Public wants job interviews banned to curb workplace nepotism

Skills-based assessments seen as fairer, but CIPD expert suggests better processes would overcome bias

Four in 10 UK employees would like to see job interviews banned because they believe the way organisations recruit and promote people is unfair, according to new research.

The poll of 2,000 people, carried out by job site CV-Library, suggests increasing dissatisfaction with perceived cronyism, nepotism and unconscious bias during traditional interview processes.

A total of 43 per cent of those surveyed are in favour of outlawing interviews; half of those respondents want to see them replaced with skills-based assessments.

Widespread dissatisfaction was uncovered around the way opportunities are handed out at work, with 61 per cent of staff reporting that they had witnessed nepotism.

Jonny Gifford, CIPD research adviser for organisational behaviour, said evidence showed that bias was more pervasive in formal interviews than many people realised. “Some very respected work has shown we are not as rational as we like to think we are,” he said. “We make decisions based on gut instinct and mental shortcuts.

“Interviews are particularly prone to bias because we pick up on things such as how someone looks, and whether we get a feeling of warmth from them, at the same time as trying to judge the relevance of their experience and their specific capabilities.”

Gifford said interviews were embedded in the recruitment culture of many organisations but needed to be managed carefully to ensure the best people were chosen for jobs.

He said employers would benefit from making interviews as structured as possible, possibly posing the same questions to each candidate and marking against a clear set of relevant criteria. “You could have different people carrying out the interviews and making the decision,” he said. “The interviewer records the information and feeds it into the process alongside references, test results and other factors.”

Nepotism was highlighted as a particular issue. More than a third of those polled say they have seen favoured colleagues receive preferential treatment at work. One in four claims to have witnessed a candidate secure a job they were not qualified for, while one in five believe some colleagues get away with things others would be disciplined for.

Gifford agreed that people often favoured their friends and those they had enjoyed working with in the past over unknown candidates during recruitment, and warned that this could lead to people being promoted too quickly and employers missing out on more suitable alternatives.

CV-Library managing director Lee Biggins said: “The fact that nepotism is trickling through the UK’s workplaces and into the recruitment process is worrying.

“There are vast amounts of talented candidates out there and it’s sad to think that they may miss out on a job opportunity because of unfair favouritism. We tend to see this type of conduct occurring most for internal hires, which can be a frustrating process for both candidates and recruiters.”

But Biggins said banning interviews could be damaging for employers. “Interviews are an essential part of the recruitment process and give a recruiter good insight into a candidate’s capabilities,” he said.

“It is also an opportunity for a candidate to assess whether they want to work for the company in question – depending solely on an assessment would be a huge mistake.”

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