HR 22 January 2019

Ethical interview tips to help employers comply with equality legislation

It’s important to be aware of unconscious and conscious bias in the interview process

Are you aware of what you can and cannot ask a candidate in a job interview? Find out how to stay on the right side of equality legislation with these expert pointers.

According to Robert Scott, managing director at Aaron Wallis Marketing Recruitment, good intentions are not sufficient in keeping your business inside recruitment law, and decision-makers need to ensure an effective policy is in place at the beginning of the hiring process.

“Even if your company has the best intentions in candidate interviews, it can be easier than you think to fall foul of equality legislation,” he notes. “It’s important to carefully design your interview process and make it publically available to your staff conducting the interviews.”

Ethical recruitment tips

To help your small business find the best candidates while adhering to UK equality legislation, HR experts at Aaron Wallis Marketing Recruitment have outlined essential tips for conducting job interviews.

Unconscious bias

This is where without consciously thinking it, you naturally favour people similar to yourself. People with similar values, backgrounds or even simple things like the way people dress, look or talk. It’s important to be aware of this and think about why you’ve put a certain candidate at the top of your shortlist.

Question yourself whether they actually have the best skill-set and experience for the role or if they’re just an individual that you’re more naturally drawn to. Without acknowledging your unconscious bias, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on the best candidate for your company’s vacancy.

Direct or indirect discrimination

Direct discrimination is more easy to spot in your recruitment process: rejecting candidates due to specific attributes around age, gender, religion or sexual orientation to name but a few. This practice is obviously unethical and can put your company under threat of being liable to the UK government’s Equality Act of 2010. Having ethical justification of why you’re turning down a candidate is crucial to make sure your company’s reputation isn’t damaged from an inequality complaint.

On the other hand, indirect discrimination is also something to be aware of but can be harder to rule out of your recruitment process. This is where a business requirement or practice seems fair because it applies to everyone equally, but a closer look shows that some people are disadvantaged by it because of an attribute.

For example, having a standardised uniform policy can indirectly discriminate against individuals from different religious backgrounds, or having a workplace without full accessibility can discriminate against disabled people.

Interview questions you’re not allowed to ask

Innocuous ‘conversation starters’ with potential candidates can also put your company at risk of the 2010 Equality Act. Questions around protected characteristics like their marital status or if they have children are illegal and must be kept out of your interview processes.

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Processes for employers to consider

Look at public sector practices

If you’re looking to improve or protect the ethical practices your company employs when recruiting, it’s worth looking towards the public sector for best-practice. Recruitment in the public sector tends to follow a much more formal process and is often carried out to a much more ethical standard.

Consider artificial intelligence as a recruitment tool

New technology may also be worth integrating into your recruitment process. Artificial intelligence can be used in your interview process a way to remove the barrier of unconscious bias and promote more diverse and fair hiring practices.

One interesting example includes HireVue, an AI tool already used by Intel and Nike which analyses over 25,000 data points in video interviews to find the candidates most likely to succeed in a role, without the need for human evaluation.

Formalise your process

Finally, often the quickest win to improve your interviews from an ethical perspective is to formalise your company’s interview methods and publish it to your employees. Having a consistent and robust approach to interviewing will reduce the risk of unethical practices between your hiring managers.

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