Finding the Right “Fit” on Fair Terms

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In the interview process, it’s easy to fall into discussion about a favourite sports team, restaurant, or common acquaintances. While many companies place a strong emphasis on “fit” in their hiring, there is a distinction to be made between finding someone who shares the same values of a company and exhibits desired qualities like ambition, initiative, or technical skills, and someone who likes the things you like, looks like you, and runs in the same social circles. It’s common to exhibit a preference toward the familiar and it becomes an easy way to whittle down a large pile of candidates. In the process, it might be creating discriminatory outcomes.

People of different religion, creed, race, marital status, gender identity, simply don’t usually seem as familiar as those who share our same beliefs and backgrounds.

To avoid what may not be intentional, but discriminatory nonetheless, make sure that you’re getting word out about a position to a widespread audience by posting in a variety of forums. Don’t screen for unnecessary and discriminatory qualifications such as “Canadian experience.”

Try to base your interview on substantive knowledge and ask the same questions of everyone. If this is difficult, focus on qualities and skills. Refrain from asking questions that require a candidate to speak of religion, family status, country of origin, age, or any ground protected by human rights legislation.

It’s a good idea to have multiple people meet a candidate to assess potential.

An employer who overlooks a suitable candidate because of “fit” should examine carefully how it defines that term. Discriminatory practices in hiring, while difficult to prove, constitute a breach of Ontario’s Human Rights Code and the federal Human Rights Act.

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