New recruiting techniques: Same discrimination rules – why you should be careful

Following a range of recent articles relating to factors taken into account in the recruitment process, including that applicants are given just six seconds to prove themselves suitable for a position and that good looking male applicants are more likely to be given a role over a good looking female, we have to question whether there are any potential legal issues as a result.

As the current job climate is becoming more competitive and challenging, and methods of recruitment are ever expanding with the use of social media, it is no longer the case that select pieces of information included on a CV are all that helps or hinders an application. In attempts to get an application read, candidates are trying a variety of tactics which could be anything from putting a picture on a CV, to including a teabag with an application with the gimmick “why don’t you sit down and have a cup of tea whilst deciding whether I’m worthy of an interview”. The concern appears to be that having the academic success and work experience is no longer enough.

Employers are also starting to think outside of the box. No doubt you will have heard about the approach taken in America in relation to Facebook, whereby some employers have asked for passwords to social media accounts on job application forms to allow them to make a more in depth assessment of suitability. Whilst this may be taking things too far, checking candidate Facebook and LinkedIn accounts has for some apparently now become standard practice in the UK, whether as a means of verifying work history or looking for recommendations.

We have also heard a great deal about Samantha Brick who wrote an article for the Daily Mail explaining the day to day issues of being beautiful, one of which related to being denied promotions by female colleagues, allegedly because of their own insecurities. This, coupled with an article explaining that where it is common to include a photo with your CV, good looking men are more likely to succeed than good looking women, one can’t help but wonder how frequently we might (albeit subconsciously) rule someone out because of how they look.

However, it is important that we remember the potential pitfalls with this approach. Not having a tight hold on your processes for declining applicants could not only result in the best man (or woman) for the job unjustifiably being taken out of the process very early on, but could also lead to a range of discrimination claims, potentially linked to race, religion, sexuality or a disability.

Best practice advice would be to try and ensure that whilst you may be using new technologies to make your recruitment easier, the old fashioned approach of taking each person on their merits and assessing each individual in terms of how they meet role requirements is adhered to. Having a good looking colleague may have merits of its own but it won’t benefit the company in the long term if they are unable to do the job.

Author: Emma Hamilton

EAS enforcement April 2012
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