Since people collaborate in the workplace to accomplish work effectively, it is a good practice to involve other team members in the interviewing process. There is an important caution, however, when having team members participate in the interview: keep it legal! Whether taking part in the formal interview or just going to lunch with the candidate, team members must ensure that they do not stray off the “legal turf.” They should keep discussions appropriate at all times. I have learned from experience that even experienced hiring managers are capable of straying away from the “legal turf.”
On one occasion, an internal candidate traveled to our Chicago office for a final interview. Our company was considering this candidate for a lead role in our West coast operations. The candidate had been an excellent employee, had worked with the company for several years, and had an all-around solid track record. The interview wrapped up around 5:30 p.m., and we extended a job offer on the spot. The candidate did not immediately accept the offer, so the hiring manager and I decided to continue discussing the job and its requirements with the candidate over dinner.
Dinner went well. We discussed more details about the specific role the candidate would perform. As we provided more information about the job’s travel requirements, we learned that the candidate was apprehensive about flying. For no apparent reason, the hiring manager leaned in towards the candidate, as if he was going to say something profound, and said: “What you need to do is discuss this job and its travel requirements with your husband.”
Yikes! You guessed it—the candidate was a woman, and the hiring manager had just violated both EEOC pre-hire guidelines and our own company policy by saying that. I spent the remaining time at dinner apologizing to the candidate and un-doing the damaging comment made by the hiring manager. I assured her that it was not the company’s policy or my expectation, as the lead staffing person, to require her to consult with anyone about the job offer we had extended to her.
In addition to the unlawfulness of the statement made by the hiring manager, this was, without a doubt, one of the most embarrassing moments of my professional career.
A word to the wise: make sure everyone who will be involved in the interview process keeps the conversation appropriate and legal at all times. As the hiring manager, you must ensure that those invited to participate in the interview understand its burdens and responsibilities.
The above article is an excerpt from Alonzo’s book: Hiring Made Easy as PIE. Through many years of experience and research, he has synthesized complex hiring practices into an easy-to-follow process. He wrote this book as a hiring guide to share this process with others.