Hiring and Human Rights
What is a “better person”?
A person who is able to the job, and willing to do the work. Someone with team spirit, and who is manageable. Someone who fits within the organization’s culture, and is personally compatible with the organization and our current employees. An emotionally mature adult with sound and rational judgment. That’s all.
So, how can you get these people, fulfill your legal duty, and avoid the traps of human rights legislation?
First, recognize Human Rights legislation can get you into trouble. Once you start hiring, you have a legal duty to “reasonably accommodate” applicants and employees. This duty extends right up to the point of “undue hardship”. Ouch! This duty can hurt your business if not handled correctly.
How do you fulfill your duty, and avoid the hurt. Start with why. Why are you hiring? What work do you need to have done, and what are the skills you need to get the work done? Do the job analysis. Look for the skills, knowledge, and ability needed to do the job right. Ask yourself this question:
“If I had the perfect person in this job, what skills, knowledge and ability would that person have?”
Now go out and try to attract a pool of candidates that fit this description. Offer these applicants’s information that is accurate, credible, specific, and relevant to their decision-making process. Check out the applicant’s information. Use scientific methods. Scientific methods focus on reality, on empirical evidence. They have rules and procedures that make the information you gather reliable.
One of the procedures you will likely use for senior positions is an interview. Read up on behavioural interviewing techniques. They are reliable and scientific. Pre-plan your questions, and your interview sequence. And avoid the Human Rights pitfalls. Remember – the interview is an employment test. You are trying to measure ability, willingness and manageability. To be effective, you must do the interview right. So, how do you avoid the pitfalls?
Here are some of the common pitfall questions, and some better methods for getting the information you need.
Have you had a WCB claim? A disability claim? Have you been hospitalized?
You are opening the door to the applicant telling you about a physical or mental disability. Refusing to employ someone on these grounds is a violation of Human Rights. The result – – You may have put yourself in a tough spot.
How is this avoided? You should know the essential requirements of the job. Put these requirements in front of the applicant, and ask whether they can perform the requirements.
How old are you? What is your date of birth? When did you graduate from Secondary School? College? University?
Age discrimination is illegal. Questions identifying age are risky. Avoid them.
Where were you born? Can you provide us with a picture of yourself?
Discrimination on race, nationality, place of origin is illegal. If knowledge of a particular culture or area is essential to the job, ask about this. For example: Do you have any experience with First Nations organizations?
What is your religious affiliation?
This is off-limits. If the concern is the ability to work weekends or holidays, ask the specific question. For example: This job requires you to work weekends and holidays on some occasions – Is there any reason you cannot do this?
Have you ever been arrested?
Certain demographic groups have a higher likelihood of being arrested. This may reflect a form of racial discrimination. Instead, ask specifically about convictions for a criminal offence. Even here, you must determine if the conviction relates to the job you are filling. If not, it is not a proper basis for not hiring the applicant.
How many children do you have? Are you pregnant?
Discrimination on the basis of sex, pregnancy, and family status is illegal. If there is a specific job requirement relating to the question, rephrase so that you ask about the job requirement.
You must design your employment application and interview questions to gather information which is related to the requirements of the job. Questions that wander off this ground are high risk.
In summary, fulfilling your legal duty and getting the best employees isn’t rocket science. It is a matter of planning the work, and working the plan. Think before you speak. Take the time to do it right the first time, and you will save yourself a huge amount of work. Remember – fixing mistakes is painful and expensive. Don’t go there!