Three Smart Hiring Tips to Minimize Sexual Harassment

Jason Hanold, CEO and CO-Managing Partner of Hanold Associates, a boutique HR executive search firm, offers tips to HR leaders for sexual harassment—the current hot topic in board meetings, HR departments and the media.


Few human resources issues have exploded in importance as rapidly and dramatically as sexual harassment has in recent months. In fact, the interest on this topic from HR leaders is more than what I’ve experienced collectively in the past 15 years.

I’ve heard from several HR leaders that they’ve been asked by their boards to report on how their companies are addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. Other HR leaders are asking for recommendations for consultants who specialize in sexual harassment training. Proactive leaders are devoting an intense level of interest into this topic.

In addition to the immediate steps of evaluating your company’s current sexual harassment protocols and culture and providing up-to-date training to employees, you must examine the nuances of your interviewing process. You don’t want your business in the media headlines for the wrong reasons related to sexual harassment.

There are three areas to focus on during the interview process to help prevent an issue with a new hire:

  • Take sexual harassment rumors seriously: it’s easy to dismiss unproven allegations, but dismissing them without investigating is negligence. We’ve heard time and again about major public figures who stepped down because of harassment allegations, then inevitably heard that there was chatter about them well before these incidents came to light. It’s wise to make a couple extra calls to ensure a potential new hires positive reputation is justified.
  • Formalize background checks and referencing: most companies do an appropriate amount of background checking and referencing before hiring, but it’s a good idea to make sure you have a consistent process for all candidates, even if some of them come highly recommended by friends and other employees.
  • Diversify the interview process: get both genders involved. It’s not always easy to figure out how well a new hire will fit into your evolving culture, even if you have known this person for years. To cover off on your potential blind spots and biases, be sure to include a variety of team members to interview a candidate so they can provide valuable input from their point of view. Are their observable behaviors indicating that a candidate is engaging and responding differently to one gender versus another? Involving both genders in the assessment process is critical.

Being mindful of your hiring processes can help mitigate your risk in this area that has had explosive consequences in all areas of business over the past several months. These three areas will go a long way in your efforts.