Are your hiring managers flirting with trouble in interviews?


Could your hiring managers be in breach of your HR policies? Even worse, are they asking illegal questions?

Could your hiring managers be in breach of your HR policies? Even worse, are they asking illegal questions?

I routinely hear from candidates who are finding it difficult to find a position. They feel they have not been treated fairly in the recruitment and selection process.

What follow are a few real-life examples.

Play it by the book when interviewing for mining jobs

In one interview, the hiring manager had no notes or interview form. They asked questions at random and did not take any notes. The applicant was able to answer the questions — they were fairly standard but felt it possible a consistent process was not being followed. If the hiring manager didn’t take notes, how could each applicant be assessed equally and fairly once the interviews were completed?

In other examples, applicants were asked questions that skirt around an illegal or off-limits topic. Without actually asking an age or year of birth, an interviewer asked one applicant ‘what year did you graduate?’ The applicant didn’t answer the question, as it was evident their mining work experience was fairly significant. The applicant suspected this question was a way to determine approximate age. In a similar case, an applicant was asked about total years’ mining experience in the workforce.

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During another interview, a candidate was asked where they were from . While the candidate answered the question, it wasn’t until after the interview they thought the question was borderline discriminatory, if not illegal. If the reason for this hiring manager’s question was to determine working rights in Australia, it was not well-articulated.

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Not long ago, a friend of mine was asked about balancing her career and child care. Rather than responding to the question, she replied that her time-management skills were excellent, and she was very good at prioritising and reaching project targets. She purposely ignored the question about how she balanced being a parent and having a career. Needless to say, she didn’t progress with her application for this role.

While it seems straightforward, questions designed to reveal an applicant’s age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status and sexual orientation are all illegal.

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Train your recruiters how to act ethically in an interview

Recruitment training is imperative for anyone involved in hiring within your business. Interviewers need to know what they can ask in an interview.  From the examples above, it is apparent not all interviewers are aware of the rules and regulations around interviewing.

Having a standard form and taking notes provide an applicant with the perception the company has great systems and processes and is a company they want to work for. It sends the message the company is assessing applicants equally and fairly and will treat their employees in a similar manner.

To ensure your interviewers don’t ask illegal questions, a well-designed interview form ensures the focus is on the requisites for the role, the tasks and behaviors required of the candidate, and essential qualifications for the role.

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A lot of interviewers stray into areas that could be bordering on discrimination during the small talk at the beginning or end of an interview. General chitchat such as “Oh, I see you lived in X suburb. Did your kids like the school there?” could potentially cause legal problems.

Follow the script during a recruitment process

It is better to have a standard script where you say something like, “Glad you were able to find our office,” then offer a drink and commence the interview. Even asking a simple question such as “How was your day?” could lead to the discussion of off-limits topics.

For example, when an interviewee is asked how their day has been and gives a reply of, “It’s been chaotic; my parents are here from overseas and the kids missed the school bus.” The interviewee inadvertently provides information that could lead the interviewer into a forbidden subject one that even experienced interviewers could struggle to pass up.

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An interviewee may overshare information replying to a question. In this case, it is okay for the interviewer to ask the next question. Or the interviewer can suggest your business prefers interviews to remain focused on the requirements for the role and immediately continue to the next question.

Interviews don’t have to be a complicated process. With good systems, training and understanding of topics to avoid, you can ensure your hiring managers are on track and your business recruitment and selection processes are compliant.

For anyone running a small team, or if you have minimal or no access to HR, the website has some great fact sheets on interviews. 

Mining People International has more than 24 years’ specialist experience helping mining companies with their HR services. Find out more about our HR consulting services here or get in touch today.