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In order for organizations to ensure employment equity, sometimes preferential hiring takes place wherein the hiring managers tend to recruit more of underrepresented members in the organization, stressing less on the person-job fit. Less qualified woman employees are hired when there is a directive to the hiring manager that women are underrepresented in the company. The issue of discrimination in hiring has been prevalent despite government legislation and employment equity programmes by companies. Traditional male dominated occupation like the police force and female dominated occupation like nursing has been subject to gender role stereotyping while hiring. The perception that man possesses more of certain attributes like dominance, aggression, endurance and women possesses more of certain attributes like nurturance and homemaking has led to the stereotyping in certain occupations like police force which is viewed as a traditionally masculine job or nursing which is viewed as a traditionally feminine job. Men in female dominated organizations are generally promoted to more legitimate positions. Eg. Men hired in the nursing professions are generally promoted to "nursing management", which is a more legitimate profession. This is known as the "glass escalator effect" ( (Eddy S. Ng, Dec,2007)
Organizations believing social dominance theory promote inequality and legitimized discrimination on the basis of gender while hiring (Eddy S. Ng, Dec,2007). On the other hand organizations pursing affirmative action bring employment equity in their hiring process. Hence these organizations have more minority applicants in their application pool. The minority candidates hired under this preferential criterion were less qualified, but were no less in performance during the interview as compared to the best qualified candidates (Eddy S. Ng, Dec,2007). It is often debated that preferential hiring programmes by companies pursuing affirmative action policies, leads to allocating jobs to under qualified candidates, which ultimately reduces efficiency of the company. According to George Sher "A person is preferentially hired if that person is hired in place of somebody else who better satisfies the hiring criteria and is given the advantage by moral considerations" (Philips, Feburary 1991). But the "accepted hiring criteria", against which the qualifications of applicants are measured, may be inherently flawed. Consider for example a company A is hiring on a first-come-first-serve basis for 5 open positions, while a company B is hiring form a pool of 50 to 100 applicants for its 5 open positions. Company A will select the first 5 who meets the "fair and accepted hiring criteria" (Philips, Feburary 1991). Company B, on the other hand has a fairly large applicant pool and will select the best performing candidates among that pool. Hence even though company A is hiring by the rulebook, it might select less qualified candidates than company B, because of its first-come criteria. Thus preferential hiring does not necessarily mean hiring less qualified candidates for the job. Company B, which has an affirmative action strategy, does preferential hiring, but it has a huge applicant pool and stringent selection process, which selects the best performers, not necessarily the best qualified. The debate, that preferential hiring leads to inefficiencies within the company is not necessarily true.
Fairness and ethical hiring practices
Fairness and ethics in hiring practices is considered paramount by prospective job candidates. Ethical hiring in effect is determined by how the hiring manager conducts the hiring process and not by the end result of the hiring for the applicants or for the organization. The hiring manager is the face of the organization to the job applicant. Thus ethical behaviour by the hiring manager promotes ethical values of the organization and builds confidence and commitment about the organization in the minds of the potential hires. On the other hand, treating applicants unfairly leaves an unfavourable image of the organization on the applicants. Many applicants consider the interview process of an organization as a benchmark of how the organization operates. Hence job applicants who are treated unfairly in the interview process are most likely to dissuade others from joining the organization and they themselves would turn down their selection offer in all probability. Even if they accept the offer after an unethical or unfair interview process, they are most likely be less committed towards the company and less likely to develop emotional bond for the organization.
Hiring procedures are generally well documented in organizations and hiring managers don't have much latitude, but to comply with the rules and regulations. But mere compliance with the rules does not render the selection process as ethical. A hiring process is legally compliant if it can assess all the candidates and determines who will perform best at the job. This in effect implies that all the candidates to be treated equally; the hiring managers conduct structured interviews, pre-planned and performance based; use a variety of tools for selection and finally go beyond the legal compliance to ensure fairness in hiring. Keeping this in mind, there major ethical perspectives, utilitarianism, rights and duties and fairness and justice (G. Stoney Alder, November 2006) can be explored for relevance in hiring process.
Utilitarianism in ethical context sees the greatest good for greatest number of people as the most important value (G. Stoney Alder, November 2006). If a choice has to be made between an action which will have the greatest good for the greatest number of people vis-à-vis an action which will please an individual or a group of individuals but not result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people, then the former action should be chosen according to Utilitarianism. At the organization level a manager following the ethical guidelines of utilitarianism would choose an individual who would be best qualified and fit for the organization as a whole and not his own department or team. If selection of best candidate for a job results in highly skewed demographic distributions then according to utilitarian theory, the hiring practices of the company needs to be modified to increase diversity which will be good for the society. A company which needs a diverse workforce might select the best qualified applicants form a pool of applicants, but they need not enhance diversity (G. Stoney Alder, November 2006).Hence the objective would not be to select only the best qualifying candidates, but have a structured and stringent interview process which will select the best performing candidates and the hiring criteria has to be such that it provides greatest good for the greatest number of people. To change the hiring criteria to fit utilitarian perspective, affirmative action need to be taken. The first affirmative action approach is to remove biases (gender, race, age) from the hiring managers. The second is to remove barriers that might result in underrepresentation of certain groups. Eg. If a company is hiring through internet advertising, then it also has to address those people who don't have access to internet, but nonetheless well qualified for the job. This can be done by advertising in print media and other job magazines or advertising on radio. The third approach is to increase diversity by giving extra points for gender, race etc (G. Stoney Alder, November 2006). Eg. In the selection of IIM's most of the institutes gives extra credits to female candidates and non-engineers to increase diversity among the batch. Also, in the US, a huge untapped pool of qualified employees who have physical disabilities, are left unutilized. If only 1 million of those disabled employees can be employed then the US government can have 21.2 billion annual increases in revenue and around 4 billion of savings in food stamps and unemployment subsidies (G. Stoney Alder, November 2006). Thus for an organization selecting a disabled employee over one with no disability might have negligible effects, but for the society and the economy at large it has significant impact. In summary, thus utilitarian hiring ethics requires the manager to think beyond short term effects of hiring decisions on the organization and its immediate beneficiaries and focus more on its impact on the society.
The second ethical perspective, rights and duties, states that an act is ethical if it respects the rights of others and performs the duties that are by virtue of that right (G. Stoney Alder, November 2006). For example if a person has a right to privacy then it is our duty to leave him alone. Broadly there are there rights in the ethical framework, relevant for hiring; position rights, human rights and citizens' rights.
Position rights: The hiring manager, by virtue of his position has the right to recruit the candidate whom he finds best possible among the pool of candidates. Thus if there is a vacancy for 2 positions and 10 people applying for the job, then the manager has the right to reject 8. But the manager should exercise his right responsibly and care should be taken to evaluate the candidate on the basis of the job requirements, so that the manager can overcome his personal bias.
Human Rights: To hold the human rights of the applicant, the manager should be responsible to protect the privacy of the applicant and should also respect his personal dignity. The manager thus should be transparent in the hiring process and should tell the truth upfront, providing the applicants honest assessment and updating them about their status.
Citizens' Rights: The citizens' right entails that all applicant should be treated as equal and the manager should not discriminate and reject a candidate on the basis of age, gender, and ethnicity.
By respecting these above mentioned rights, fairness in the hiring process of the organization can be achieved.
The third perspective, Fairness and justice; states that justice can be done by being fair to all those affected by the decision. The three main types of organizational justice are, procedural, distributive and interactional justice (G. Stoney Alder, November 2006).
Distributive justice: A justice is distributive and holds equity, if it does not predict different outcome for different subgroups (G. Stoney Alder, November 2006). Equity in the hiring process exists when no discrimination is done and selection is based on hiring the best performing candidate. Hence according to distributive justice, fairness in selection is determined if it preserves the rights of minority subgroups in the hiring process.
Procedural Justice: Procedural justice states that not only the outcomes of the hiring process should be fair according to distributive justice, but procedures for decision making should also be fair. Sometimes perceived fairness in the process lessens the effects of perceived unjust outcomes (G. Stoney Alder, November 2006).
Interactional Justice: Interactional justice states that people not only care about the fairness of outcomes or procedures, but also take into account the quality of interpersonal treatment they receive from others. Fairness seems to be high when people are treated with dignity, politeness and respect and low when they are treated rudely or harassed. Interactional justice is thus very important in hiring to convey the message of fairness among the applicants.
Building on these 3 pillars of ethical hiring practices, hiring managers can develop the psychological contract among applicants at the time of hiring.