Let’s talk process! I know, B-O-R-I-NG!! But process is important. Process can be a huge key to protecting the organization and limiting, if not eliminating, risk.

A recent SHRM article (DOL Cracks Down on Company’s Use of Hiring Tests) sheds light on the intense scrutiny that the EEOC is placing on pre-employment tests performed by hiring managers – often without the knowledge, guidance, or consent of HR – in the selection of candidates. Pre-employment testing is only one component of the recruitment process and is not the only reason that process is so important, but the article does highlight the fact that when we fail to follow a clearly defined process in recruitment, we expose the organization to SERIOUS risks.

HR professionals are the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) when it comes to recruitment and other HR processes, most hiring managers are not. It is our responsibility to ensure that compliant processes are followed and it is the hiring manager’s typical viewpoint to remove all perceived obstacles and hire who they want when they want with as little effort on their part as possible – after all, they have operational responsibilities that are the core of their role. It is critical that HR professionals engaged in recruitment understand and respect that perspective.

Understanding that typical relationship between HR recruitment and hiring managers, here is where process becomes so important! Most hiring managers have never heard of nor understand fully the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures. The unfortunate part is that these guidelines are not limited to their impact on recruitment. They affect promotion, demotion, termination, and several other employment decisions that impact current – not just prospective – employees, so understanding by all levels of management is actually important. As the SMEs, we must consult and advise our hiring manager partners on processes and procedures that are in compliance with these guidelines and are designed to protect the organization. That said, I will be looking at these guidelines strictly from a recruitment viewpoint.

One of the critical elements of the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP) is that the candidate experience must be the same, to the extent possible, for each candidate for a position, with variances typically for reasonable accommodations only. That means we need to follow a defined process so that we can insert any candidate into the process and be reasonably assured that they will have the same experience as any other candidate.

For organizations that are decentralized, it may be best to bring more centralization into the mix so that everyone involved in the recruitment process follows the same procedures, uses the same recruitment systems and tools, and so the organization can get real and accurate data around effectiveness, efficiency, and cost associated with the process. Some degree of centralization of the processes also serves to ensure the ability of the organization to maintain appropriate levels of control and risk management. Conversely, too much centralization can reduce the ability of organizations to remain nimble, to act quickly to fill critical positions. The exact balance will be different for each organization and may change over time, but defining the process and adhering to that process, ensuring compliance with UGESP is critical.

Another component of UGESP is that organizations need to be able to support selection decisions. To best accomplish this, document, document, document! All assessment tools from notes from the intake meeting with the hiring manager and the job description for the position to phone screening questions and the onsite interview questions all need to be the same from candidate to candidate. This does not mean that tangential questions – follow-up questions – based on candidate responses are not allowed, of course they are. It does mean that the core questions and other assessment tools – which also includes background checks, drug screens, and other testing tools – all need to be the same and documented for each candidate.   Further, the SHRM articledemonstrates the necessity of proper validation for the tests – but that is a topic for another time.  All should be attached to the requisition and applicant files associated with the requisition so that, if a decision must be defended to the EEOC, there is clear evidence why one candidate over the other was selected.

Here is where recruitment gets pushback from hiring managers. Many frequently believe they should be intimately involved in the entire process. That can be time consuming for them.   Most hiring managers are not the recruitment SMEs no matter how often they have participated in elements of recruitment any more than HR recruitment would be considered the SMEs for IT, Finance, Operations, or any of the other areas where they lead recruitment the efforts. But, if recruitment has done a proper job at the intake meeting, they should have good enough notes such that the intake meeting becomes the rubric against which candidate resumes and phone screening questions are compared. If this process is followed, only really top quality candidates should be forwarded to the hiring manager for their review. The candidate experience is the same since they are all asked the same questions and the hiring manager now has a consistent yardstick against which to compare the candidates and select the top of those for onsite interview.

Minimizing Hiring Management involvement allows HR Recruitment to perform their SME role and the Hiring Managers to execute the core operational aspects of their role. The hiring manager really only needs to be involved during intake meeting, top candidate selection for onsite interview, onsite interview question development or question selection, onsite interview, and final consensus meeting to select the candidate. Of course, there are peripheral and often persistent follow-up communications as hiring managers are typically antsy about getting their positions filled quickly and concerned about what quality of candidate will be presented, but barring that there need be only 5 key interactions with the hiring manager and the time commitment can, if the interactions are planned out appropriately, be minimal for all except the actual onsite interviews and the consensus meeting.

Documentation of decisions at each step is so important. It is about ensuring that all decisions are defensible should an EEOC charge be leveled against the company. If the organization can present clear evidence that it’s processes and policies align with the best practices guidelines in the UGESP, the probabilities of successfully defending an EEOC charge are extremely good. Failure to follow processes and policies aligned with the UGESP will make it incredibly hard to defend EEOC charges and can put the organization at a serious financial and reputation risk.

Process and policy are often perceived by employees and even management as pointless, time consuming, bureaucratic red-tape. And yes – it ain’t sexy! But when it comes to cost controls, legal, financial, and reputation risk management, the right processes in recruitment that align with industry best practices in compliance with theUGESP can make or break organizations.  It would be best to review your organization’s compliance with the UGESP on a regular basis.

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