recruitment fair

How would jobseekers feel if employers were compelled to only recruit the quantifiably, measurably and definitively very best candidate for each job?  How would employers feel if a substantial amount of choice and discretion was taken from them, and they had to justify every recruit in terms that could be described as scrupulously fair?

Being the best candidate for the job and actually getting the job are two sometimes very different things.  In interviews, as they have been conditioned to do, candidates try to persuade the employer that even if a measurably better applicant were identified, they should still get the job for a variety of reasons, which aren’t strictly relevant.

Additionally, can employers be held to the content of a job advert, when selecting interviewees or the successful applicant? Are they compelled to disregard anyone who fails to meet the stated criteria? Should candidates have an absolute or realistic expectation of fairness, when it comes to deciding who gets the job? In the circumstance where an advert asks for candidates with a university degree, can unsuccessful applicants complain if the one chosen individual didn’t have one? How about if they were black, and the employer and new recruit were both black? (or gay, Jewish, physically handicapped, Catholic etc etc)

Most people will agree that some discretion should always be available to hiring managers, even though that would then necessarily allow for both fair and unfair prejudice, or discrimination. As I’ve previously written about, not all discrimination is unfair, and even some unfair discrimination is not against the law. Within reason for example, I could decide to only employ blondes, Manchester United fans, or left-handed people. I would be crazy to admit it aloud, or in adverts, but could use my discretion to select only those whom I “liked”, or I felt would fit my company culture. Conversely, being seen to rule out right-handed, ginger-haired Manchester City fans would land me in a whole load of PR trouble, or even an employment tribunal.

I used to have a client who owned a factory manufacturing polystyrene products. He refused point blank to even interview any candidates who were smokers, even though it had no bearing on their ability to do the job. He just didn’t like smokers. This of course left me asking my candidates if they did or didn’t smoke. I did try to submit several nicotine-addicted, applicants whom I felt were otherwise great for his company, but he stood his ground.

So when it comes to getting your next job, would you prefer discrimination which favoured you, or absolute fairness which favoured you?

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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