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4 takeaways about compliance in hiring from our webinar with Oyster HR

Before posting that new job listing, have you ever stopped to question why a particular degree or number of years of experience is a firm requirement for the role? If you look critically at the position, you might realize that a  “must-have” might actually be bias sneaking its way into your hiring process. Not only might that bias cause you to overlook a great candidate, but it may also open the door for a potential lawsuit.

CodeSignal’s co-founder and CEO, Tigran Sloyan, recently sat down with panelists Miranda Zolot and Sylvia Mol to host a webinar on best practices for compliance in hiring. Miranda Zolot is general counsel at Oyster HR, a platform for hiring talent from around the world. Sylvia Mol leads CodeSignal’s Skills Evaluation Lab, which is responsible for assessment frameworks that deliver consistency in the hiring process.

In this post, we’ll highlight four key takeaways from their conversation, which you can also watch in full here.

Note: This article constitutes general information, not legal advice. You should always involve your legal counsel in conversations about compliance and legal defensibility. They will understand the full context of your business and can keep you informed about changes in local and federal laws.

1. Compliance is complicated, especially across borders

Miranda has first-hand experience with hiring internationally, as Oyster now operates in 118 countries. Every country has different regulations that directly affect how you can hire. For example, job posting requirements vary by locale, with some jurisdictions mandating that postings are in certain languages or make pay range available. Rules extend beyond job postings; while background checks may be the norm in your country, realize that policies may differ elsewhere.

Culture adds another layer that shapes hiring practices across borders. Since not every standard is codified in hiring legislation, it’s important to be cognizant of implicit workplace expectations in whichever country you’re hiring from. If you’re unaware of these norms, you risk creating biases in your hiring process, which could be grounds for claiming discrimination or adverse impact. For instance, an interviewer might poorly perceive a candidate asking about vacation benefits even though questions about time off are actually standard in that country.

Miranda suggested working with a local recruiter to stay in tune with best practices in that country. “It’s important to understand that how people work is very cultural. You have to have a base-level understanding of that if you want a fair interview process.”

2. A “job playbook” can promote consistent hiring standards

Both Miranda and Sylvia recommended taking the time to do a job analysis and create a “playbook” to guide your hiring process. A playbook contains a detailed job description, a list of skills necessary for that job, as well as interview questions, rubrics, and guidelines that can be consistently applied to candidates. In Sylvia’s words, “Make sure you have a clear understanding and documentation about what’s actually required on the job. And when you go to hire, only focus on those job-relevant aspects and make sure that the questions you’re asking, whether it be in a take-home assessment or in an interview, are getting at those characteristics that are actually identified as job relevant, and make sure they’re structured consistently.”

While you might need to put in a significant time investment to construct a thorough playbook, Miranda explained that it is very worthwhile and streamlines the remainder of the hiring process. A good rubric ensures that interviews focus on only the qualities that matter to a given role, helping reduce bias that comes from prioritizing irrelevant attributes. Even after interviews, a playbook will continue to pay dividends. It can help compare candidates when making a hiring decision, and further down the line, it can be a focal point for performance reviews.

3. Documentation is key to defensibility

“Document, document, document,” advised Miranda. “You have to have documented the position you’re trying to fill and some base qualifications. They have to be real qualifications and they have to relate to the job.” Not only should you document the role for which you’re hiring, but you should also document each candidate’s hiring outcome. It’s critical to include justification for each hiring decision. Ideally, the documented reason ties back to the criteria in the job posting. Creating and sticking to a job playbook can give you the necessary documentation and substantially mitigate legal risk.

It’s also important to be able to demonstrate that your screening process is fair. When filtering candidates, try to use objective tools over human decision-making wherever possible. It’s helpful to show that any initial sorting of candidates avoided considering characteristics such as name or gender. In some countries, candidates may even include a headshot photo with their application. By taking the steps to anonymize profiles and evaluate them on objective criteria that map to your job playbook, you can ensure a more compliant hiring process.

4. Compliant hiring makes for a better business

Ensuring fair and consistent hiring standards isn’t just the right thing to do—it ultimately yields the best team. Taking the time to think deeply about the expectations for a job can enable you to expand your search to great candidates who you may have otherwise needlessly filtered out. Hiring according to job-relevant criteria minimizes the chance that a bad hire joins your team because they were favored in the process due to unconscious bias.

As Miranda put it, “It’s great to make sure we’re not creating risk when we hire someone. It’s even more amazing to not create risk and find that candidate who’s going to accelerate your work and who’s going to be really happy and fulfilled in your environment. One of the things I think CodeSignal’s great with is being able to help identify those factors that can make the person successful and avoid risk in the process.”

Want to learn more about how CodeSignal can promote fairness and consistency in your hiring pipeline? Request a call with our team today.