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 BLUF: HR may be trying to influence my hiring decisions and I'm not sure if I'm just being territorial and paranoid or if HR is being unethical.

Long version:

I have a supervisor position that I am currently interviewing for.  I am interviewing internal candidates only- 2 guys and a gal from my team.  After HR forwarded the applicants to me, I set up the interviews (peer interviews with other supervisors and manager interviews with me and my peers).  I used a similar tool to the interview creation tool that we have in-house and selected 15 behavioral interview questions that I felt were relevant to the position.

The HR recruiter sent me an email the day before interviews began and told me that she needs to see my questions and will be sitting in on the interviews.  This has never happened before, but I'm flexible so I told her when the interviews were and sent her my questions list.  She replied back an hour or so later stating that she removed some of my questions and attached her updated questions list.  I got a little bit defensive about that until I opened the attachment she sent where she had removed only one of my 15 questions.  No big deal, I thought.

She then came to the first set of interviews and then instructed all interviewers that they must ask the same questions to each candidate in order to be fair.  Again, no big deal with this, and I clarified that probing or follow up questions should be appropriately tailored to each candidate's answer and will vary from interview to interview.  She sat through the interviews and collected the questions list with scores given to each question.  This was the peer interview set, and the manager interview set which included me was today.

She came back today and sat through the interviews again.  This time, I noticed her filling out the interview question list with her own scores during the interviews, which I thought was a little unusual but didn't mention to anyone.  She did ask a couple of follow up questions during the interviews, but it was mostly me and the other managers asking the questions and driving the interview.

At the end of each interview, she quickly took each scored interview question sheet without letting me see them.  At the very end, she took them all back to her office and put the scores in a spreadsheet.  Here's where I start getting paranoid.

The aggregate score spreadsheet she sent me was riddled with odd, subtle "mistakes."  I am a high C and spend a lot of time in spreadsheets, so they leaped out at me when I saw them.  

First, I noticed that she had four lines of results in the interview score list for the manager conducted interviews.  There were only 3 managers in the interviews, which indicates she used her own scores.  I don't really see what business she has including her ratings for a position I am hiring for, especially considering she has never been a hiring manager.

Second, I noticed that three of the questions did not have a Total score rollup.  This one was very obvious because there were just three empty cells sitting in the middle of a table full of numbers.

Third, one of the formulas she wrote totaled a row when it should have totaled a column, which made a vastly different value for the cell.

Fourth, on all the candidates, there was an extra row that had all 0's for the scores (I assume as a placeholder in case there were other interviewers) but in one cell for one candidate there was a number value that gave that candidate more points.

All of these may just look like sloppy Excel work, which is what I thought it was at first.  But then I realized that every single one of these mistakes worked in the favor of one candidate, making that candidate's score higher.  Indeed, that candidate ended up with the highest score with these mistakes, but when I fixed all the mistakes, the candidate dropped to 2nd place.  The candidate that the mistakes favored is the same sex and ethnicity of the HR person; the other two candidates were not.

So, tell me: am I looking too much into this and seeing a sinister motive where there isn't one?  Did this smell fishy to anyone else?  What do I do about this?

GlennR's picture

  1. Talk to your boss and run these questions by him or her. He or she needs to have your back. Unless your boss says differently,
  2. Meet with the HR person and ask her the same questions you asked us. Do this in a curious as opposed to defensive or accusatory tone.

Sometimes explanations are simple. HR believes they can score each candidate thereby reducing the risk of being sued for discrimination. Fine theory, reality is frequently different. As to why she appeared to favor one candidate over the other, we cannot answer that. Only she can.. Meet with her (ideally in person) and say, "Help me understand your scores, I'm perplexed." Then listen with the intent to understand, not to argue.

Consider cultivating a long term relationship with her. Try to understand things from her perspective. It's always helpful to have a "friend" in HR. Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill, when it is just a mole hill.

If, however, there is a hidden agenda, perhaps involving favoritism, it's back to your boss.

donm's picture

You cannot correct the past. What you need to do is to prevent HR interference or candidate "influence" the next time you interview. Think of this as "hiring feedback" without the model's ("tool's" now) steps.

By all means, allow HR to review your question list. This is a reasonable function for HR to insure all questions are in accordance with company policy and most importantly that the questions do not violate hiring law. We don't want any "So, are you from a terrorist watch list country" or "are you married or gay" type of questions. Note that there is some hyperbole in the previous example to insure that everyone sees why the questions are not appropriate.

HR need not sit in on your interviews, but if there is a suspicion you are asking the above types of questions, HR may see it as her role to screen your follow-up questions for adherence to hiring law. HR should not be collecting anything nor scoring anything that you do not direct her to collect or rate. This is your interview, not HR's interview. You set the rules. You are responsible for the performance of the selected candidate. As long as you are hiring the best for the position, and can support the hiring process for objectivity, then there is no issue upon which you can be assailed.

Speaking of the historical incident you outline: Keep the original spreadsheet and the corrected spreadsheet. If/when HR takes this up the chain, you'll have your evidence for making your decision. You should never voice any of your suspicions you outlined above, except to counsel should this escalate as far as a lawsuit or accusations of bias from HR or one of the candidates. If your boss asks "Do you think HR was trying to influence your decision toward her candidate," then you have carte blanche to say what you will. I'd probably say something along the lines of "the evidence tends to support such a suspicion, I would say."

Make sure your process is not biased toward or away from any candidate or group. Evaluate honestly and accurately. I would assume this to be self-evident, but make sure HR does not have any basis for any suspicions she might have.

One additional thought: Rework the corrected spreadsheet without your scores and without HR's scores. Evaluate whom to hire with this new spreadsheet. If the result is still not HR's candidate, then HR has no grounds for any suspicions she might have. Hiring someone or promoting someone has a direct impact on your ability to do your job and your future. You have to be certain that you do this task more diligently than you do any other task you might have.

Marvin's picture

Nice information above here.I am searching this information from long time.

DiogenesPerez's picture

In my experience hiring decisions are made by all the people involved in the interviews, is not clear if you get a face to face (everyone in the same room if possible) Hire/No Hire Vote and spreadsheets normally are used for record tracking only.

The current process has been tainted, now you can't be sure if what you get from the spreadsheet is your interpretation or an actual behavior and if you're hiring someone because HR might want to hire him/her or not.

On the long term invest in your relationship with your HR, go and share a coffee, understand her motivations. Believe me is easier than antagonize an internal supplier (HR). Maybe she's trying to "improve" hiring process, maybe she's actually trying to hire a friend or an acquaintance which is not always a bad thing.