Six Top Tips for equality interviewing.

Posted at September 16, 2011 | By : | Categories : Organisations | 0 Comment

Equality and discrimination in interviewing.

One of the subjects I am asked most to talk about and train on is recruitment and selection. Employers are always worried that what they do might be construed as discriminatory. Various anti-discrimination laws apply throughout the entire process of recruitment, including selection interviewing.

Employers are liable in law for any discriminatory actions perpetrated by their staff in the course of their employment. Remember that a job applicant who believes that he or she has experienced discrimination during recruitment and selection could potentially lodge a claim with an employment tribunal.

So here are a few top tips to ensure that you get the best out of your interviewing and keep yourself right.

Be prepared.

The whole point of an interview is to get the best person with the right skills set and experience to do the job which you have advertised. So it is important that as an interviewer that you are prepared as you can be. Know what the essential and desirable requirements are for the job. Familiarise yourself with the job description – there is nothing worse than it appearing to the candidate that you haven’t a clue as to what the advertised job is all about.

Ask consistent questions.

Questions are primarily there to enable you to fill in your information on an applicant. So make the questions you ask short and to the point. Don’t use closed sentences which will get a yes or no answer. Be consistent in your questions

The key purpose of a recruitment interview is to assess the skills, experience and general background of job applicants in order to make a decision on which candidate is the most suitable person for a particular job. Questions should therefore be structured to explore facts, and interviewers should take care not to make decisions based on assumptions about applicants linked to their own subjective views and opinions.

Now it is an urban myth which says you ‘have’ to ask the same questions of every candidate. Now that might help you be consistent but the main point is that everyone gets a fair crack at the whip. There will always be instances where you have to ask specific questions of a particular applicant, for example to clarify something vague or ambiguous on an application form or ask about a gap between jobs, or you may simply need to follow up on an answer you have been given.

The key purpose of a recruitment interview is to assess the skills, experience and general background of job applicants in order to make a decision on which candidate is the most suitable person for a particular job.

Don’t make any discriminatory or biased observations.

This is easier said than done because if we are honest we all have prejudices and biases. Nothing wrong with that – as long as we leave them outside the interview room! You should never ask a question which might suggest to the candidate that you have already made up your mind, e.g., ‘Don’t you think you’re a bit young for this job?’

You should never ask questions which are discriminatory in terms of the protected characteristics. For instance it is not legal to ask someone ‘How will you like being managed by someone older/younger than you, by someone who is Gay, by someone who is female/male?’ These are all illegal. If you aren’t sure why – then find out before you interview.

Don’t make assumptions.

As you may be challenged after you have conducted the interview to explain your decision you should be very wary of making any decisions which are based on assumption or stereotype. Base your decision on the facts you have heard and the information you have. Don’t, for instance, assume that if someone has a disability they are incapable of doing a particular task.

Try to make accommodations.

Candidates will come from diverse cultural and religious/belief backgrounds. That’s what makes your equality monitoring form before an interview so important – some random issues might be:

If someone comes from a different racial background they may have cultural patterns and behaviours which make it more difficult for them to talk positively about their personal achievements – this is often associated with East Asian culture where it might be considered as boasting to talk about yourself in too praiseworthy tones.

Candidates of the opposite sex to the interviewer who, e.g., come from many sub-Saharan cultures may not give the interviewer eye contact because to do so would be unacceptable and disrespectful

Someone who is Orthodox Jewish would not shake the hand of the interviewer – you need to know such religious practices to treat someone favourably.

Candidates may be Muslim – so you may need to be aware of issues such as timing an interview at the right slot to enable that individual to pray at the right time.

Your applicant may have a disability =- you need to know what accommodation and support might be needed, e.g., a lip-speaker, a different text (if there is a written question) and the person is dyslexic etc.

Don’t get too personal.

Remember an interview isn’t a date or the chance to form or renew a friendship. You have to be careful that you don’t ‘fall’ for an individual who has a particular charisma or attractiveness about them – treat everyone the same so that you can see the warts and all.

In addition you are not there to find out more about the individual’s personal life than is necessary for their conduct of the job. So you don’t need to and nor should you ask about their marital or relationship status, what the partner does for a living, whether they are planning to start a family, what their childcare arrangements are etc. All are potentially discriminatory

And a last one- be yourself. A relaxed, human being makes for a better interviewer than a cardboard manager anxious not to do the wrong thing.

Equal and Diverse offers courses in interviewing which explore how to get the best out of an interview and be aware of all the equality and discriminatory factors that might be involved. If you are interested get in touch.

If you would like to make any comments on this list of tips then why not leave a comment here or contact us at

Dr Donald Macaskill

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