What sort of tree?

Last week’s blog seems to have caused a bit of a stir in EB.

I know this because an email flooded in.

That’s not quite true, several emails came in asking me why it was not appropriate to ask the question ‘if you were a tree (or sweet, or dog, or breakfast cereal) what tree would you be and why?’

Listen, friends in EB, them’s the rules: I don’t make ‘em up, I just report on them!

In all seriousness, the rules say that an interviewer can only ask questions relating to the candidate’s ability to perform the role they are attending the interview for. So, unless it’s for the role of Tree Surgeon, the question doesn’t help you formulate an understanding of the candidate’s ability to do the job.

Ah, I hear you cry. What if I want to test their ability to think on their feet and to come up with interesting and stimulating hypothesis. Fine, ask them as similar question based on the job you want them to do that challenges the way they think.

Even asking about what a person likes to do outside work is a bit of a no-no. Here’s why. You can only assess a candidate against their ability to do the job you have advertised for and for which they are being interviewed.

What if my husband went for a job that he was perfectly able to do and he was in competition with another guy with a similar career history and ability to do the job? The interviewer (who is also a bloke) asks the other chap what he likes to do in his spare time and he says spending time with his family and playing footie on a Sunday.

The same question is asked of my husband who then says he likes dressing as a woman and going to night clubs. (This is just a hypothetical scenario, as my husband is the only person who I 100% know wouldn’t do this. Honestly. Probably.) What is the interviewer going to do with this info?

So, the interviewer recruits the other guy.

Based on what?

The interviewer’s prejudice as to what a bloke should do with his time? We don’t know, but in the absence of any other points of difference between the two candidates, we can only assume (as will a tribunal) that it was just that. Prejudice.

Cross dressing has nothing to do with the job and my husband (if he did such a thing) would be within his rights to challenge the decision not to recruit him.

When you are asking questions in an interview you should apply three tests:

  1. Is the question about a job requirement?
  2. Can I ask it of men and women (and can they answer equally)?
  3. What’s my motive for asking it?

This should keep you on the right side, but, for God’s sake, be careful out there.

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