As someone who has worked in the HR and Recruitment space for over three decades, it never ceases to amaze me just how badly people conduct job interviews and also how little training is provided in this area.
I was recently reading an article based on a survey of 1000 managers undertaken by a recruitment business. The survey found that four out of five managers did not know that it was illegal to ask someone applying for a job, if they were planning to go on maternity or paternity leave.
My shock at this unbelievable statistic in 2018 led to me writing this brief article.
Like any other aspect of living in the UK in 2018, we’re all covered by discrimination legislation.
Discrimination happens all the time and however much reasonably minded people wish it wouldn’t, it does and in interviews it can happen at the highest level. I am aware of a CEO of a reasonably sized organisation who despite being fully briefed before interviewing for a new Head of Human Resources, casually asked the female candidate he was interviewing: “Who will look after the children while you are at work?”- both incredible and illegal!
It’s imperative that interviewers are aware that it is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of Age, Race, Colour, Ethnic Origin, Nationality, Religion or Religious Belief, Political Opinion or Affiliation, Sex, Marital Status, Sexual Orientation, Gender Reassignment or Disability.
None of this goes away in a job interview!
In considering the importance and relevance of this business owners and executives need to realise that your business could be at serious financial risk if it has been found to have discriminated against someone. The penalties can be huge.
If we take a little step back, businesses should recognise that interviewing candidates for a job is about finding the best and most suitable person for the position and for the organisation. Recruiting the best person has nothing to do with their age, sex, sexuality, disability etc.
So how can businesses avoid discriminating during an interview especially when there might be some difficult questions that really do need answering?
One of the best ways to do this is to focus on the job that the candidate has applied for.
For example, there will be times when an interviewer knows that a particular role may require long hours, possibly with very little notice and they do need to know if the person in front of them is able to work in an environment that places such requirements on its employees. Instead of asking who will look after the children in that situation, it is acceptable to ask a question such as: “The role can require quite long hours and sometimes we need to work late at very short notice, are you able to work in an environment like that and work longer hours at short notice?”
On a similar theme, the position that you are interviewing for may require someone to work on Sundays. Knowing that some people may not wish to work on Sundays for example for religious reasons, you could not ask someone if their religion allows them to work on Sundays. However, and as per the previous example you can set out that: “The role sometimes requires weekend working on both Saturday and Sunday and it is a requirement of the role that employees are able to work on those days as required, are you able to work Saturdays and Sundays on occasion?”
There are certain subjects and topics that you simply need to avoid and most of them should be obvious. However, and as I was so shocked about the report mentioned above it’s probably sensible to mention a few. Do not ask candidates if they are married, gay or pregnant. Do not ask how old they are, what their religion is or what country they come from. It does all seem very obvious, but it is very easy to make costly mistakes.
We love working with businesses on all aspects of interviewing and interview training. Cream HR would be delighted to provide detailed advice or guidance to anybody who may be interested.
We will be exploring this topic further in our next blog, which will focus on how to recruit the right people. So keep an eye out for more advice from us in the near future.