4 Tips for Maintaining a Compliant Candidate Selection Process

Recruiting & Hiring

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The hiring process can be grueling: cultivating a pipeline of prospective educators, recruiting plenty of applicants (especially for those niche positions), poring over what can feel like thousands of resumes, playing phone tag with candidates — needless to say, it’s a lot of work. But it’s all worth it in the end, when you find the best candidate for each opening in your district and they accept the job offer.

Between all of that exhaustion and excitement, though, is the tangle of employment laws that every Human Resources professional must keep in mind as they seek out extraordinary educators. Every decision made in choosing candidates must be based on a fair and legally defensible hiring process.

With that in mind, here are four important practices to keep in mind for maintaining and defending a fair teacher selection process.

#1. Establish objective hiring criteria.

When it comes to hiring, the law is clear: there’s no room for discriminating against a candidate based on certain characteristics or protected categories. And there’s no leniency granted for unintentional discrimination, either — if your selection process unwittingly and disproportionately impacts members of a protected class, your organization can still be held liable for discrimination.

So, to stay compliant in the candidate selection process, it’s crucial to make decisions based only on objective criteria like academic credentials and years of experience — rather than measures that could be misconstrued as discriminatory. But when faced with an avalanche of employment applications and resumes, sometimes it can be difficult to eradicate any hint of subjectivity. An applicant tracking system can help by letting you filter through large volumes of applications based on objective criteria, so you can easily identify the most qualified candidates to bring in for interviews.

#2. Double-check applicant screening assessments.

When used correctly, applicant screening assessments can be a valuable tool for gaining insights into each candidate’s potential. But not all screening assessments or pre-employment tests are created equal, and some may have a disproportionately adverse effect on members of protected classes. The most common way that this adverse impact is defined is by the “80% rule” (or four-fifths rule), which states that adverse impact exists if the passing rate for protected class members is less than 80% of the passing rate for non-members of that class.

So before buying an applicant screening tool, be sure to ask your vendor if they periodically conduct adverse impact reviews, and if their assessments pass the EEOC’s four-fifths rule.

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#3. Standardize the hiring and interview process.

Do your principals and others involved in the interview process use the same questions? Are they trained in which questions they can ask, and more importantly, which ones they can’t?

Compliant interviewing practices aren’t second-nature to most people, so it’s important to provide everyone on the hiring team with interview training, as well as a list of approved, consistent interview questions. Standardizing the selection and interviewing processes in this way helps eliminate bias and prevents claims of discrimination.

#4. Document everything — securely.

It’s not enough to know that your district follows compliant hiring practices. You need to be able to prove it, too. Keep a record of everything that took place throughout the hiring process, and consider documenting any interactions over the phone or in person. Having an electronic applicant tracking system will make this information much easier to document, and much easier to access if an applicant does file a complaint against your district.

However, make sure that sensitive information contained in your hiring and interview records are kept secure. You don’t want to risk sensitive information getting in front of the wrong people, or even leaking to others outside of the district. Don’t entrust applicant privacy to a locked filing cabinet — find a secure online employee records management system that encrypts data and lets you control individual permissions.

 “It’s a good practice to have an actual system that’s defensible. You are going to have people that might challenge why they weren’t hired, and why another candidate was hired. We have to be able to defend the district in terms of litigation or civil rights complaints, and we need to be able to show that we had a fair and equitable system that was applied by everybody who does hiring in our district.” – Anne Sullivan, Chief of Human Resources, Des Moines Public Schools

Note: This blog does not serve as legal advice. If you still have questions on disparate impact or compliant hiring practices, contact your district’s legal counsel for advice.

Annie GrunwellAnnie Buttner

Annie is a writer and part of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She's passionate about learning, exploring data and sharing knowledge. Her specialties include substitute management, the K-12 staffing shortage, and best practices in human capital management.