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To think this isn't an acceptable interview question?

(85 Posts)
louloutheshamed Sun 19-May-13 09:15:24

A female colleague was asked in an interview for a high profile role whether or not having two young children would affect her ability to do the job. This makes Me so cross, and I want to encourage my colleague to challenge the interviewer about it, especially as man in our workplace was recently appointed to a Similarly demanding role, and also has children the same age as my colleague's. I highly doubt that he was asked that question!

They really shouldn't ask this, should they??


MrsMelons Mon 20-May-13 09:24:35

One of the questions we have asked to ALL candidates was around how they would manage outside influences etc, never specifically about young children as we wouldn't necessarily know that much information about a person. If it was an internal candidate we would treat them the same as the external ones. This question is more around seeing if the candidate is will to attend training courses, do different hours etc which is perfectly reasonable depending on the job, ie teachers would be expected to do parents evening etc.

IMO how a person will manage their childcare is no one elses business. If I was applying for a full time job with demanding hours I would not expect allowances unless it was supposed to be flexible and it had been discussed in this way. I would ensure I could do the job and all in entailed and would be a bit offended if I was specifically asked about my children.

CombineBananaFister Mon 20-May-13 09:16:17

Most job vacancies I've seen are usually very specific about what the role entails and the hours you need to fulfill, so questioning someone on this is almost like saying you don't believe they can do it?

Fair enough asking about skills and other stuff but to ask about the basics which are clearly outlined (especially when it relates to childcare/children) feels off.

Having read the stuff on here am really pleased with the attitude of my employer towards recruitment who value a balanced workplace and acknowledge the strengths/loyalty working mums bring to the team - some career focused, some just wanting a part-time consistent wage.

The interview is problem-solving and role-play based so only takes into account your ability to deal with that not anything else -makes it a really fair playing field.

They even look at their vacancies to see if they can be broken down to fit different lifestyles - weekend onlys, during school hours or evening onlys. That way everyone wins smile

CreatureRetorts Mon 20-May-13 06:55:13

I was asked a similar question at an internal interview. Being young and naive I didn't think to question it (I didnt have children at the time) although looking back it was obvious why they asked (the person asking was an old childless woman known for a shitty reputation to working mothers).

Lovelygoldboots Mon 20-May-13 06:47:24

Midnitescribbler, why would any parent accept a job offer and leave two hours early when they knew the terms and conditions? As long as a candidate is aware of what is expected of them and the employer has clearly stated the terms and conditions of employment then that is enough. Most jobs have pretty regular hours and most parents manage to sort out childcare.

Tee2072 Mon 20-May-13 06:43:30

Thank you flowery I was wondering if the question is actually illegal or if deciding on a candidate based on the answer was.

In the US, no question is illegal. But some are certainly stupid.

MidniteScribbler Mon 20-May-13 06:13:56

angel, there is a big difference between an unforeseeable injury or accident, or even taking care of your children/family/cat when they're sick and the parent who lies to get a job, then on the first day turns around and says 'oh, I need to leave at 3pm everyday to get my kids from school' despite being told at interview that the job required someone there until 5pm.

kickassangel Mon 20-May-13 05:37:27

But there is a big difference between saying, "this job requires x y z hours, are you aware of that and able to commit to it?" And asking about childcare.

At interview a person's private life should not be mentioned, you are seeing who is the best candidate for the job. So long as their personal life doesn't impact unnecessarily on the job, it has nothing to do with the employer.

I can't imagine that they would ask about what sports you do, but I know plenty of people who have ended up unfit for work due to sport events at weekend, anything from hung over/tired after a tournament to a dislocated elbow needing 6 weeks off work and unable to go on a critical work trip to see a client.

nooka Mon 20-May-13 05:26:16

I would be irritated if I was asked if I had care in place (partly because the assumption is that this is my sole responsibility) but not if I was asked would working overnights etc be a problem for me. Because it could be a problem for a whole raft of reasons, from personal preference through to caring responsibilities (and not just of children). The second question is something that I'd expect to be posed to every candidate, the first I'd be surprised if a man was asked, thus making me think that there was discrimination at play.

Of course for an internal interview it is very different as those interviewing know you and your personal circumstances, and the interviewing process may well be much less formal (which is both good and bad).

MidniteScribbler Mon 20-May-13 03:34:46

I do think it depends entirely on how a question is phrased. I'm on leave at the moment, but applied internally for a leadership position to commence when I return. It was a discussion at my interview with the head because the role would require more attendance at out of school hours events, attending overnight camps and also some travel to conferences. It is actually completely relevant to know that as a single parent, I had put measures in place to have adequate childcare and provisions for him to be cared for overnight if I need to go away. I see it as no different to needing a drivers licence to drive the mini bus or a first aid certificate.

I think that sometimes people look for things to get offended about. "Do you have adequate care to be able to work after hours or weekends which are a fundamental requirement of this job?" I don't have a problem with, and in fact, I think it shows a level of professionalism to show that you have thought about it and made arrangements. It's a bit like asking someone if they have a drivers licence when the job needs you to drive around town. It's not discrimination to ask if a candidate has the tools to be able to do the job effectively. Someone missing out on a job because they can't attend overnight trips or do night shifts for any reason is not discrimination. If you can't do the job, then you shouldn't be applying for it, and it's women who apply for jobs, lie in interviews, then turn around and say they can't do a vital component of that job that they were made well aware of at interview because they don't have adequate child care are why employers even need to ask in the first place.

Asking if someone is planning on taking a day off if their child is ill, or if they are planning more children is completely unacceptable. Asking if you can do the job is not.

nooka Mon 20-May-13 03:06:11

I've never even been asked if I had children, and would be surprised if I was asked because it has nothing to do with my competency for the role in question. I would appreciate being told if a job really had lots of travel, anti-social hours or regular last minute crisis, because it would affect whether or not I would accept a position, but really that should be spelled out in advance so that candidates who would not be interested in working like that don't go through the work of applying for a job that doesn't fit their life.

If I was asked such a direct question I would simply answer 'no'. I'd be interested to see how that was followed up, and agree it would be a rather pointless question - who in their right mind would say 'yes', as it's such a leading question. I've interviewed plenty and never been tempted to ask what to me is a stupid question.

StuntGirl Mon 20-May-13 02:53:13

Actually let me rephrase - its bad practice to ask it of only female candidates as you leave yourself wide open to discrimination claims; if it can be proven you asked only female candidiates then you will be found guilty of discrimination, which is illegal.

My main point still stands. Good recruitment agents/interviewers will not ask the question as it is unneccesary.

StuntGirl Mon 20-May-13 02:47:27

It is not illegal to ask the question. It is illegal to ask it only to female candidates, and it is illegal to discriminate based on the answer, but the question itself can be asked.

However, due its loaded nature, and the fact there a hundred better ways of phrasing the question to find the information you need, and recruiter worth their salt would simply avoid it like the plague.

Your recruiter is either inexperienced or stupid, either way I would investigate further and complain if necessary.

espressotogo Sun 19-May-13 22:35:17

Why did the interviewer know she had 2 children ?

Bad guider - to answer your question, this was the 2nd round of interviews and in a previous one with a female interviewer ( another director) we had got onto the subject of children as she had young dcs too. I felt no need to hide the fact I had kids as I had progressed in my career very successfully since having them

I assume that this info must have been shared !

I have great satisfaction now when I see this guy and know that he has heard great things about the work I am doing !

Shakey1500 Sun 19-May-13 22:24:02

I work ft with a 2yo and am pg again. I honestly feel I am better at my job since I had my ds.

Are you a bed tester? grin


2rebecca Sun 19-May-13 22:21:05

There are still alot of women who don't have childcare options if their children become sick and so do then take time off work. men are less incined to do this. There have been threads on mumsnet by mothers complaining that their employer was unsympathetic to their child's illness and alot of "just pull a sickie" type replies, with fewer "get the child's father to look after them" replies.
I'd rather an employer asked me a question about my children and childcare arrangements than just decided not to give me the job because I was of childbearing age and they didn't dare ask me about childcare.

I agree the question isn't illegal as long as you ask all applicants.

badguider Sun 19-May-13 22:16:55

why did the interviewer know she had two young children? i wouldn't tell any prospective employer that kind of information until after i had secured the job.
[i guess if she had a big gap on her cv she might have had to tell them why? but if it was just normal mat leave then you don't need to declare that as you're still 'employed' from x date to y date]

ElizaDoLots Sun 19-May-13 22:12:17

'I agree with Flowery, you either need new advisers, or they are patronising you by dummying down employment law for you.' - sorry, that didn't even make sense! You either need new advisers, or you need to ask them not to over-simplify the information they give you.

ElizaDoLots Sun 19-May-13 22:10:11

'Actually Flowery it IS illegal. I take a lot of legal advice running my own businesses and there are certain questions that are not permitted.' It's not illegal to ask the question - it is illegal to discriminate according to the answer given. The questions are probably not advised, because it is hard to prove that you have asked them of male and female. I agree with Flowery, you either need new advisers, or they are patronising you by dummying down employment law for you.

espressotogo Sun 19-May-13 21:27:09

I was asked at an interview (by a man) "you have 2 children how will that work ?" I replied " I've always worked and I have child care in place". The job was given to a man (it was between me and him), I suspect on the say so of this guy ( the agency had told me i was the prefered candidate by my prospective line manager) who was the third interviewer ( a director)but not my prospective line manager. Anyway, six months down the line they contacted me again and said the man they employed was not up to the job and could I come and see them.

I had another job by then but had really wanted this other one so I joined them and it has worked out really well. They are really happy with me and I feel in a really strong position as they made a huge mistake ( they admit) by not choosing me in the first place. Kids or not, I am much more competent than their first (wrong) choice !

flowery Sun 19-May-13 21:13:37

Well if your advisers are telling you there is a list of not permitted questions you need new ones.

I spend my days giving employment law advice to small business owners, and my clients all know that there is no such list.

Noorny Sun 19-May-13 20:05:40

Actually Flowery it IS illegal. I take a lot of legal advice running my own businesses and there are certain questions that are not permitted.

SizzleSazz Sun 19-May-13 20:00:43

I agree with Ruddy to an extent - I will not lie about having children and that means they know I can't always travel at short notice (as I did frequently pre DC). I got my current senior role being open and honest which was appreciated by my prospective employer.

I actually got them to offer me an advertised FT role on a PT basis and said I would do everything in my power to meet out of hours requests. I have been able to be flexible every time they have asked it of me but they know that if I say no, it means I really have no choice.

flowery Sun 19-May-13 19:55:10

Everyone who keeps stating with authority that these questions are illegal, they are not . There is no list of questions that cannot be asked at interviews, despite a persistent belief that that is the case.

It is illegal to discriminate in recruitment, and an employer who asks only female candidates about childcare arrangements is likely to find itself vulnerable to discrimination claims, but that doesn't mean it's illegal to ask. Not very sensible, especially if you have a mix of male and female candidates, but not illegal.

For those who want to ask something along those lines, the acceptable and reasonable thing to do is explain carefully the requirements of the job in terms of hours/flexibility/travel etc, then ask all candidates whether that would present any problems. All you can do really.

Noorny Sun 19-May-13 19:43:24

It is ILLEGAL but I have been on the receiving end of that question too.

I got the job but declined the offer.

Lovelygoldboots Sun 19-May-13 19:41:04

This thread is immensely depressing. When I left UNi 18 years ago I was asked several times what my plans were for starting a family. I have been a sahp now trying to return to work and opinions clearly haven't changed. We are expected to be robots, not humans with lives who may or may not need time off. As women we are clearly not allowed the opportunity to join the workplace unless we can prove watertight childcare arrangements. Sorry, but this attitude stinks. If employers have a capable woman applying for a job she should be offered that job. End of.

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