Hot Hiring Hint from Mel Kleiman: Appearances Are Deceiving?

A client called last week to say she heard at an HR meeting that there are people who actually pose as applicants in order to determine whether a company’s hiring practices are discriminatory. She wanted to know: "Is this really true and can my company be held responsible even though the person was posing as an applicant?"

According to an EEOC 1996 rule, that was recently upheld in a federal appeals court, companies can be sued if their hiring practices are found to be biased.

And, yes, these "pretend applicants" actually exist and are known as "testers." They are used by various agencies and union organizations to determine whether employers and landlords are in compliance with fair hiring and housing laws.

In one case, after appeals, it was found that the testers’ claims of discrimination had no merit, but the practice continues. The only way to limit your exposure is to implement standardized recruiting, interviewing, and hiring procedures that enable hiring managers across your entire organization to make objective hiring decisions that don’t violate the law.

If you have a hiring or interviewing question that you would be willing to share with our readers, please send it to If your question becomes a topic for Hiring Hints you will receive a free copy of 267 Hire Tough Interview Questions.