One person interviewing - is it justifiable or should it be avoided?

Posted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 6 July 2018
Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors
Issues covered:

Q: We hold a high volume of interviews on a regular basis across a number of locations for a junior role. To date, the manager of the area has been interviewing alone, the reason being that it is too costly and time-consuming to have a second person involved. Given this is against the Equality Commission's guidance, is it justifiable or should it be avoided at all costs?

Scott: Now, I suppose the first question here is, is it actually against the Equality Commission's guidance to always have more than one person interview?

Seamus: Well, I had a look at the guidance because I had advanced notice to this question, and the guidance certainly refers to an interview panel. But I didn't come across anywhere that it said that the panel had to have more than one person on it. I think my view is that ideally and in a perfect world, it's beneficial to have two people on a panel, two sets of eyes, two sets of ears. And there can be a difficulty sometimes where you have two people and they don't agree, and sometimes what we are looking for, a third person in terms of that.

But the reality here is that sometimes employers will just not have the resources, and you do have to consider the size and what's open to the employer when it comes to their recruitment processes. We can see from this question as well, this is a junior role. And there's a commercial reality here for employers as well, really. Are they going to take a day out of a manager's role where they're missing out on important work to send them on an interview panel? And there is that other aspect of it, if it's not broke, don't fix. Or if one person here, things have been going okay in terms of that recruitment.

I suppose my thoughts and around this were that ideally, have more than one, and where it's not possible or where it's just not commercially reasonable to do that, continue on your path of having one panel member. Or maybe have someone else there to take a note because we were talking we talking in advance that it's that aspect of if you are taking notes while you're carrying out an interview, you're losing engagement with the candidate and you are not picking up on certain aspects that you would if you were having a face-to-face, engaged conversation with them. And the reality is, if you're doing an interview, your note-taking is going to be poor. If there are problems that arise after that, you don't have a note to back up what has happened, you're going to be on the back foot.

So I think the sensible thing would be even to have maybe a junior member of staff that's already employed in the company to sit in and take the note, and at least that frees the one panel member to engage, to have a fit and proper discussion and interview with the candidate.

Scott: Yeah, and overall, if you deviate from the Equality Commission's guidance or the codes or the LRA code or whatever it happens to be, you should also record why you're doing that somewhere and justify it. Cost might be one of them, it might be time, it might be it's a time of year. The other thing, obviously, is if you can bring two people, you're more likely to get a balance and probably a better decision. But it does come down to the economic reality, and if they're not getting any claims, they don't really have to worry too much about it. But if you've been in situation where you have been getting claims or you've got a bullish manager, if you like, then it might be better to change your system.

Seamus: That speaks for itself. And I'm also aware, just in terms of in some of the public sector roles as well, that they would have a third independent person there, entirely that would sit in the room and will take a watch and brief of what's gone on and will make sure that the decisions that are arrived at of the panel are not entirely unreasonable or mad, if I put it that way.

And it's a third-party controller that essentially keeps an eye and makes sure that policies are followed, procedures are followed. And we all hear those aspects in interviews where there's a changing of marks after the interview's taken place, there's discussions that go on. Notes go missing. And it leads to the suspicious view sometimes from candidates of a collusion or something like that, and they were going to appoint this person and they were always going to appoint that person.

So look, there is good guidance from the Equality Commission online, and it is good guidance and it's worth a read for anybody that is going through a recruitment process. But I think you have to be practical as well about these things.


This article is correct at 06/07/2018

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Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors

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