How To Avoid Recruitment Discrimination

Avoid these common traps for a legally spotless interview process.

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Avoid these common traps for a legally spotless interview process.


How To Avoid Recruitment Discrimination

Avoid these common traps for a legally spotless interview process.

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As you're called into the interview room, a voice inside your head whispers words of encouragement. Just remember you`ve got a flawless CV,  peerless experience in the sector and your research of the company has been so thorough you even know what flavour soup the canteen serves on a Tuesday. (leek and potato).

What more could a potential employer want.?

On paper, probably nothing. That`s why youve been summoned for drill and inspection.

Yet setting aside performance nerves or those arbitrary chemical clashes which can sometimes hinder an interview, surely the job is yours.

Unfortunately not. For there`s an unspoken, but deeply toxic issue which can hamper the prospects of even the most capable candidate. And that`s recruitment discrimination. An unlawful bias, deployed at the interview stage, in which prejudice against a personal characteristic prevents a perfectly capable candidate getting the job.

For while issues of  prejudice in the workplace are well documented, many job applicants don’t realise that unfair prejudice can happen further upstream at the recruitment stage.

And while it would be nice to think that most employers understand obvious no-go areas when asking questions of potential staff (‘so, having any more babies?’ is a bit of a giveaway) – there may be still issues of bias when it comes to shortlisting or selecting potential candidates.

The Equality Act 2010 makes discrimination on the grounds of certain protected characteristics – such as sex, race, age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or religious belief – unlawful. And these rights protect not only existing employees but also potential ones too.

So how do you know if you`re a victim of recruitment discrimination? And how can you circumnavigate it? And if you`re an employer , how can you avoid being accused of stepping out of line


Before the post is even advertised,  employers need to make sure there is a clear recorded definition of the role as well as the criteria which the successful applicant must meet. If it requires specific hours or days or, say, a certain amount of physical strength then keep a recorded note of that. Equally a candidate can keep a record of the job description.


There are questions you simply shouldnt  ask as an employer or be asked during an interview as a candidate.

a)    Any reference to future plans about marriage, children

b)    Never ask a lady her age, so the saying goes. In fact dont ask anyone

c)    It`s fine to say how are you , as a matter of courtesy. But there should be no questions about the state of a candidate`s health and previous sickness absence.

Even where there is justification for a question to be asked, make sure it relates to the role and not the individual (ie why you can only employ people of a certain age or require specific hours).


If you do get asked any questions like this, you can refuse to answer them. If you don’t want to give a ‘no comment’ response you could ask how the question relates to the role you’re applying for, or the reason why the question is being asked.


If you think you didn’t get the job because you fall into a ‘protected characteristic group’ , or as a result of an answer you gave relating to one of those characteristics, then you may have grounds to make an employment tribunal claim.

However, it’s also important that employers know how to protect themselves from claims of discrimination too.


Of course there may be those whose allegations of recruitment  discrimination will be open to challenge. So employers should keep notes, of those job applicants you reject so you have an accurate record of why they were unsuitable for the position. As a candidate, write down anything immediately afterwards which may have suggested any kind of prejudice.


Job interviews can be something of a lottery. With only one vacancy and several interviewees there has to be a way for employers to make a decision about the best person for the job. Equally rejected applicants have to understand that sometimes even the most capable candidates will be unsuccessful simply because of force of numbers.

However both employers and employees should realise recruitment discrimination is as unacceptable as prejudice in the workplace.

Hopefully being aware of the red flags should ensure the best man or woman gets the job.

Danielle Ayres is a specialist pregnancy, maternity and sex discrimination lawyer at Gorvins Solicitors.

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How To Avoid Recruitment Discrimination

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