'Offensive' interview questions leave applicant disgusted

'Offensive' interview questions leave applicant disgusted

A candidate claims she was left humiliated and confused after applying for a prestigious role at Channel 4, during which she was asked probing questions about her childhood and her parent’s education.

Antonia Stuart was in the middle of submitting an application for the position of Executive Assistant with the broadcaster, when she came across the “equal opportunities monitoring section”. Here, Channel 4 asked whether or not she received free school meals as a child, her household allowance when she was at school and whether or not her parents received income support.

In an interview with the Express, Stuart explained: “It’s been quite a trawl looking for jobs and I’ve come across many different variants of companies asking mandatory questions.

“It really shocked me. I stopped in my tracks and was thinking, can this be right?

“I applied to Channel 4. They’re always banging on about how diverse they are and they’re very independent and different. I was looking at these questions and thinking, no you’re not.

“You’re putting people in a position asking were you on income support, where you were educated, were you on free school meals.

“It was basically asking about social class.”

Applicants must complete the questions in order to progress to the next round, according to the newspaper.

The form goes on to ask several questions about the type of education candidates received, eager to know if applicants attended a state, grammar or private school.

Stuart continued: “That really shocked me and for Channel 4 I think it’s ridiculous. It offended me. I don’t want to work with that kind of company. How can it be mandatory to say what religion you are and if your parents have a degree?

“That’s none of your business. It was a total breach of privacy in my opinion. It’s very scary and it’s discriminatory and I found it offensive for them to ask those questions.” 

A spokesperson for Channel 4 commented on the outcry, claiming that the station is just as committed to diversity as it always was: “C4 hiring managers do not see the responses to these voluntary questions and they have no bearing whatsoever on which applicants are offered a job.

"Channel 4 is dedicated to improving diversity within the broadcast industry including encouraging social mobility and these questions are being trialled to help our HR teams to get a clearer picture of who is applying for our jobs.”

 What do you think? Was Channel 4 right to screen candidates in this way? Or was it discriminatory?

Comments (19)

  • Sir
    Sir@ Robey
    Thu, 19 May 2016 10:21pm BST
    Hi Robey
    I, for one, am not a fan of meaningless orchestrated corporate gobbledygook.
    If it's not important or relevant, don't ask.
    We HR professionals would not dream of asking if a candidate intended "having a family in the near future ?" - we would avoid this question because we do not need to know, because it is not in the slightest bit relevant to the application (or at least should not be).
    We would not ask their favourite colour, because it has no bearing on the application and would be a waste of everyones time.
    Similarly, we would not ask the name of their cat, or whether they like custard or not - for the same reasons ; it's not relevant, we don't need to know and it is therefore a waste of time.
    I will take a lot of convincing that intrusive and socially divisive questions which may point to social class are asked by way of casual conversation. You ask because you want to know. You want to know because you see it as relevant to the application.
    It is relevant to the application because it will be taken into account.
    Dress it up as you may, that is the intention.
    Let's cut the mindless corporate managementspeak and talk plain english in these matters.
  • Robey
    Robey@ Sir
    Wed, 18 May 2016 3:45pm BST
    I see a strong argument that it *is* relevant. C4 prides itself on its corporate diversity and on the diversity of its output in terms of addressing the situations and needs of a range of social and cultural groups. They have a legitimate business interest in ensuring that their recruitment methods are reaching an adequate cross-section and in ensuring that they avoid unconscious profiling in appointments.

    The main thing here is that it sounds like this applicant didn't have the purpose of the exercise clearly and sensibly explained, and didn't have it explained that answering any of the questions was voluntary. The failure isn't the monitoring, it's how the monitoring was conveyed to the applicant and how it left her feeling.
  • #Anotherrecruiter
    Thu, 5 May 2016 12:56pm BST
    Sounds like another oversensitive person with way too much time on their hands. They didn't exactly tell you that they were only looking for a straight, white, good looking, middle class person that understands what 'al dente' means. Just get on with it and stop looking for political correctness in everything you do you lunatics.
  • Kitty
    Sun, 1 May 2016 7:53pm BST
    Please try to remain calm and read what this was actually about. This is not a method of filtering applicants, it's just an extension to the usual equal opportunities monitoring. It's to monitor whether applicants are coming from one particular social class. In my experience, TV is largely populated by middle class uni graduates. C4 just wants to monitor who is applying. There's nothing to get upset about. You can choose not to answer just as you can choose not to answer what gender or race you are. That section is not seen by anyone involved in selecting candidates.
  • Sir
    Sir@ Mr D
    Wed, 27 Apr 2016 8:12pm BST
    Then why not ask peoples favourite colour ? - it's just as relevant to an application. I'm not taken in by all this "monitoring" nonsense.
    We don't monitor favourite colour because it's not relevant, so we shouldn't monitor age/social class/ethnicity because it's also not relevant.

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