Opinion: Base hiring on performance, not parental status

Bianca

The CEO of a major Canadian financial company made one of the biggest interview mistakes bosses can make when questioning candidates for an open position - he asked if the candidate had kids.

But it wasn’t the question that he asked that made his interview experience go viral on a post he shared of his gaffe on LinkedIn, it was the reason why he didn’t think it was wrong to ask that caught the attention of so many readers.

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"You can't ask if a candidate has kids. I forgot that during an interview,” he said. “They paused, gave a weird look and said ‘no.' I forget people discriminate against parents," the employer said. He continues by explaining that there are 15 children amongst his staff, four of which are his own.

The CEO didn’t think anything of asking the question because he wasn’t asking it to be discriminatory - he was simply curious. He was asking the question just as you might ask someone when you are just getting to know them. Nothing more.

“We might show up after 9 a.m. drop off. We often leave at five for dinner. We might run if school calls … but we do amazing work in between. We don't succeed despite our families, we succeed because of them,” the employer concludes in his post, proving that not all bosses are biased bums.

In response to the viral post, commenters snapped back, explaining that employers should never ask if candidates have kids.

“It’s a way to protect against discrimination against women, especially since it used to be that women were the only ones being asked the question in the first place,” shared one commenter.  

As it stands now, asking if a job candidate has a family at home is a faux pas - but it shouldn’t be.

With a continually increasing number of dads choosing to stay at home, and a rise in women working in leadership roles in a corporate setting, the question of whether or not a candidate has a family should be normalized and non-discriminatory.

Hiring and retaining an employee should only be about performance, not parental status, but it should also be alright to ask if a candidate has kids, if only as a question to better understand the needs of that candidate. Many employers now offer family benefits, flex days, child care, and flexible work schedules, many with the purpose of supporting working parents.

Family or not, employees should be given more flexibility when it comes to the hours that they work. In fact, according to an article shared by FlexJobs, “flexible schedules don't only provide employees with job satisfaction, better health, increased work-life balance, and less stress, they also benefit employers. Through higher productivity levels, less turnover, and reduced absenteeism, employers are able to retain qualified employees and save money as well.”

I know that not all companies are led by leaders who “get it.”

Discrimination still exists and, unfortunately, it’s still women who take the hit. But if an employer doesn’t hire you because you’re a parent, do you really want to work for them anyways? 

Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, editor of WestCoast Families magazine, and a freelance writer who shares about travel, family, and food in various major print and online publications. Find her on Twitter @biancabujan and Instagram @bitsofbee. 

 

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