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How to avoid Discrimination in the Recruitment Process

By: Georgina O' Halloran | Posted on: 07 Feb 2019

How to avoid Discrimination in the Recruitment Process



All employers should adopt an equal opportunities policy when it comes to staff however this also applies at the recruitment process. 


“Persons with young children need not apply”


Amazingly, the above was a job advert posted by a Dublin-based oil company on well known recruitment search engine.   This advertisement is illegal under the Employment Equality Acts 1998‐2015. Under this legislation, it is illegal to discriminate during the recruitment process under nine grounds; namely age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, family status, marital status, race, religion, and membership of the travelling community.

Employers who ignore this legislation are exposing themselves to major financial penalties as even candidates who did not get the job, can sue them in the Workplace Relations Commission for discrimination. 

These claims are completely avoidable and the following is a non-exhaustive list of tips for employers who are navigating the recruitment process;


1.      Avoid blatant discriminatory advertisements like the above!

This one seem obvious, however even more subtle discriminatory messages in the advertisement can land employers in hot water.  Keep the advertisement simple and non-personal.  Focus instead on the experience and skills required for the job itself and not the individual.  Avoid advertising job titles that are gender specific. 


2.      Keep good notes:

No notes, no Defence.  The key here is transparency.  Employers should keep good notes of each interview and make detailed notes on why each candidate was either successful or unsuccessful.  Each candidate should be rated on the same objective criteria relating to the role.  Employers should note the grounds on which a selection decision was reached.  Keep in mind point number 1 above when making notes and avoid making personal comments.  The notes should be kept in a confidential place for at least a year after the recruitment process.  


3.      Avoid personal questions:

Again, obvious but a very common pitfall for employers.  Marital and family circumstances have no place in recruitment advertising or interviews, not even as an ‘ice breaker’ to open an interview.  Questions about sickness, health, or disabilities, like how many sick-days you had last year, should be avoided at interview.    Questions relating to marriage plans, family intentions, children, age, physical ability, and even distance from work or access to transport should not be asked.


4.      Keep to the script!

It is a good idea to have a set list of questions and ask the same questions to every candidate.  Again, this keeps the process transparent and fair to all candidates and covers the employer.  Avoid the temptation to delve into the personal even if it arises naturally.   A set list of questions will help keep the interview on track also.  It may seem clinical but even the very existence of the list is very useful for defending any claims later on.  It is evidence that the employer adopted an equal opportunities policy when interviewing.


5.      Have more than one person on the interview panel:

This is obviously useful for getting a second opinion on a candidate however it is also important to protect employer from bogus claims.  A second person in the room is a witness if a candidate makes a false allegation that a discriminatory question was asked of him or her.  Both interviewers should make a note of what is said and compare notes contemporaneously.


6.      Be careful when it comes to experience:

While it can be acceptable to advertise a role that demands a minimum level of skills or training for operational purposes, job adverts for candidates with ‘no more than 2-3 years’ experience’ have fallen foul of the standards.  Rather than asking for a certain amount of experience or years spent in a position as a pre-requisite, employers should focus on the required skills.  Aside from needing to be over 18 to sell certain products like alcohol, an individual’s age shouldn’t affect their ability to do a job effectively.


7.      Feedback:

It is a good idea to give clear well-explained reasons to unsuccessful candidates as to why they were not selected based on your interview questionnaire.  Make sure feedback is constructive and covers ability as well as performance in the selection process, so there is no doubt why the position wasn’t offered.   This is fair to unsuccessful candidates and may also reduce the chances of an unsuccessful candidate bringing a claim against your Company.

A proper selection procedure should be driven by the demands and requirements of the role and judging candidates based only on their skills and abilities in relation to the role.  That precondition, alone, is crucial to avoiding discrimination in recruitment. 


Georgina O’Halloran



021 431 3333