This is my inclination: "We liked your attitude, you seem intelligent, and well-spoken, but we have concerns about your knowledge of <some key area>, maybe start contributing to <open source project> or experiment in <technology> and reapply in a year or two."
...my concern is opening up my company for legal liabilities. Am I just being paranoid?
At that point, hasn't the court basically overruled them? They lost the court case. End of story (?)
A system where the loser pays the winner the amount the loser paid their own lawyers will stop most of this nonsense.
I've been at companies hit with employment law cases but always from current or former employees, never from potential applicants. It seems difficult to prove, unless the rejected candidate is given physical proof of wrong-doing.
So I don't think it would be a problem.
- A complainant who loses on a technicality or procedural failure, and is now on the hook for hundreds of thousands in legal fees.
- A big company that bullies the complainant with legal shenanegans until the complainant is worn out, drops the case, and is now on the hook for hundreds of thousands in legal fees.
Just the fact that, after your own expensive legal fees, you'll be saddled with the big company's (much bigger) fees as well, would be enough to deter most people from suing, even if they're in the right. It would become a new tool for bullying the poor.
A better formula for what loser pays would be:
min(what you paid your lawyers, what the other side paid their lawyers)
For individuals, representing oneself pro se is extremely common.
Corporations must have an attorney, of course.
I stay far away from those sweeping personality statements personally.
Sometimes it refers to statements like "commit early, commit often" or "move fast and break things"; that's fine. Sometimes it refers to office interaction, such as whether you tolerate interruptions and social interaction: an introvert in an office full of extroverts or an extrovert in an office full of introverts; that's fine too, though at some point you'll scale large enough that you can't necessarily keep being that selective.
On the other hand, sometimes it means "are you going to play foosball with us and drink with us", which is wrong. And sometimes it means "do you have exactly the same personality/likes/dislikes/ethnicity/gender/etc as us", which is wrong and illegal.
In general, "cultural fit" is a dangerously vague excuse without a concrete reason. Say what you really mean, and if you can't bring yourself to say it, perhaps you shouldn't be using it as a hiring criteria.
Which is why I try to avoid all types of personal questions as much as possible. I do not want to take if you like squash or knitting or beer into account when I evaluate you as a potential hire. So if i don't know, it can't subconsciously affect my opinion of you. I am interested in your job performance.
I guess as long as you're being positive about it, and try to reinforce the shortcomings versus the positives it ends up being a good conversation. Always do it over the phone, email doesn't cut it.
For example, when you talk about the candidate "seeming intelligent" that could suggest that appearances may have played a role in the evaluation, especially if you can't narrow down more specific reasons.
It's best to stick to objective factors such as the candidate's lack of experience in <some key area>.