Diversity in interviewing

Interviewing prospective staff can be as stressful for you as for your applicants, as you are always conscious of staying on the right side of anti-discrimination legislation. Following a recent case in last week’s press, you need to be on guard.

You would be breaking the law if you discriminated against an applicant in relation to their gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, religion, disability, status as a married person or a civil partner, pregnancy, maternity leave, union membership or age.

If more than one person is conducting the interview, it is a good idea for them to meet in advance to agree the questions to put to applicants, ensuring they always relate to the role.

When interviewing a number of applicants, try to put the same questions to each person in the same order. You should also avoid ‘chitchat’ with the candidates to avoid asking inappropriate questions about the applicant’s private life or personal situation – for example, questions about sexual orientation or family planning should be avoided.

In another recent case the employer was ordered to pay £4,000 for injury to feelings to a prospective female employee on the basis of questions asked at the interview, which implied that she would not be able to hold down the job because she had children.

If you want to ask questions about a sensitive topic, such as disability, then seek guidance first. As a general rule, remember to only ask questions relevant to the applicant’s ability to do the job.

Alison Loveday (Managing partner Berg Legal) courtesy of www.personneltoday.com

Above all if in doubt do not ask the question – alarm bells will be ringing for a reason! It is also important to document the interview and update notes immediately after the interview has finished.

Any candidate can request a copy of their interview notes under the data protection act – it is therefore important to stick to facts and avoid commenting on personal traits or anything which you would not wish the candidate to see. The decision of whether to hire should also be down to skills only.

The burden of proof lies on the employer. This means that rather than the employee/candidate proving there has been discrimination, the employer has to demonstrate that they have not violated the law.