real levels of success among those actually performing the job? How were raw scores handled statistically? What weighting, if any, was used in the analysis of scores?
  4. Document the process of interviewing candidates. How did applicants find out about the job? What were the criteria for choosing those applicants who were invited for interviews? Where and when were interviews conducted? Who served as interviewers? What are their qualifications, especially in relation to the job at hand? How were questions delivered? How were responses noted? How long did interviews last? How did different interviews compare in time, content of questions, and method of evaluation?
  5. Document applicant responses and scores. Notes taken by interviewers must be easily interpretable in reconstructing the approximate content of an applicant’s response.
  6. Document the specific process by which one applicant was chosen over others. What factors were involved? What was the weighting of those factors?
  7. Document the validity of the interview process. Does the process in fact predict job performance?

This kind of documentation may seem burdensome to managers but is nonetheless important. Certainly the work involved in "doing interviewing right" compares favorably, when facing suit, to the more dangerous course of trying to construct or fabricate a legally defensible hiring procedure after the fact. And why do disappointed job applicants sue? You name it: allegations of age discrimination, bias against ethnicity, preference for one gender over the other, violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and so forth. A small office is no less vulnerable than a huge company as the target of such suits.

Recent Articles by Arthur Bell, Ph.D.

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