Business Surgery: The ostrich error is to be avoided

Clare Eager of PeopleHR. ENGEMN00120120823160218
Clare Eager of PeopleHR. ENGEMN00120120823160218

Following on from a few weeks ago, when I talked you through preparing for an interview, you may also need to deal with information shared from the candidate during the interview.

You are in the process of asking your questions to obtain the information you need to make an informed decision on which candidate is the most suitable for the role. However, during the interview, what do you do if a candidate informs you about their long-term back problem but that it should not impact on them performing in this role or that the candidate has realised that they do not like being managed by women?

Option 1 is to play the ostrich, reply “that’s nice” or words to that effect and then move swiftly on. This is not my recommended option. It will leave you in a position of not having enough information upon which to make a decision and leave you with more questions than answers. Also if you do employ the candidate, and not address the issue at that point, there will always be the ‘elephant in the room’ that grows and the employee will always have the opportunity to reply “well I told you at interview, and it was not an issue then.”

This leads us to Option 2 - to deal with it. Immediately as an interviewer you will feel on your back foot, as you weren’t prepared for this disclosure and doesn’t fit into a follow-up question.

To buy yourself time and recompose yourself, ask an open ended question regarding what the candidate has just shared and listen to what the candidate is actually telling you. For example, if the candidate said the role will not affect their long-term back problem, ask them to talk you through the situation to date regarding their back issue. It is okay to tell the candidate that given they have shared this information, that you have some additional questions to help you understand the situation in the context of their application for the role. Having a long-term back problem may or may not have an impact on the role that they have applied for, so talk them through the role again - what a typical day looks like and involves. Ask the candidate for information on what triggers their condition and what adjustments have previously been made in other roles. Similarly, if the candidate informs you they don’t like being managed by women, ask “can you expand further for me?” Try and establish the reasons for their belief and put into the context of the role that you are appointing. Ask about how this belief has been dealt with and how receptive the candidate is to changing this belief.