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How to interview candidates the right way

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For example, a candidate in Manchester earlier this year won £15,500 in compensation after being turned down for a job. Why? Because she couldn’t work on Saturdays, due to the Jewish day of rest, Shabbat. Her potential employer, although advertising for someone who could work on Saturdays, could have accommodated her needs but chose not to. Therefore, they were found to have indirectly discriminated against her on the grounds of her religion. 

How not to recruit someone

The above example might sound like a fairly specific turn of events, but each step on its own could seem fairly innocuous. You can imagine the process now:

You write a job ad, simply confirming that you need staff to work five days per week between Monday and Saturday, but that should be fine, surely? Two candidates come to interview, one can’t work Saturdays for religious reasons and one can – simple choice, right? The rejected candidate contacts you to review the decision, but you tell her that you really need someone who can work Saturdays – fair enough? But what you’ve failed to realise here is that you’ve now indirectly discriminated.

The key point here was that the company didn’t consider how it could accommodate this. It didn’t have a clear justifiable reason why all staff had to work on Saturdays – instead they used a rota system meaning people worked five days across the week, not necessarily Saturdays which could have been covered by others. Now you can see just how easy it is to handle recruitment badly. 

How to write a job advert

Don’t be vague. Ensure that you are very specific about the hours required, skills you would need, any qualifications, and give details about the role the successful candidate will be filling. 

The last point is less about compliance, and more to help you keep employees for longer. After all, a candidate that arrives and ends up doing something completely unexpected may not feel comfortable in their new role, and could then leave soon after. Hiring new people is expensive, so make it count.

How to interview successfully

Keep to a formal structure

To ensure you don’t get accused of discrimination, it’s best to follow (as far as possible) the same interview format with all candidates;

(1) Thank the candidate for attending;
(2) Ask them what they know about your company ;
(3) Ask them to talk about themselves;
(4) Move into scenarios in which they might find themselves in your business, so as to explore their suitability;
(5) Confirm what the candidate’s salary expectation is and when they can start;
(6) See if they have any questions for you;
(7) Conclude the meeting, and thank them for coming – letting them know when they might expect to be contacted; and
(8) Make any additional notes you may need whilst it’s still fresh.

Don’t keep them waiting

You wouldn’t like it if your candidates are late, so don’t keep them waiting around either. They’re reviewing whether they want to work for you as well, remember!

Read more about the interview process:

Try to interview in an open space

Interviewing from behind a table is rarely the best tactic. It can make the candidate feel small and uncomfortable; whereas keeping them relaxed will help you to get the best out of them.

Never ask questions that could be discriminatory

Questions like “are you married?”, or “do you have a family, or are you planning one?” might be acceptable among close friends and extended family, but in an interview should never be uttered. They can get you into serious hot water, as any decision that you make following a question like this could be seen as discriminatory. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often these questions are asked!

The best thing to do is wait for employees to raise this information first, otherwise anything related to their personal life should be kept to a minimum. Other than perhaps polite conversation about their hobbies! 

This should give you the start you need to recruit people the right way, as well as some lessons on why you need to take this part of employment seriously. Just because they are not your employee yet, doesn’t mean you don’t have any responsibilities towards them. And even beyond employment law, remember that in some cases the candidate could end up being a potential customer in the future – it’s worth bearing in mind…

Kirsty Senior is co-founder and director of citrusHR.

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