As the struggle to fill vacancies continues, it is more important than ever for employers to ensure that the job interview process is used in the most effective way to identify the best candidates.
Probably the most important element of this is deciding which questions to ask at the interview. While the right ones can help to highlight the key qualities that the candidate can bring to the role, the wrong ones might not only put off the candidate but could result in claims being made against the business.
An employer cannot pose just any question during an interview, as they risk the candidate bringing a claim that they have been discriminated against, even if that was the last thing they intended. Take for example the question put to an Irish applicant: “do you have a problem with the drink over here?” meaning (according to the interviewer) “is the Guinness as good?” It was taken as racially derogatory, as a reference to Irish people being prone to drink problems. Then there was the question put to a schoolteacher with 27 years’ service who had applied for the post of deputy principal why she would be “bothered with the hassle of the job of deputy principal” – that was age discrimination.
To reduce the risk of discrimination claims taking place, ideally those asking questions in the interview will have had some equality training. However, there are some basic rules that will always help.
- Prepare questions – based on the job description and by considering what qualities the candidate will need.
- Use open questions – that allow the candidate to show how they have qualities suited for the role (e.g. What have your achievements been to date? What are your strengths? Why have you applied for this particular post?)
- Give the candidate an opportunity to show how they might deal with difficult situations – for example by asking what is the most difficult situation they have had to face and how they tackled it.
- Avoid questions that are not relevant to the requirements of the job – for instance about their future family plans.
- Be wary of making stereotypical assumptions about people – the risk of subconscious discrimination has recently been highlighted in circumstances where a married woman was not treated the same because of an assumption that they would not be the ‘bread winner’.