Interviews – avoiding discrimination claims

When interviewing for a vacancy, it’s natural to develop a gut feel for whether a candidate is a good fit or not. But relying on your instincts could leave you open to accusations of discrimination.

In this third and final article in our series on how to conduct job interviews, we will examine what else employers can do when carrying out job interviews to avoid discrimination claims.

Please also see our earlier features on 6 Things You Can’t Ask and Health & Disability.

Consider the person’s suitability for the job
Do not lose sight of the end goal of an interview, which is to assess an applicant’s suitability for the role. You should focus and explore areas set out in the job description, person specification and application form and avoid any questions that are simply not relevant to the job’s requirements.

Do not ask any questions that imply you discriminate against people based on certain characteristics such as their age, disability, marital status, race, religion or sex.

Never assume
Do not make assumptions about candidates.

  • Just because someone is older does not mean they are not technology savvy.
  • If you are interviewing a female worker who is married with three children, you should not presume that they will be unable to juggle family and professional life effectively.
  • Do not think that someone of a certain culture or religion will not get on well with the rest of the team.

Be consistent
You should plan what questions you are going to ask and ask all candidates the same questions to make the process as fair as possible. Obviously, you may need to tweak the structure and questions slightly. For example, if an applicant has gaps in their employment, you will need to probe into why this is the case.

Make reasonable adjustments
Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled applicants in an interview. However, be wary of asking questions about an applicant’s health or disability. Read our article on Interviews – health and disability to find out what the law says in this regard.

Multiple interviewers
It may not always be possible, but it is advisable to have more than one person involved in the interview process. This helps ensure that the final decision is not just based on one person’s own biased or subjective views.

Train your staff
Make sure that all staff involved in the recruitment and interview process are trained so they understand equality and discrimination laws. They must be aware what questions they can and cannot ask in interviews to avoid discrimination. See our article Interviews – 6 Things You Can’t Ask.

Apply a fair scoring system
It’s beneficial to have a clear and objective scoring system, where candidates are scored according to the criteria set out in the job and person specifications. You need to decide how marks will be allocated for each requirement. For example, the “essential” criteria will receive higher marks than “desirable” ones. Make sure that you score each applicant in the same way.

Keep records
Keep records of job descriptions, personal specifications, application forms, shortlisting records, interview assessments, scoring grids, assessment results, etc. These notes may be used to provide applicants with feedback and may also be required if you do face legal action.

Don’t take any risks! If you need any support, please contact your Employment Law Adviser.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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