Not everyone can profess to have the perfect interview technique and most of us learn our interview skills with practice. But there are some boundaries which it is legally unwise to cross and some tactics that are best not deployed, if you don’t want to risk being challenged by a candidate as not having provided a fair interview process. The reported case below is just one example of how things can go wrong at interview. It also illustrates that the courts may well not take a sympathetic stance with employers.
In this case, it appears that an interviewer spent a disproportionate amount of time (half the interview) asking questions about childcare arrangements, despite the candidate having already told them that their partner would be filling that role.
It seems hard to justify why, when an acceptable explanation of childcare arrangements had been given, an interviewer would persist in questioning those arrangements. It also seems hard to justify how a full interview could be conducted if the time that would otherwise have been spent discussing qualifications, skills and experience was spent on operational matters.
Potential employers are of course entitled to ask whether or not the candidate has considered the operational needs of the role and what arrangements they have made or will make in order to be able to meet these. From a purely practical point of view, it’s also sensible to have clarity on both sides what the role actually entails, so that there are no nasty shocks further down the line. However, if a candidate has given a reasonable answer to that question, persisting with it does, as happened here, throw up the very real risk that it will be interpreted as discriminatory.
Employers should bear in mind that employees must be in work for six months before they can request changes to their contract (known as a flexible working request) and even then, there can be legitimate grounds for declining such a request. The important thing to remember is that whilst commonly, business needs can be justified, the risk can be as much in the process and the delivery of information as the basis for the decision.
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Despite Macdonald saying that her husband would look after the children, the interviewer kept on asking about their care, spending more than half the interview on the subject.