Monthly Archives: April 2013

Can anonymous CVs help beat recruitment discrimination?

As the official MK Dons ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ supporters for 2012 – 2015 (check out our Facebook page which displays photos of parents and children from all over MK who supported the parade at the last home game of the season:, I noticed this article in The Guardian.  No doubt you’ll be as shocked as we were…

Apparently, there is growing anecdotal evidence that some UK firms are filtering out job candidates with foreign-sounding names.

It’s alleged that a well-known airline discriminated on the grounds of race when it rejected Liberian-born Max Kpakio’s job application allegedly because of his African name. A British citizen, with a degree in international relations, Kpakio was shocked that he was denied an interview for a job in a Swansea call centre. Suspicious that it could be due to his foreign-sounding name, he reapplied with a typically British name, Craig Owen, and was invited several times to attend an interview. “There was an enormous difference in the way I was treated when I used a British name,” he said.

There is reason to believe Kpakio’s experience is not unprecedented. In December, the all-party parliamentary group on race and community published a study showing that women who “whitened” or “anglicised” their names on job applications had to send half as many job applications before being asked for interview. With competition for jobs higher than ever during the extended recession, stories from applicants and recruiters suggest that prejudice and discrimination are still commonplace.

The behaviour is not just unethical, it is also a breach of equality legislation. However, it is clearly difficult for applicants to discover and prove they have been discriminated against. A more practical answer could be the introduction of anonymous CVs. The Runnymede Trust, which acts as a secretariat for the all-party parliamentary group, is calling on the government to publish an action plan to encourage blank-name application forms, and to lead by example by piloting their use in at least one of its departments.

Steps to introduce anonymous CVs have received mixed successes abroad. A plan for them to be made compulsory at all large French companies was abandoned after the Pôle Emploi – the French government agency that helps the unemployed find jobs – deemed them to be counter-productive. Research found that people of foreign origin and those who lived in underprivileged areas were less likely to be invited to an interview if their CV was anonymous, possibly because allowances could not be made for poor qualifications or faults due to disadvantaged backgrounds. Positive discrimination was impossible to implement. However, the City of Helsinki has recently begun a pilot scheme using anonymous CVs when recruiting staff. Officials from other Finnish cities have said they may follow Helsinki’s example. A German study last year found that anonymous applications helped level the playing field for job applicants.

The British government has taken some steps to tackle name-bias. In April 2012, deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, introduced the social mobility business compact, an initiative designed to make the process of getting a job fairer. Under the compact, some of the UK’s biggest companies including Tesco, BP and Barclays have agreed to “recruit openly and fairly ensuring non-discrimination, including increased use of name-blank and school-blank applications”.

A cabinet office press officer said: “The business compact asks businesses and other organisations to open their doors to people from all walks of life, regardless of their background.

“Its aim is to encourage behavioural change in business to open their opportunities to everyone regardless of, for example, where they are born, the school they go to and the jobs their parents do. This is because skills and talents shouldn’t be wasted just because someone’s personal circumstances mean they can’t get a foot on the ladder.”

However Runnymede Trust director Rob Berkeley said that as of December 2012, only 143 companies had signed up to the scheme “which is not a ringing endorsement or success for the government”. He added: “There is still a long way to go in achieving diversity across a number of large organisations in Britain.”

New job interview questions for a new generation

Posting comes from Sean Conrad of Halogen Software, a market leading talent management business…

As they say, “you only have one chance to make a great impression.” The saying holds true particularly when it comes to the job interview process. With the pressure to present yourself in the best possible light (in a very short time) nerves can easily take over, especially if you’re a member of the Millennial generation and have had little experience with the interview process.

It’s no secret that the best way to reduce the pre-interview stress is to be prepared. Take time to research the company with whom you’ll be interviewing. You should also try and anticipate with questions will be asked and then practice answering them.

While the Internet now enables us to carry out the research component of the process with ease, predicting the unknown, such as which interview questions will be asked, is quite another story. Gone are the days when we entered into an interview room prepared to answer classics, such as “Where do you see yourself in five years?

Rapidly evolving technology, uncertain economic times and changing workforce dynamics make it difficult for us to predict where we’ll be in six months, let alone in five years. Recruiting is no longer just about finding a candidate with the right skills to do the job; it’s about hiring for cultural fit.

If you are a twenty-something in the market for a job, do your research. Understand the hiring company’s business, its corporate culture and values and use that information as part of your interview preparation. Here are a few questions you might want to prep for before you put on your interview suit. In forming your responses, look for opportunities to align your skills, experience and interests with what you’ve learned about the hiring company.

Career aspirations
Instead of being asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” be prepared for more open-ended questions such as:

  1. What do you want to get out of this position?
  2. What skills would you like to learn?
  3. What are your career goals?

What you bring to the table
Potential employers will recognise that, although you don’t have a great deal of work experience, you do have valuable skills. They might focus on questions that draw out your skills, for example:

  1. What are your top three professional skills?
  2. Can you demonstrate why these are your top three?
  3. Can you provide examples of how you made positive difference at school or as a volunteer?

Your commitment level
Millennials are often labelled as individuals who lack commitment (We’re not saying that it’s true). As a result, you might be asked questions about past project experience, for example:

  1. What types of projects have you worked on?
  2. Can you give me an example of project you worked on where you exceeded expectations?
  3. What were the results and what was your role in achieving them?

Personal traits
Potential employers look at more than skills. They also look at personality traits to match the role they are trying to fill. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked questions that are work related to draw out your passions, preferences and weaknesses:

  1. What do you do in your free time?
  2. Do you belong to any social, community or volunteer groups?
  3. What is/was your role in this group?
  4. How did you contribute to the success of a project?
  5. Can you an example of time you had deal with conflict — and how you handled it?

Of course, the type and number of questions will vary depending on the interviewer. One final piece of advice — be prepared for one or more non-related or odd ball questions. Interviewers might want to test your critical thinking skills and ability to think quickly. Some real-world examples include, “What song describes your work ethic” (asked at Dell) and “On a scale from one to ten, rate me as an interviewer.” (asked at Kraft Foods).

If you are faced with one of these bizarre questions, not to worry, take a moment to think about it and how your answer could relate to the position for which you’re interviewing.

Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software. He writes regularly about talent management trends and best-practices for the Halogen Software Exploring Talent Management blog.

Temps leading the way despite economic uncertainty

Continuing fragility in the UK economy has resulted in employers increasing their long-term demand for flexible staffing whilst downgrading their plans to increase their permanent workforce in the medium and the long-term, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s latest employers’ survey, JobsOutlook.

A total of 67 per cent of employers surveyed say they have short-term plans to increase their permanent workforce over the next three months, compared to 74 per cent last month. With regards to longer prospects, 49 per cent of employers expect to expand their permanent hires over the next twelve months which compares to 66 per cent last month.

A further 42 per cent expected staffing level to remain the same which indicates that 91 per cent of employers expect to maintain or increase their permanent workforce over the coming year.

Employers’ long-term demand for temporary staff has risen with 83 per cent of employers saying their use of agency workers will either grow or stay the same during the next 12 months. For the short-term, 79 per cent surveyed foresaw either taking on extra agency staff or keeping current levels static.

The overall number of temporary workers in the UK is at an all-time high at 1.6 million, giving employers increasing options to flex their workforce while the current economic conditions prevail.

The impact of the public sector cuts on private sector jobs remains a concern. A total of 20 per cent of private sector employers now say they will have either a quite serious or serious impact on them. This is in addition to the direct impact of cuts on jobs in public the public sector where 66 per cent of employers believe the impact on them will be quite serious or very serious.

Commenting on the current data, Roger Tweedy, the REC’s Director of Research said:

“The fact that employers have reviewed their permanent hiring intentions this month is clearly a reflection of the uncertain economic context. However, overall confidence remains at the same level as this time last year and it is interesting to note that the number of employers planning to maintain or increase their permanent workforce over the coming 12 months still stands at over 90 per cent.

“With the economy continuing to stagnate, businesses will understandably remain cautious which is why we are seen an increase in the longer term demand for flexible staff such as temporary and contract workers. This is a timely reminder of how a flexible workforce to help employers meet peaks and troughs in demand for services and products during uncertain times.”

JobsOutlook is based on a monthly survey of employers with results based on a sample of 600 on a three month rolling basis.