Facebook Feminism

Until somebody decided to shoot up a nightclub in Germany, this was running as front-page news on the BBC’s website:

Fairer pay for women must be backed up by stronger policies at work, according to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.

But the firm’s chief operating officer, in an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, said the first step is to “start paying women well”.

She chose Beyonce’s empowering Run The World (Girls) as her first song.

This Beyoncé:

It’s one way to become empowered, I suppose.

She said: “We start telling little girls not to lead at a really young age and we start to tell boys [to] lead at a very young age. That is a mistake.”

We do? Okay, I can probably believe that in some countries with cultures we’re encouraged to embrace that little girls are told not to lead, but in the West? Really? Who is saying this, and where? This is bullshit.

“I believe everyone has inside them the ability to lead…”

Then you’re an idiot. Not everyone is a leader, just as not everyone is a loyal lieutenant, and not everyone is an essential specialist, and not everyone is an equally important plodder. If you’ve not understood this, you’ve not understood leadership at all.

“…and we should let people choose that not based on their gender but on who they are and who they want to be.”

Oh please. We’ve had women leaders since at least Cleopatra. Who, and where, are girls being told they cannot lead because of their gender? All I see on the webpages of major corporations is how important women are and how proud they are to have a load of them in senior positions. The fact we have a female COO carping at us in the national press ought to tell us that this isn’t really a problem. Whereas it is boys that are being failed by schools, more girls than boys are graduating from college and now lead in such fields as law and medicine, and young men are still committing suicide at a far higher rate than women.

Ms Sandberg made headlines in 2013 with her book “Lean in” about female empowerment in the workplace.

It became a worldwide bestseller, but was criticised by some for being elitist and unrealistic for many women not in her privileged position.

You mean not all women agreed, and cat-fighting ensued? I don’t believe it.

In the interview, she also called for more to be done around the gender pay gap between men and women.

The gender pay gap that Christina Hoff Sommers has debunked numerous times as being a complete myth?

Ms Sandberg admitted she had struggled with self-doubt at Harvard

The BBC’s poster-child for female empowerment and leadership wrung her hands in self-doubt while at America’s top university? Did Katherine the Great doubt herself?

…and recognised that women more than men underestimated their own worth, preventing them from putting themselves forward or asking for a pay rise.

A minute ago everyone was capable of leadership, and we need more women in such positions. Now we find they underestimate themselves. Sorry, but I prefer anyone presuming to be my leader to be a little less wet. Attila the Hun is my benchmark.

“We need to start paying women well and we need the public and the corporate policy to get there,” she said.

Says the woman who made over $18m in 2016.

“Certainly, women applying for jobs at the same rate as men, women running for office at the same rate as men, that has got to be part of the answer.”

As Christina Hoff Sommers repeatedly says, there is nothing stopping women going into higher-paid professions such as engineering and computer programming, they simply choose not to. The women who chose to become engineers are absolutely coining it. I can think of two now, one owns half of Melbourne (*waves*) and another spends much of her life flying around on holiday in business-class (*waves again*).

Following the sudden death of her husband Dave Goldberg, Ms Sandberg described herself a “different” person now.

She found him on the floor of a gym with a head injury after he had suffered a heart attack whilst they were on a weekend away.

Okay, I’ll dial it down a notch here. Losing your husband is catastrophic, and I am all too familiar with its effects. That she’s managed to carry on so well afterwards is genuinely worthy of admiration, and she deserves a lot of respect and sympathy over this.

I still hate the BBC, though.

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People in the Wrong Job

In my wanderings through the land I hear a lot of complaints about somebody’s unreasonable behaviour, normally from a person at their work. It can take the form of angry outbursts, inconsistency, micromanagement, pettiness and a host of others, but the complaints are always the same: why the hell is this person behaving like this? It’s making my life a misery!

Why indeed? I decided to start asking some questions each time I heard this, and most of the time the person in question was in a job they were wholly unsuited for. Their knowledge, experience, or – more often – their character, personality, and temperament was completely inadequate for the position they were in. That’s not to say they were stupid or useless, simply that they were in the wrong job.

Let’s suppose you are suddenly plonked into the captain’s seat of a Boeing 777 stood on the tarmac at Heathrow and ordered to take off and fly safely to New York. Unless you’re a trained pilot, we’re going to observe some pretty wild behaviour from you over the next few minutes, most unbecoming of a captain. Being put in a strange environment and asked to perform unfamiliar tasks is highly stressful, and will induce behaviour in people which can seem very odd.

The plane example is absurd, but millions of people find themselves in a similar situation in their day-to-day jobs. The stakes might not be so great, but the expectation levels are higher: nobody will ask an untrained person to fly a plane, but people routinely find themselves in a position they are manifestly unsuited to, yet are expected to perform. Most of the time they’re in a culture – either corporate or national – which frowns upon failure, but with an endless tolerance for muddling through.

If ever I find myself faced with strange or unreasonable behaviour, I step back and try to work out what’s causing it. It’s tempting to say that a person is simply insane or an arse, but that’s a lazy approach. Instead, I look at the situation they’re in and what they’re being asked to do, and see if that matches their competence and character. You know what? It never does. If it did, you’d see different behaviours. People who are in a comfortable position act like they are. Look at the confident swagger of a champion boxer on his way to the ring. It’s because he knows he’s good.

Maybe I’m getting soft in my middle-age, but nowadays I’m less inclined to think people are complete idiots, nasty, or they have something wrong with them. Most of the time they’re simply in the wrong job, and hence under too much stress. Feeling a little sorry for people is easier than getting mad at them.

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A warning from Air France-KLM

Sometimes blog posts just write themselves:

A clash of national cultures and an inability to understand each other’s languages threatens to make the merged Air France-KLM group of airlines unmanageable, according to a leaked internal company report.

Surely not!

“The French have the impression that the Dutch think only of money and are always ready to fight for profit. They are not afraid of anything,” the researchers reported.

“The Dutch think that the French are attached to a hierarchy and political interests which are not necessarily the same as the interests of the company … The extent to which employees are disillusioned is shocking. People are pessimistic, frustrated and burnt out because they feel that this is not listened to.”

But this is consistent with crude national stereotypes! How can it be true?

Okay, a little more serious now:

Air France managers are also said to feel that they look more at what is best for the whole company, while KLM managers only worry about what is good for KLM.

Hmmm.

KLM managers, on the other hand, think that their French colleagues only worry about keeping jobs at Air France.

So each party thinks the other is looking out for themselves? It being a near-certainty that this is the case, my only questions are how many top managers are surprised by this and when are they being fired?

Among the petty grievances, there is irritation that a KLM employee working in Paris is charged €10 for lunch in the canteen, while an Air France colleague pays only €4.

The reason for this is French companies are obliged to provide their employees with a subsidised canteen (or lunch vouchers), but secondees and visitors don’t get the subsidy and have to pay full price. We have the same issue in my office when people are seconded from outside, and it’s actually more serious than it sounds.

Some years ago I had an Australian boss who was a very smart chap, particularly so considering he was a Queenslander (I think he might read this blog occasionally). He was also a very good boss, partly because having come up through the ranks himself, he knew that small niggles can have a detrimental effect on an employee’s happiness way out of proportion to the actual problem. If left unchecked, seemingly minor issues cause all sorts of discontent in a department which results in a bad atmosphere and reduced productivity. If your staff are spending half the day bitching about free coffee being stopped, you’re better off just reinstating it.

A decent manager like this Aussie would have spotted immediately that the unequal canteen charges would create a rift in the organisation which would cost the company a lot more than €30 per person per week. He would have been on the phone sharpish to get approval to reimburse the Dutch, and if that were refused he’d run a little wheeze to do so anyway. Managers like this are like hen’s teeth in a modern corporation, and seemingly absent altogether from Air France-KLM.

The Dutch managers don’t trust the French economy, and see Air France as a “time bomb”.

“One questions whether the alliance can survive given the long-standing mutual incomprehension between the Dutch and French camps within the group,” one researcher was quoted as writing.

If two airlines cannot merge without divisions opening up along national lines amid a clash of cultures and widespread mistrust, one wonders how much truth there is in the EU’s claim that all 27 members unanimously agreed on the Brexit negotiation strategy in under 15 minutes. I think the whole Brexit negotiation process will put the unity between the member states under considerable strain, and I’m expecting to see plenty of leaked memos full of similar sentiments to those in the Air France-KLM report.

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Diversity and the Modern Corporation

Via JuliaM on Twitter, this story:

Britain’s biggest businesses must take action to improve the diversity of their workforces and publish a breakdown of their black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees, a new report has urged.

The report by the professional management body the CMI and the British Academy of Management focuses on ethnic diversity at management levels below the boardroom and highlights the importance of the issue following the vote for Brexit.

The latest report sets out a seven-point plan for business leaders to adopt, including “breaking the silence” on diversity, including training on the subject as a requirement for career progression and setting targets for progression of BAME individuals.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I am not in the slightest bit bothered by this. When reports talk about “Britain’s biggest businesses” what they mean is companies run by Establishment types who lurch from one cushy position to another, and enjoy cosy relations with people in government which they use to engage in rent-seeking, erecting barriers to entry, and writing laws which benefit them at the expense of everyone else. They are certainly not talking about companies operating in a free market whose focus is on delivering a quality product or service at the cheapest price such that shareholder value is maximised.

The heads of major corporations wedded themselves to the whims of government years ago, perhaps believing they’d increase share prices and dividends by being seen to cooperate. And maybe they were right: perhaps in this day and age it is not possible for a company to get on the wrong side of the state and survive? But cosying up is what they’ve done, with the results looking suspiciously like a stitch-up of the general public.

Via the silent adoption of ever-increasing regulations, corporations have effectively offloaded swathes of what ought to be business decisions onto the government. I can see why individuals running firms would do this: if I was paid a few million a year to make bold decisions and carry the can and somebody offered to shoulder half the responsibility with no reduction in privilege or pay, I’d bite their hand off. Nothing pleases a modern corporate manager more than citing a regulation to explain why something stupid was done or something sensible not.

Modern corporations have, without a single exception I can think of, signed up to the notion that more women and BAME people in cushy positions is intrinsically better for the company and shareholder value. If this is so self-evidently true, it is somewhat surprising that companies haven’t been putting this idea into practice for years, and instead need to be bullied into it. It isn’t true of course, but they have to pretend it is and they think any resistance will make the public think them mean and quit buying their products and services. But by going along with it at the behest of governments, they are effectively turning their companies into partial welfare programmes. Anyone who strides along the corridors of a modern corporation on a daily basis ought to have reached this conclusion anyway.

I’ve written previously that I believe the smartest in society will begin to shun corporations and, like small, nimble fish which swim between whales, make their living on the fringes, doing what everyone wants but no big company can or dares to in groups of between one and five. These areas of the economy will boom and corporations will be the preserve of those who tick the government-approved diversity boxes and listen to people like this:

Business executive Pavita Cooper, who has worked in senior roles in the banking industry, will chair a new body, CMI Race. She said it was time to “reboot the conversation about race and ethnicity”.

This would be the same Pavita Cooper who spent her entire life in HR, racking up 8 companies in 20 years, rarely staying for more than 2-3 years at any one place. Business executive, indeed!

I welcome corporations going down this route: the more dead wood, dimwits, arse-lickers, and time-wasters that can be gathered in a handful of large, easily-identifiable places, the easier it will be for smart folk to avoid them – or to take advantage. Reports like the one just issued can only help with this process.

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Recruitment and Marital Status

Yesterday I came across this Tweet:

To which I replied:

Marital status is important: some roles will seriously strain a marriage.

This appeared to cause some confusion. The original poster – who appears to work in recruitment – couldn’t work out if I was serious or not, and some other pompous twit from Brooklyn (where else?) jumped in to say that what I was doing was illegal, the laws exist for a reason, and I am “not helping” by not understanding this.

For the record: I am not a manager and I am not involved in recruitment or hiring in any capacity. But I used to be, a long time ago.

It’s interesting that anyone should consider what I said as contentious. Perhaps I’m wrong, though. Maybe the partner working long hours in the office, being too involved with work, or spending weeks away from home is something that rarely gets mentioned in divorce proceedings? Somehow I doubt it.

But I looked at it from another angle. You probably don’t want to be sending a middle-aged family man on a lengthy overseas assignment to places like Russia, Venezuela, or Vietnam on single status. This is often a recipe for disaster as he gets bored and ends up having an affair with one of the many young local beauties who hunt expat men for sport. Yes, the responsibility for the affair lies squarely on the shoulders of the man, but I have heard enough wives complain bitterly that his employer should not have sent him there in the first place: had he not gone, the family would still be intact. I am not convinced the employer, knowing full well what is likely to happen, doesn’t have some duty of care here. But the law says that they must not attempt to exercise it.

I understand why the laws came in: enough people were convinced that married or unmarried men or women were being discriminated against when it came to recruitment, and they believed marital status should not make any difference. Which is odd, because I am forever hearing about the importance of a work-life balance, but for that balance to occur one must surely consider what sort of life we’re talking about. Apparently that is illegal.

For the sake of this post, let’s say I might agree that companies should not be allowed to reject a candidate based on their marital status, but I think it imperative that an employer explains the nature of the job to candidates and attempts to fully inform them as to any possible impact on their personal life. How else is the candidate supposed to make an informed decision? Supposing the job involves working nights, or spending weeks away from home? Should the company not ask the candidate to consider the effect this may have on his personal life? The candidate might not even be aware the job would have such an effect, as I’ve heard a lot of men lament as they lie amid the ruins of their lives, shacked up with a Chinese hooker and the divorce papers on the way. As things stand, the employee is on his own to figure out how a job might affect his family, and the employer is compelled by law to pretend it is irrelevant.

It’s not even clear to me which direction the discrimination is supposed to run in. I can think of several roles that would suit single people, but I often hear that very small, dull, or restrictive places are “good for families”; single people will go crazy with boredom. At the very least, I think a company should try to ensure that each person’s personal goals, expectations, and family situation are as compatible with the location and demands of the position as possible. An unhappy employee with domestic troubles is the last thing a company needs.

National governments have attempted to legislate away the effects a demanding job has on family life, as if by passing a law they simply disappear. They don’t: all they’re doing is creating more work for divorce lawyers, brewers, and the manufacturers of anti-depressants. The idea that an employer – who has such a massive impact on your life, controlling around a third of your waking hours – should take no account of your personal and family situation seems insane to me. But here we are: obviously most people like it this way.

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Paternal treatment at work

In the comments under this post, dearieme talks about his former bosses:

A couple of bosses were good at directing and encouraging me, one turned out to be a crook and probably going out of his mind, several others just gave me my head. One largely neglected me; he reckoned, I suspect, that if nobody complained I must be doing a good job so he’d put his effort into coping with those who seemed to be a problem. One was scared of me because I was far cleverer than he was.

I’ve had a variety of bosses ranging from very good indeed to people I’d happily see set on fire and shoved under a bus, with plenty in between. But I’m not going to write about them.

Instead, I’ll write about something dearieme’s comments jogged in my memory. There are few advantages of growing old and your hair turning grey, but nevertheless there are some. One is that, past a certain age, people you encounter in your professional life stop trying to be your fucking dad.

I think we’ve all experienced this. You turn up in a new organisation as a relative youngster and some middle-aged bloke introduces himself and starts coming out with lines such as “You have a lot to learn, and somebody like me can show you how things are done” or “If you stick by me I can take you places”. Such statements are always unsolicited and offered soon after your arrival before you can get wind of what everyone else thinks of him. Inevitably, the bloke in question is useless and everyone knows it, hence he must target newcomers if he is to get respect from anyone.

I saw a fair bit of this in my younger days and found it creepy, condescending, awkward, and sad. The language is always paternal, implying a relationship where I will admire him as some sort of mentor and life guru. I always imagined these guys have sons of their own who think their dad is a complete wanker and so they desperately try to gain adoration elsewhere. I even had a recruiter try it once, probably thinking my character was a lot more soft and pleasant than it is. He actually used the phrase “My job is to find young men who need some guidance, and put an arm around them.” He turned out to be about as useful as tits on a fish.

Thankfully this all stopped some years back. I don’t know whether it was my age or it was an Anglo-Saxon thing that the French don’t go in for, but I’m glad because it annoyed the hell out of me. I even had to tell one chap “Thanks, but I have a dad already and I don’t need another”.

None of this is to say that the old dog growling in the corner of the office with 30 plus years of experience under his belt isn’t worth talking to or having as a mentor. I’ve had that before and it’s great. I’m talking about the useless old farts who seek to address personal issues by attempting to create disciples out of unwary youngsters in the office. I’d be curious to know how common this is outside of my own industry.

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Why I don’t like freebies

A thought occurred to me last night in relation to yesterday’s post, in which I wrote:

I went to a known supplier and asked them for a quote to conduct a site visit and prepare a full scope of work document. They would be paid for their efforts, and the document would be used for the competitive tender of the job proper.

There’s another good reason for doing this, aside from treating contractors fairly.

Earlier in my career I was involved in some rather specific work for which we needed the input of a specialist contractor. One of the managers above me contacted an American company that fit the bill and we engaged in a series of meetings or, as people in my industry like to call them, workshops (Alexei Sayle got this right).

The American company sent their sales people to the meetings and we sent our engineers. The Americans thought it was a sales pitch and so were working pro-bono. We thought it was a design meeting and believed the Americans were working for free because they wanted to please us. After a few meetings we found the Americans were getting less cooperative. Specifically, they were not producing the abundance of technical deliverables our engineers were asking for, and instead kept giving us generic information and brochures. It was not difficult for me to figure out what was going on here, but I was the only one. When I tried to point out that Americans are generally not people who work for free I was shouted down by engineers with no commercial or business experience whatsoever:

“But they have said they want to work with us!” I was told. “So they need to give us what we are asking for.”

At which point I sat back to enjoy the show. Things came to a head when a load of documents arrived from the American company and they did not meet the expectations of our engineers. We all gathered for a meeting to discuss how we would convey our disappointment, and by now I knew enough to stay silent. Had I thought anyone would listen I’d have said:

“How the fuck are we going to complain about the quality of something we’ve been given for free?”

The reason why I insist on contractors not doing things for free when I’m in charge is because it gives you no opportunity to set expectations and quality standards, and no leverage if what you are given is rubbish (which, being free, it always is). I would much rather pay somebody to do a job and set out exactly what I want than to accept freebies or favours and end up with something I don’t.

Somebody really ought to coin a phrase for this sort of thing, maybe using lunch as an analogy.

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Toys Thrown from Goldman Sachs Pram

This Tweet by the CEO of Goldman Sachs amused me for two reasons:

The first is all the lefties getting their knickers wet over a Tweet – his first – by the CEO of Goldman Sachs. Since when have the left been supporters of colossal, too-big-to-fail American investment banks with suspiciously Jewish-sounding names? I remember the days when governments were in hoc to the big, evil banking corporations which single-handedly brought about the global financial crisis. But when, in a naked display of financial self-interest, Goldman Sachs and others came out in opposition to Brexit the left told us we should all heed their warnings. And now they’re at it again.

The second reason this amuses me is because it’s obvious Goldman Sachs is about to lose a shit-tonne of money over the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. I bet they had all sorts of “green” investment funds and other rent-seeking and subsidy-harvesting vehicles ready to go, which would represent a transfer of wealth from ordinary citizens to the executives at Goldman Sachs. And now Trump’s come and spoiled the party for them.

Good.

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Obtaining services by deception

In the comments under this post, Bloke in North Dorset shares an anecdote:

When I was consulting we were bought out (by a French company) and I was instructed to place a dummy recruitment add in the trade press and use the resulting interviews to find out what was wrong in the various mobile companies. I was then expected to go back to their management with “solutions”, leaving those who’d come for the interview hanging around having wasted a day’s holiday. I told them to fuck off and resigned.

Over the course of my career I have every now and then been asked to invite a contractor or supplier to submit a proposal purely so my own organisation can get a handle on the scope of work and the cost for their own budget. As a supplier of services, I have also been approached by client companies who were after the same thing.

Often an organisation will have no idea how to outsource a project because they can’t even write a scope of work. They need a scope of work because their internal policies compel them to launch a competitive tender, rather than single-source the job. They also need a budget price for the work for internal approval. So they’ll invite a known supplier to submit a proposal on the pretext that they are actually bidding for the job, which will often entail a site visit and preparation of documents at the supplier’s expense. When the client company receives the proposal they fiddle with it, rename it “Scope of Work”, and put it out to competitive tender. More often than not the original supplier who did all the work will lose the bid, usually because their price has been leaked enabling competitors to undercut them, and because there was always a favoured company lined up to do the work in the first place: they just didn’t know how to do it.

It’s a shitty way to treat suppliers, yet I have seen this practice encouraged by managers whose arrogance doesn’t allow them to see how unethical it is. To a lot of people working in client companies, contractors and suppliers are expendable pieces of shit who are beneath contempt. If the supplier is half-smart they’ll twig pretty quickly that they’re being given the run-around and simply decline to participate. Client companies get awfully pompous when a contractor does this, and it’s fun to watch. They don’t quite say “How dare you? Do you know who we are?” but they come close.

There is a better way of doing this, and it’s what I insisted on doing last time I was in such a situation. I went to a known supplier and asked them for a quote to conduct a site visit and prepare a full scope of work document. They would be paid for their efforts, and the document would be used for the competitive tender of the job proper. The amounts in question were trivial but it meant the supplier could not complain about unfair treatment, and I could tender the job with a clear conscience that I’d been completely transparent. In the end the project got cancelled and with the approach I’d taken the supplier didn’t feel aggrieved that they’d done all that work for nothing.

Obtaining “free” services from contractors or suppliers by pretending their submissions are part of a tender is something that happens way too often in my industry and I suspect many others. It’s a practice that does no good whatsoever regardless of how clever a manager thinks he is by “saving” his company money, as it undermines trust. Companies should quit doing it.

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The Modern Business Interview

The BBC reports on feedback from people who’ve been asked daft questions in job interviews, and as usual doesn’t bother telling us half the story:

Katherine Irvine was 37 when she went for a job as a recruitment consultant in Cornwall. She was shocked to find her interviewer was concerned that she was too old and wouldn’t have the energy to do the role.

“It was a group interview and the interviewer commented that myself and one of the others were ‘older’. There was a concern about us being able to work long hours.”

She was then asked: “What do you think? Do you think you’re too old?”

This was probably a fair question. Recruitment consultants these days are basically minimum wage telemarketers: they know nothing about what they’re buying, even less about what they’re selling, and work on a volume business taking a cut of whatever they manage to shift. From what I’ve seen it’s a young man’s game and populated mostly by greasy spivs you’d not trust with a blank piece of A4, let alone a CV.

Katherine was surprised at such open discrimination and informed the company’s HR department who said they were “shocked”.

Sounds as though that HR department is doing a splendid job. I wonder how many people it employs and what it costs in overheads, yet still can’t get company managers to conduct interviews without breaking the law?

Mature student Kevin Helton told us: “The interviewer asked, ‘You used to be in the Army, how many people have you killed?’

“My answer was, ‘Depending on the outcome of this interview, the number might change.'”

Heh! Good answer.

Others have faced a grilling about their personal lives, particularly women of child-bearing age.

Francine is a high-flying solicitor now but when she first entered the job market and applied for a medical secretary role, she was asked if she was going to get pregnant and leave.

I believe companies are entitled to ask this. What they’re not allowed to do is reject a candidate because of their answer. But given how much employers have to shell out when one of their staff takes maternity leave, it’s hardly surprising they ask about it.

“I was 24 years old then and it was one of my first interviews. I turned down the job when they offered it to me.”

So did you get pregnant and leave whichever job you did take? Alas, the BBC doesn’t ask. I would have, which is probably why I don’t work for the BBC giving interviews. But note she applied for a job as a medical secretary and is now a solicitor. Perhaps the interviewers sniffed that she wasn’t fully committed to the role she was applying for?

Even just a year ago an interviewer asked her, “Are you Jewish?”

“In retrospect, I should have said that was none of your business,” she says.

Marc Callow was shocked to be asked in an interview for a recruitment management position if he was gay. “I was that gobsmacked that I just replied ‘yes’. I got the job but it was a portent to what the company was like.”

Companies are forever being told that “diversity” is paramount and more minorities should be hired. This has got to the point that many companies keep statistics on how many minorities they employ and in which positions. But companies aren’t supposed to ask about this minority status in interviews. How does that work, then?

These kinds of questions really have no place in a job interview, because there are laws against discrimination, as Peter Reilly, principal associate at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), explains.

“In a legal sense, you have to be careful,” he says. “You have to ask, is that relevant to the task? And if it’s not, you shouldn’t be asking it.”

That’s the entire diversity industry out the window then, isn’t it? Indeed, I wish we would go back to those halcyon days when “Is that relevant to the job?” was something we could ask.

That goes for racial issues too. One person told the BBC: “The interviewer said he was surprised I was white because he thought my name sounded black.”

The interviewer must have been as thick as mince to have actually said that. But nothing surprises me about those who turn up in modern businesses.

And this is an entertaining list of questions you should not be asked:

Is English your first language?

The concern is that if the answer is “no”, you might be able to put together an email in proper English.

Are you married?
Do you have children?

Because taking into account an employee’s work-life balance is completely unnecessary. I mean, has a couple ever got divorced because the breadwinner was spending too much time at work, away from home? I don’t think so.

Do you have any criminal convictions?

No, instead you can request a far more intrusive DBS (formerly CRB) check.

What are your sexual preferences?

You can’t ask whether anyone is LGBT but we expect you to employ more LGBT people. You’ll just have to work it out from the adam’s apples, the limp wrists, and the Birkenstocks.

There was a time when job ads would, as a matter of course, contain details of the salary that the company was willing to offer.

But nowadays, as one PR executive found out when he was approached by a well-known tech firm, it can actually be quite hard to pin down an interviewer on that kind of detail.

“The second question was: what’s your current salary? I asked, what’s the range for the role? and the response I got was, ‘We don’t reveal salary ranges, it’s not our policy, so you go first.’ I was astonished,” he says.

“I just thought, that, for me, is completely unprofessional, and I said, ‘I don’t think that’s a very productive way to go forward.'”

The candidate is spot on here. I also find companies’ refusal to indicate a salary to be highly unprofessional, and this is compounded by them having the cheek to demand you tell them what you’re earning now. But this is just one of many ways in which HR and recruiting has gotten much worse over the course of my career. Sadly, the decline has been interpreted by most corporate managers as progress.

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