Interview in Process.jpgDavid K. Williams and Mary Michelle Scott are CEO and President, respectively, of Fishbowl. They recently offered the unique interview approach their company uses to hire job applicants, Seven “Non-Negotiables” to Prevent a Bad Hire.

The Non-Negotiables for New Hires

Mr. Williams and Ms. Scott explain that their company screens candidates using a list of personal characteristics that they dub the “Non-Negotiables.”

These characteristics are: Respect; Belief; Loyalty; Commitment; Trust; Courage; and Gratitude.

According to Mr. Williams and Ms. Scott, Fishbowl’s “non-negotiables” for job applicants, “have become the primary criteria for hiring decisions — things we value even more than skills and background … these criteria are non-negotiable.” Fishbowl notes that adherence to these characteristics have resulted in “unusual hires.” But having close to a zero turnover rate, it is difficult to fault the company’s approach.

But most HR professionals and employers will immediately recognize the potential difficulty involved in screening job applicants on characteristics like those above as opposed to concrete skills and job experience. In fact, Fishbowl readily admits this difficulty:  

Granted, it is more difficult to identify and assess character traits than concrete skills — however, the strategy we are using thus far seems to be meeting success. We ask potential candidates to tell us about situations where they have exemplified each of the non-negotiable traits. Because each candidate is interviewed by multiple leaders, we compare assessments on each of the traits. Later on, we may also move to an actual scoring system as well.

Additionally, basing hiring decisions on subjective “character traits” is not without risks. While most employers would agree that turning a new hire into a successful employee involves finding the right skills and the right attitude, these same employers may inadvertently open the door for a discrimination claim where subjective traits trump skill assessments, which tend to be more objective and provable, i.e., Jane Doe was hired because she had a degree in “X” and 5 years of on-point experience versus John Doe was hired because he presented as more trustworthy and respectful. 

Additional Recommendations for Interviewing Job Applicants

The preceding point is not a criticism against Fishbowl. To the contrary, employers should follow a strategy for hiring the best qualified people for the position and company. But it is also important for employers to have policies and procedures in place to not only maximize the effectiveness of the interview process for finding the right skills and attitude, but also to minimize the risks of inadvertently creating a situation for bringing an employment discrimination claim. In this regard, a couple points to consider in developing or improving your interview procedure: 

  1. Create an interview checklist to use for all applicants and stick to the checklist throughout the interview process. This will give you a consistent set of criteria to measure the candidate against. 
  2. While character traits like the seven used by Fishbowl are certainly important, don’t forget to focus on the critical traits or skills necessary for the position, which should also be fleshed out in your company’s job description. By identifying the skills and traits relevant to the job position, you are also more likely to generate questions that require description and information to assess an applicant’s ability to deliver those traits or skills.
  3. Know and understand what interview questions are illegal. Employers and job applicants will have some level of knowledge that there are questions that can’t be asked in a job interview. Examples that (should) immediately come to mind include a person’s age, pregnancy status, and religion. But, other questions may appear to be neutral, yet have a disparate impact on applicants, or later be used to argue a failure to hire was based on an impermissible discriminatory motive. For example, Pepsi agreed to pay $3.13 million and provide job offers and training to resolve a charge of race discrimination in its hiring process that was brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

For more information about creating or improving your company’s hiring process to maximize finding the right job candidate and minimize employment law violations, please contact Jason M. Shinn