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5 Ways to Prevent Accidental Discrimination with Pre-Employment Testing

Published on 1/12/2016 12:00:00 AM
5 Ways to Prevent Accidental Discrimination with Pre-Employment Testing

You can educate and train employees on certain skills, but you can’t teach a good attitude – which is why employers often test for personality. The right attitude can make up for shortcomings in skills, especially if the applicant’s personality fits your company’s culture. Personality tests can also alert you to potential issues and help you avoid negligent hiring lawsuits.

A word of caution, however: Administering personality tests can sometimes create legal issues, typically due to discrimination. Certain questions or wording, for example, can cause a disparate impact against applicants with mental illnesses or disorders. Other questions may involve information you shouldn’t have access to, such as religious beliefs. How you administer tests may be discriminatory against applicants with physical or learning disabilities, too.

Here are a few best practices to ensure personality tests help your business instead of harming it:

Use the right tests
Use tests designed specifically for pre-employment screening. If you’re using a personality test that wasn’t created for employers, it may include non-compliant questions or ask for sensitive information. Instead, choose personality tests designed for pre-employment screening, which should avoid any inappropriate questions.
Ask the right questions
Review questions to make sure they’re not discriminatory. Questions that ask about mood swings or happiness levels could accidentally uncover an underlying mental illness. Focus instead on situational or behavioral questions, such as, “What would you do if you caught a coworker stealing?” Ethical questions are typically safe, too. To determine if a question is inappropriate or discriminatory, ask yourself if you’d ask the question during an interview. If you wouldn’t, consider removing the question.
Test at the right time
Administer personality tests later in the hiring process. Many large corporations ask applicants to submit personality tests with their initial application. Unless the results are critical to the position, wait until later in the hiring process – after the interview, for example – to conduct these tests. You’ll have a much broader view of candidates by then and will have other ways to evaluate them.
If one applicant receives a test, everyone must test
Test all applicants. In general, whatever application process one candidate goes through, all candidates should go through, including tests. If you want to administer a personality test for one applicant, you must administer the test for all applicants to avoid discrimination.
Make the right accommodations
Make reasonable accommodations for applicants with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) outlines strict rules for hiring and testing applicants with disabilities. As an employer, make sure you’re following these procedures and honoring any reasonable accommodations that applicants request.

Proceed carefully

Done right, job-tailored personality tests can help measure if someone is dependable, flexible, conscientious or assertive – all traits that can help guide your final decision. This type of testing can also reveal traits that might cause friction among employee teams, groups and departments.

Personality tests should be attorney reviewed so they don’t get you into legal trouble, however. They should measure job-related traits only and not invade the applicant’s privacy or be used to reveal mental disability or personality disorders protected by the ADA.

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