Category Archives: hiring

The Hiring Games: Recruiters vs. Computers

When sizing up job candidates, should hiring managers go with their guts, or put their trust in technology?

A team of researchers sought to answer that question in a recent study, in which they proposed a test for assessing whether companies should rely on hard metrics such as job test scores or grant managers discretion in making hiring decisions.

For fans of the human element in hiring, the outcome was not good.

“[The study] definitely suggests that more decision-making powers should be given to the machine relative to the humans,” University of Toronto professor and report co-author Mitchell Hoffman told the Washington Post.

Hoffman and colleagues obtained a dataset consisting of 300,000 hires at 15 companies that use job tests for low-skilled positions such as call-center workers and standardized test graders, according to the Post. The authors measured how hires were initially assessed, whether a hiring manager overruled a low test score in order to bring someone aboard, and how workers performed later in their jobs. Testing not only improved job tenure by 15 percent, but introducing human intervention to the hiring process was also associated with “significantly worse results,” the Post noted.

And, while workers chosen for their performance on the computer test didn’t wind up being much more productive than those brought in by a hiring manager, they weren’t less productive either. This finding suggests that “recruiters weren’t even making a worthwhile trade-off between a worker’s effectiveness and longevity in the job,” the Post’s Lydia DePillis writes.

Computer-based tests that help foretell a would-be employee’s performance are certainly not a new phenomenon, and, as DePillis points out, such assessments are “getting better and better at being able to predict someone’s suitability for a given job.”

Given this reality, she asks, “Why do HR people still think they know better?”

DePillis asked that question of Julie Moreland, senior vice president of strategy and people science at PeopleMatter, a Charleston, S.C.-based workforce management software provider.

In Moreland’s estimation, “about a third” of hiring managers don’t put enough emphasis on the results of this type of assessment.

Part of what PeopleMatter does, of course, is develop job tests and offer software designed to “make it easy to see who your best-fit hires are,” according to the company’s website. So you could argue that Moreland is supposed to say that HR departments should be leaning more on technology to make good hires.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s off-base. And she also offered up an explanation for what may be happening when hiring managers’ instincts steer them wrong.

“From a human perspective, we like people who are like us,” Moreland told the Post. “They’re not thinking about the job, they’re thinking ‘I can work with this person, I relate to them.’ It skews their logic. Anybody that says they do not have bias in their interview is not being real.”

There’s some truth in that statement. And, while there’s still plenty of room in the hiring process for old-fashioned intuition, it’s certainly fair to say that fancy algorithms and sophisticated computer machines can help make the job easier.

“What true [HR professionals] realize is they’ve taken something and made [hiring] more efficient,” said Moreland, “and therefore they can spend more of their time on strategy rather than interviewing.”




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Why ‘Scrappers’ Deserve a Closer Look

Every so often, you run across a talk with a message that personally resonates.

Such is the case with a recent presentation delivered by UPS Director of Human Resources for IT Service Delivery Regina Hartley, who gave a talk at the firm’s first-ever TED@UPS Talks event (titled Longitudes) on why job candidates who often don’t look good on paper may be precisely the kinds of folks you might want to be hiring. Or at the very least, people you  might want to take a closer look at . (TED@UPS Talks took place on Sept. 2 at UPS’ corporate headquarters in Atlanta.)

Hartley’s talk, titled “Why I Hire People Others Ignore,” explored the merits of hiring “scrappers” over “silver spoons”—people who had to “fight tremendous odds” to get to where they are versus those who “clearly had advantages” and were “destined for success.”

Hartley, who has worked for UPS for about 25 years, pointed out she doesn’t hold anything against the silver-spoon candidates. “Getting into and graduating from an elite university takes hard work and sacrifice,” she said. “But if your whole life has been engineered toward success, how will you handle the tough times?”

In contrast, she said, scrappers succeed, despite the fact that their lives seem “engineered toward failures.”

“The conventional thinking has been that trauma leads to distress—and there’s been a lot of focus on the resulting dysfunction,” Hartley said. “But during many studies of dysfunction, data began to reveal an unexpected insight: that even the worst circumstances can result in growth and transformation … .”

In non-scientific terms, she explained, “we just say, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Whatever you call it, its discovery has opened the door to entirely new areas of psychological study.”

Hartley also noted that “scrappers have a sense of purpose that prevents them from giving up on themselves. They adopt a ‘what’s the worse-thing-that-can-happen-to-me’ attitude.”

They also understand that “humor gets you through the tough times” and that “people who overcome adversity don’t do it alone.”

For these and other reasons, Hartley said, employers would be well served to “bet on scrappers.”

I spoke to Hartley earlier today and asked what led her to develop this talk for the UPS event. “For years,” she said, “it’s been brewing inside me.

“As an HR professional and an observer of leadership in general, I noticed that so many people [who] I read about and met, especially at UPS, seemed to come from these disadvantaged backgrounds—and it always intrigued me. I wondered, what was it about the mix of adversity … determination … opportunity that led to success?”

(If you view the video of the talk, you’ll also notice Hartley has some personal stories to share.)

Often, she said, hiring managers are seeking that perfect resume—“that flawless, no-gaps-in-employment [history with] no known failures. Because of that, they’re overlooking some very talented people, be they an external hire or someone internal.”

Hartley, who wanted to make sure no one interpreted her message to mean that UPS only hired scrappers, said her talk definitely resonated with those attending, including members of UPS’ leadership team, some of whom approached her afterward and identified themselves as scrappers.

If you haven’t done so yet, check out Hartley’s talk (embedded above). It’s only 13 minutes—and well worth watching.

But even if you don’t take the time to watch, as you begin to rev up your hiring engines in the first quarter of next year, you still may want to put aside some time to reconsider what constitutes an ideal candidate these days—and what doesn’t. As Hartley suggests, it may not be as cut-and-dried as some folks think.

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A New Mission: Hire One Million Veterans

JPMorgan Chase's Ross Brown spent 27 years in the military before joining JP Morgan Chase.

JPMorgan Chase’s Ross Brown spent 27 years in the military before joining JP Morgan Chase.

In honor of Veterans Day, we’re posting a Q&A with Ross Brown, director of military and veterans affairs at JPMorgan Chase, about a recently announced initiative by The Veterans Jobs Mission to hire a total of 1 million veterans over the next several-plus years. It’s ironic, given the training and leadership responsibilities so many of them have had, that U.S. veterans continue to suffer an unemployment rate that exceeds that of the general population. The VJM, a coalition of more than 200 companies representing all industry sectors, recently changed its name from the 100,000 Jobs Mission, with the goal of increasing the engagement and career development of vets in the private sector. Brown himself is a veteran, having spent 27 years as an officer in the Army after graduating with a bachelor of science degree from West Point. His tours of duty included Honduras and Iraq, where he commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. At JPMorgan Chase, Brown’s role includes overseeing veterans employment and small business development. As you’ll read below, he’s a passionate advocate not only for veterans, but for the gifts they can bring to the workplace.

What sort of timeline are you looking at for hiring one million veterans?

Throughout the course of the conflicts of the last 12 to 14 years, we’ve routinely been transitioning about 200,000 veterans into civilian jobs from active duty. So I said to the coalition, that’s one million service members over the next five years. So we collectively decided to make that our goal — hire one million veterans — and, when we reach it, then let’s make it two million. We’re also looking to help the coalition have a greater impact by having an exchange of veterans — if, for example, a veteran applies for a job at AT&T, but they don’t have an opening for that person at the moment, they can alert Verizon, in order for that veteran to be hired.

How many veterans has JPMorgan Chase hired?

We’ve hired over 9,500 in recent years. They work in all sectors of our business. We have a three-tiered process for bringing vets into our organization. First, we have recruiters focused on former military members. Eighty percent of these recruiters have been in the military themselves, so they already understand what veterans offer and how to translate their experience into a skill we’re looking for as a firm. Then, once a vet has been hired, we have a sponsorship program that pairs them with a vet who’s been here for a while — that person helps the new hire navigate the organization. And third, we have a veterans business resource group, analogous to a fraternity or sorority, that sponsors events and activities so they can bond with people who share a common experience, commiserate with other vets.

What do vets tend to commiserate about?

First, let me highlight the characteristics that vets bring. The first is leadership. Given the conflicts we as a nation have been in, we have people even in the lowest levels of the military making important decisions. The second is a bias toward problem-solving: I know from personal experience that the challenges you face in the military are dynamic and ever-evolving and the answer is rarely found in a book. The third is teamwork: The military prides itself on being a team of teams. And then there’s character — these are people who volunteered to serve their country knowing full well they’d be sent into combat. And last, they have a bias toward getting things done. Now they find themselves transitioning to these different organizations where they may be a sole contributor rather than a member of a team. In many cases they’ve gone from being empowered to make decisions, even at the lowest level, to situations where they may have very little autonomy.

Another important thing to consider is that in the military, there’s typically a clear career path — an institutional construct for how you will advance, which schools you’ll need to attend, and so on. And there’s often less of that in civilian organizations, where there may not be that same kind of organizational infrastructure. So these are the challenges faced by vets in the civilian workplace, and that’s why being able to commiserate with others with a shared background helps them in that transition.

As a veteran yourself, what sort of qualities most appeal to you in an employer?

What’s important to me are shared values. If I hadn’t felt that the organizational values here at JPMorgan Chase were consistent with my own, then I wouldn’t have joined. Second, I have to feel that whatever business the organization is in, there has to be a commitment to excellence. What attracted me to this job was the opportunity to have a positive impact on peoples’ lives, on veterans’ lives.

Are there some common misperceptions about veterans that can get in the way of them finding work — for example, misconceptions about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder?

This is my perspective, and it’s borne out by statistics: For the majority of vets transitioning today, if they served in combat, they are strengthened by it. They’ve been strengthened by that experience. And that’s the bottom line.

What are the biggest roadblocks standing in the way of veterans finding good jobs?

There needs to be universal acknowledgement that vets are good for business and we need to continue creating pathways for them to be employed. It’s not that there’s no desire to hire them, but what’s the best way to acquire them.

What’s your advice to HR leaders who want their organizations to hire more veterans?

I would suggest they get their companies to join our coalition, The Veterans Jobs Mission, because we offer a support structure to help them employ veterans in whatever industry sector they’re in. We represent a community that shares lessons learned, discusses benefits and opportunities, and so that’s what I’d suggest: Join us.

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Changing Priorities for Recruiters

How different will the world of recruiting look five years from now? If you ask Kevin Wheeler, founder of The Future of Talent Institute in Fremont, Calif., the answer is really different!

ThinkstockPhotos-478800411Wheeler, a self-described “futurist,” told attendees at this week’s Recruiting Trends Conference at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando, Fla., that recruiters should brace for dramatic change in the coming months and years.

Among a few of the forces at work in reshaping the recruiting landscape are increased automation and the changing nature of work.

Because of automation, Wheeler said, “mid-level and manufacturing-worker jobs are disappearing,” opening the way for workers who possess significantly higher skill levels.

“I was in Australia a few weeks ago, where they have McDonald’s with no workers in the front of the store,” he recalled. “You order on a kiosk … and they have two employees bring your food out.

”Think of all of those people who work at McDonald’s who won’t have jobs in a few years,” he said.

Wheeler pointed to an Oxford University study titled The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation? showing that telemarketers, accountants and auditors, and retail sales people were among the jobs most at risk of disappearing.

Recruiters, he said, are also going to become much more technologically savvy.

“You probably have read [Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee’s 2011 book] Race Against the Machine — that we’re competing against computers and technology,” he said. But a better way to think about it, he added, is as a race with the machine, because if you end up racing against the machine, you’re going to lose!

Wheeler noted that recruiters are also going to need to get their hands around a workplace that includes many more contract workers. (Gig workers were the subject of a recent HRE cover story titled “The Contingent Quandary.”) When he asked how many of those in the room were involved in selecting contract workers, only a few hands went up. But in the future, he predicted, recruiters are going to need to play a much more active role in advising hiring managers on the merits of bringing in such workers, based on the type of work that needs to be done.

“Forget about culture,” he said. “It’s going to be more about whether or not that person can repair this chair.”

As a result, Wheeler said, recruiters are going to need to possess a different set of skills, such as social intelligence, virtual collaboration, co-creation and cross-cultural competence. “These are going to be core to your survival, not interviewing skills and sourcing skills,” he said. “Computers can do those.”

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Leveraging Video at Delta Air Lines

220px-DeltaAirLinesHQAtlantaGAGetting from a pool of 800,000 job candidates seeking flight-attendant positions down to 10,000 is no easy feat.

But it certainly doesn’t hurt that cause having the right technologies in place. Just ask Chris Collins, vice president of global HR services for Delta Air Lines.

In a session titled “Delta’s Digital Transformation: Modernizing Recruiting to Align with Business Strategy” at the HR Tech Conference yesterday, Collins (speaking along with Mark Newman, president and CEO of HireVue) shared how Delta was able to use video-screening technology to trim its flight-attendant candidate pool down to 10,000 individuals.

Collins told attendees that Delta looks for five key attributes in the people it hires: honesty, integrity, respect, perseverance and servant leadership. “Every airline can replicate routes, can replicate airplanes … can replicate price,” he said. “But what they can’t replicate is people … and culture.”

At every stage of Delta’s hiring process, Collins said, job candidates are able to view (through their mobile devices) nicely produced videos showing what the flight attendant’s job entails. The objective, he explains, is to make the job real clear to those expressing interest in it and encourage some of them to take leave of the process.

Delta was able to further reduce the number of candidates through its use of HireVue’s video-based screening platform. Eventually, the very best candidates left in the pool were brought in for onsite interviews.

“It’s not a 30-minute ‘Hello, how are you doing?’ interview,” Collins said. “It’s a half-day experience. We do that because we want to know how you’re going to interact on a daily basis with those you’re going to have to serve.”

In all, Delta’s multi-step process serves as one more example of the power of video and the prominent role it can play to pare down a huge pool of candidate to something much more manageable (but still huge) and ensure that the very best candidates are the ones who ultimately receive job offers.

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Top Performer, Or Just Great at Interviewing?

453124957 -- job interviewI was intrigued by Robert Herjavec’s take on the interviewing process that he recently shared on LinkedIn enough to share it here myself.

He’s the founder of the Herjavec Group, a Toronto-based information-security company, and has a pretty straightforward approach to figuring out if someone you’re interviewing is going to be with you long-term or not.

In order to be part of the team at his company, he says, “you’ve got to be a self-starter, an independent thinker, someone who is comfortable digging in and getting your hands dirty, and ideally, a strong leader … someone capable of clearly communicating your vision to your teammates.”

That could describe many organizations, I’m sure. The trick, he says, is to ensure that’s the person talking to you across your desk, the job candidate who seems to be saying all the right things. As Herjavec puts it:

“Everyone always says they are motivated in an interview. Everyone is comfortable to put in the hours, do whatever it takes to succeed … we hear it all the time. [The key is this:] How do you separate the top performers from those who simply have strong interview skills?”

One of the things he likes to do, he says, is “get to the core of someone’s skill set.” He does this is a nice, smooth, roundabout — some might say tricky — way.

“For example, if I’m interviewing for a sales role, I ask about the individual’s primary motivators. Then I let them know there is an opening in our marketing team and ask if they would be interested in learning more. To me, someone in sales needs to be laser-focused on achieving their target and driving for that number. It’s not the same person that I would hire to work on our marketing or communications team. If you waver in your approach and express interest in the second role, you’re not the person for my team.”

He also asks direct — I’d even call them aggressive — questions during an interview, such as “Why should I hire you?” “Tell me your perspective on our brand.” Or “What’s your take on the latest industry breach or happening?” As he puts it:

“If they can’t handle a conversation with me, I’m not confident to have them engage with our valued customers.”

I love the strategy here. And the aggression. No surprise Herjavec has also enjoyed a career in race-car driving.

No coddling the candidates at Herjavec Group, where multiple members of the executive team are asked to meet each one before he or she is brought on board. I guess a far cry from making sure their candidate experience is an easy and pleasant one. And probably no huge concern that word might get out on college campuses or social-media sites about the rough ordeal in store for would-be employees there.

Perhaps something to consider when you’re looking to upgrade your caliber of new hires … ?


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Making a First (and Fast) Impression

In baseball, there are can’t-miss talents with potential that’s abundantly and immediately clear.

Take Mike Trout, for instance. At age 24, the Anaheim Angels centerfielder/four-time American League All-Star/freakish baseball prodigy’s trophy case already includes the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year, 2014 AL Most Valuable Player and two All-Star Game MVP awards. And, as one of a handful of names on the short list for this year’s AL MVP, he may soon be taking home more hardware.

Then there are late bloomers like the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista. The right fielder and occasional third baseman showed flashes in his first five years at the big-league level, but not enough to keep him from being jettisoned by four teams between 2004 and 2008. Bautista finally broke out in 2010—his third season with the Jays and first in a full-time role with the club—when he earned his first of six All-Star Game selections. Since then, he’s led baseball in home runs twice, picked up two Hank Aaron awards and bashed his way to three Silver Slugger awards as well.

The point of all this is that some don’t start as strong as others, and being patient with a prospect just might pay off in a big way sometime down the road.

Those in the corporate world, however, apparently don’t have that kind of time.

Consider a recent online survey, in which 319 executives at companies with revenues of at least $1 billion shared their thoughts on entry-level employees. In the poll, 78 percent of respondents said they think employers take less than three months to make a judgment as to whether an entry-level employee is likely to succeed with the organization. Twenty-seven percent said they form an opinion within the first two weeks.

Now, this particular Harris poll was commissioned by Fullbridge Inc., an education technology company with a learning platform that offers “everything students and young professionals need to rise to the next level,” according to Fullbridge.

It’s natural—and not unfair, I think—to be a bit skeptical of this sort of poll, given the company that commissioned it just happens to offer the type of technology designed to make sure these fresh-faced young employees thrive in your organization.

But that’s not really here or there, at least as far as my purposes here are concerned. Misgivings about survey methodology aside, the aforementioned findings—especially the percentage of companies saying new employees essentially have 10 business days to prove themselves—still seem to beg the question: How long should it take to get a good read on a young, new employee’s likelihood for success? For that matter, what sort of variables should factor into making that judgment?

I put those questions to Dave Ulrich, Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan, partner at The RBL Group and frequent contributor to HRE.

Not surprisingly, there’s no specific timeframe for predicting—at least not with any real accuracy—how an entry-level worker’s going to fare over the long haul, says Ulrich. And he cautions against rushing to judge new employees in their first few weeks on the job.

“First impressions limit future impressions,” says Ulrich. “This is sad, because many first impressions are based on visible look and feel, and real impact often comes from insight and ability to manage relationships.”

Still, 90 days or so should be long enough to gain a sense of how an employee’s going to perform, he says, adding that “it’s important to give new employees autonomous responsibility for a task or project to determine their technical skills and cultural fit.”

It’s even more critical, he says, “to know if they have ‘learning agility’ and an ability to adapt and change [when] given new information.”

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Chipotle and the Full-Court Hiring Press

If at some point today you feel overwhelmed, take a second to consider what hiring managers at Chipotle Mexican Grill are up to at the moment.

As you might have heard, the Denver-based casual eatery chain has declared its intentions to bring on 4,000 new employees today, as part of its first-ever National Career Day. According to the company, management teams at each of its 1,800-plus restaurants in the U.S. will hold open interviews for up to 60 applicants between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. this morning, with interested candidates invited to register for a sit-down at the Chipotle of their choice by visiting

Most of the openings are for entry-level crew jobs, which primarily entail taking orders and preparing food, Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold recently told USA Today.

Nevertheless, the people who ultimately fill these positions will have opportunities to grow and advance within the organization, according to Arnold, who points out that Chipotle promoted more than 10,000 of its people into management roles within the last year.

“When we hire crew, we look to identify individuals that we think have the motivation and the capability to move into management or leadership positions,” Arnold told USA Today, adding that this is the first time Chipotle has attempted hiring in such large numbers in such a short timeframe.

It’s certainly an ambitious undertaking that may net Chipotle scores of valuable new employees. And, from a PR perspective, it could be a tremendous (if short-term) boon for the company. But the initiative may wind up having some unintended consequences as well, says Claire Bissot, HR consulting manager at Leawood, Kan.-based CBIZ Human Capital Services.

By offering an extreme number of open positions, “[Chipotle has] the potential to attract individuals from other restaurants who are not currently looking for a job, as well as individuals looking to apply for Chipotle, resulting in a significant increase in their hiring pool.”

At the same time, mass hiring “may also cause individuals who wouldn’t normally make it through the recruiting process to be hired and later terminated.”

The problem with this approach, she says, “is the lost resources for training and onboarding these individuals, causing low retention and high turnover cost. Ultimately, what they are trying to achieve may be counteracted, and what looked like a quick solution could financially impact the company in the near term.”

Marketing would seem to be “the key focus” of a hiring effort like this one, continues Bissot, noting that many organizations could stand to be more efficient in their recruiting and onboarding processes, and more creative in positioning their companies as great places to work.

All that said, however, “adding volume is not always a good solution, and while forcing mass hiring of this volume appears to provide short-term results, doing so could end up hurting companies more.”

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Welcoming Back the Boomerang Employee

Top-notch talent is hard to find. With an improving economy and a more job seeker-friendly labor market adding degrees of difficulties to the search, employers may be wise to seek out familiar faces on the recruiting trail.

So suggests new research released this week, the first study in the Employee Engagement Series, commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. and

In the poll, nearly half of 601 HR professionals claimed their organizations previously had a policy against rehiring former employees, even those who left in good standing. Seventy-six percent, however, reported they are now more receptive to the idea of bringing back such workers, with nearly two-thirds of 604 people managers saying the same.

In total, 1,807 respondents completed the survey, with 602 full-time, non-managing employees participating as well. Among these workers, just 15 percent said they had gone back to a former employer, but close to 40 percent indicated they would consider it.

In addition, 85 percent of the HR professionals polled said they have received job applications from former employees in the past five years, and 40 percent reported their organizations hired about half of those applicants seeking a second tour of duty. Fifty-six percent of HR professionals and 51 percent of managers indicated they give “high” or “very high” priority to job applicants who were ex-employees that departed on good terms. (Just 6 percent and 9 percent, respectively, reported giving zero priority to former colleagues.)

This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course. Two years ago, for instance, CareerXRoads found boomerang hires ranking sixth in terms of hiring volume, just behind college recruits.

Julie Cook Ramirez pointed out as much in a 2014 HRE feature. In “Coming Home,” she noted that attitudes toward rehiring former employees began to shift as long ago as the late 1990s, when the dot-com boom sent scores of workers scattering in pursuit of entrepreneurial opportunities and made recruiting a challenge for more established companies.

While there’s always the concern that boomerang employees are a perpetual flight risk, the theoretical value of bringing back proven entities—knowledge of the business and company culture, for example—seems evident. As does the sense in expanding the candidate pool at a time when talent figures to become more scarce.

As for how to create a work environment that would make them want to return? The answer is simple and unsurprising: treat them right the first time.

“The best boomerang strategy for forward-thinking organizations is to ensure that employees are engaged and feel appreciated while at work,” says David Almeda, chief people officer at Kronos, in a statement.

“That way, if employees decide to leave to explore other career options, the organization will be on the short list of employer options if their career situation changes and they are looking for a more positive opportunity.”

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Target Pays the Price for Problematic Assessments

You never have to look far for examples of big companies spending big money to deal with claims of discriminatory employment practices.

This week’s cautionary tale comes courtesy of Target Corp.

On Monday, the Minneapolis-based discount chain agreed to pay $2.8 million to resolve charges of discrimination stemming from employment assessments used by Target, which “disproportionately screened out applicants for exempt-level professional positions based on race and sex,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The payout will be distributed among more than 3,000 individuals.

In its investigation of the retail giant, the EEOC determined that the assessment tests Target administered to thousands of candidates—who were ultimately rejected—for upper-level positions were not job-related, and violated Title VII of the Civils Right Act of 1964.

In addition to finding that the assessments unduly eliminated individuals in particular groups from consideration—namely African-Americans, Asians and women, according to the EEOC—the Washington-based agency determined that one of the assessments Target had been using violated the American with Disabilities Act. In this case, applicants were subjected to medical examinations prior to an offer of employment, which, as the EEOC notes, is prohibited by the ADA. Finally, the EEOC found that Target committed recordkeeping violations by failing to maintain records adequately enough to evaluate the impact of its hiring processes.

While maintaining that it didn’t act improperly regarding the assessments, Target did stop using the tests in question during the EEOC’s investigation, and has “agreed to better track its testing process and check for impact based on race, ethnicity and gender,” according to Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder.

In the same statement, Snyder noted that Target had relied on these tests “over the past decade,” and said the EEOC concluded that “only a small fraction of the assessments … could have been problematic.”

The settlement underscores the “quite risky” nature of the pre-employment assessments commonly used by many employers, says Tashwanda Pinchback Dixon, an Atlanta-based attorney at Balch & Bingham, and a member of the firm’s labor and employment and litigation practice groups.

“It’s important that employers take a very close look at these tests and make sure there is a clear link to business necessity,” says Dixon, whose experience includes focusing on Title VII sex and race discrimination claims.

Ensuring such a connection “is even more critical with tests that seek medical information, because of the ADA and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act,” adds Dixon.

In most instances, she says, “a case can be made for business necessity when the position requires manual labor, such as manual lifting requirements.”

In Target’s case, however, “the link to business necessity is not as obvious.”

In light of this week’s settlement, Dixon says that employers should expect their pre-employment assessments to come under scrutiny by candidates and—if brought to its attention—the EEOC.

As such, “employers should also evaluate and monitor whether their assessments have an adverse impact on any protected class,” she says, “including race, gender and individuals with disabilities.”

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