Maintaining high ethical standards within the workplace is crucial for the success of a company, and this starts from the moment a candidate walks into the interview room. Any unethical treatment of workers can severely damage your business reputation and, by extension, its profitability.
The public is becoming ever more aware of what unethical practices in business look like. As such, it is not shy to blow the whistle on perceived unacceptable behavior.
A recent controversy led to a PR nightmare for one software company when the CEO was accused of bullying by a candidate in an interview. The candidate shared her experience online in a post that was liked and shared tens of thousands of times on social media. The incident ended up being reported by several news sites, including the BBC. Whilst an exaggerated example of the pitfalls of poor interview etiquette, the ease with which this one story went national shows that an alleged misstep in the interview room can have far-reaching ramifications for your company.
In this article, we’ll look at ways your business can address the issue. While working with recruitment consultants will help you start with a highly-suitable candidate list, it’s then up to you to ensure you hire the right person for the correct reason.
Do you keep up with the latest discrimination regulations?
Negative press is just one consequence of not following ethical interview practices; there may be legal penalties if your company is not across the latest rules and regulations surrounding the treatment of your employees.
There are clear government guidelines around discrimination in the workplace that apply from the interview process onwards. A fundamental tenet of ethical interviewing is to ensure that you comply with these regulations.
For example, it is essential to make sure that you do not base any employment decisions on a bias against what the government terms a “protected characteristic”. Protected characteristics include the candidate’s age, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, parental status, and marital status.
If challenged, you must prove that a candidate was not turned down based on one or more of these characteristics. If you cannot, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
An example of unethical interview practices and a form of direct discrimination would be to not hire a young married female candidate, despite her being the best fit for the job, on the assumption that she would soon leave the company to have a child. In this scenario, the fictional candidate’s gender, a protected characteristic, is being held in bias against her and so falls short of ethical interviewing standards and the law.
What is indirect discrimination during interviews?
In many cases, direct discrimination is an obvious pitfall to avoid. Not hiring a qualified candidate based on their religion, skin color or nationality is blatantly unethical and illegal. What may be harder to spot is indirect discrimination.
Indirect discrimination typically applies when a blanket rule is implemented that unfairly disadvantages those with one or more protected characteristic.
Some examples of indirect discrimination would include a rule that states all candidates must hold UK qualifications when this would be immaterial to the job role. Whilst this rule would apply to all candidates, it would indirectly discriminate against some based on race and nationality.
What about unconscious bias?
Harder still to identify than indirect discrimination is unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is a phenomenon where people tend to gravitate to others with similar characteristics and backgrounds. This can include characteristics such as accent, age, and appearance, right down to insignificant details such as personal style and interests.
At its most severe, unconscious bias could unintentionally present the same problem as direct discrimination. It could land your company in hot water through a discrimination case.
In a more nuanced scenario, unconscious bias could be standing in the way of your company hiring the best candidate for the role. To operate to the highest standards of ethical interviewing it is important to recognize the impact that unconscious bias might have on the hiring process within your business.
This is a difficult topic to tackle with the staff because no one likes to be told they may succumb to unconscious prejudice. Instead, try increasing the number of employees active in the recruitment process. Adding more staff with a say in recruitment can ensure your company is conducting itself to the highest ethical standards. Unconscious bias is often down to personal experience, by including multiple personnel in the recruitment process you can provide checks and balance on any one individual unconscious bias.
What else can businesses do to improve methods?
Other key ways to ensure high ethical standards are maintained within your business include the education of all staff members.
Ensuring that all employees, mainly those responsible for recruitment, are up to date with the latest information on ethical standards, including the 2010 Equality Act, is one sure-fire way to protect your company against allegations of unethical behavior.
Creating a central document that outlines the key points of the Equality Act and gives practical pointers to staff is one way to keep them on track. It might also be a good idea to hold seminars on the subject, especially if you are anticipating a recruitment drive.
As an additional measure against discrimination and unconscious bias, an element of standardization could be incorporated into your interview process. By creating a template of interview questions and a points-based system to score candidates on their answers, personal bias can be further excluded from the interview process.
Practical tests applicable to your industry could also be an option to compliment a standardized interview format, creating an overall scoring system to identify the most suitable candidate for the job. Quantifiable testing can help you to uphold the highest ethical standards as it helps those responsible for hiring employees to focus purely on the skillset of the candidate.
While this approach may seem a little impersonal, it can help to structure the interview procedure and level the playing field for all candidates.
Protect your business today
A reputation as an ethical employer is an accolade that should not be undervalued in the current climate. It will help you to attract the best talent in addition to boosting your company’s reputation.
By taking note of the steps addressed in this article, you’ll be in a better position to achieving best practice.
About the author: Rob Scott has specialized in technical sales recruitment, particularly engineering and electronics sales recruitment, and has over 12-year operational and commercial management experience. During his corporate life, Rob won the coveted best-performing manager award 2004 for profitability (out of 315 group managers) and won numerous other group Awards for both achievements and excellence. Since setting up Aaron Wallis Rob has steered the company to enjoy double-digit growth year-on-year through turbulent economic times by maintaining clients and making a difference.