Sometimes Justice takes a peek

I had a very interesting communication from a client in the financial services sector recently. He was being headhunted by a bank and when it came to filling in the online application form, he encountered some … interesting … areas of questioning.

At the top of the form, it stated that due to requirements from the country’s Financial Services Regulator, the bank were required to ascertain a potential employee’s reputation, integrity and veracity [which last, I would have said, is a subset of the second, but then I’m a nit-picker]. To this end, all applicants are required to fill in a very lengthy form including:

  • Are you a member of a professional body covered by the Regulator?
  • Have you ever been rapped on the knuckles by said regulator?
  • Have you ever been more than rapped on the knuckles (expelled, suspended, been to court, fined, or similarly disciplined by said regulator?
  • Been arrested or found guilty of theft, fraud embezzlement … and a bunch of other words meaning the same thing?
  • Gone bankrupt?
  • Been disqualified as a Director?
Okay, so far so good. All of that seems to be very much under the purview of the Regulator and makes sense in that light. Then they got into a bunch of personal, I-am-who-I-say-I-am details:
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality
  • Marital status (including ‘Other’ and ‘Please give details’)
  • Date of marriage
  • Spouse’s name and date of birth
  • Children’s names and dates of birth
Hmmm – Now I understand that details vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but I’m not allowed ask any of those questions of candidates during an interview. Once they are hired, sure – they have to fill in those sorts of details for insurance and medical & dental benefit purposes; but prior to welcoming them on board? Those questions could very readily be construed as discriminatory …

Then the form got … interesting … and under a section labelled “Equal Opportunity” there were the following mandatory sections:

  • Gender
  • Ethnic grouping (including ‘Other’ and ‘Please give details’)
  • Age range
  • Sexual orientation – with a looong dropdown menu, including ‘Other’ and ‘Please give details’
  • Beliefs – with a very long dropdown menu, including ‘Other’ and ‘Please give details’ [I remember being somewhat irritated by that question when I filled in my college registration all those years ago. I really couldn’t see how this was any of their business, so I entered “Lapsed Druid”]
Bizarrely, there was a box on the form for candidates to copy and paste in their Curriculum Vitae and the box had the very specific instruction that all age and chronological details were to be removed from the CV. There was even a check box to confirm that the applicant had done this. So, I take it that this is to reassure the applicant that interviewers within the company will only see the sterlised CV and not all the other highly sensitive personal data …

I have applied to the Regulatory Authority in that country to see just how many of these questions are actually required to be answered by applicants at this first stage of the selection process and how many this bank decided to include off their own bat. I’m asking because I am familiar with the Equality legislation of that country and many of these questions run directly contrary to it.

I could understand if an individual was applying to work in the Intelligence Services as a spy. Deep knowledge of their belief system, sexual orientation and other predilections would be very important. Likewise if the individual had a compromising financial past that could be used to blackmail him/her while in the service of the government. But this is a private sector bank – and I’m fairly confident that those questions are illegal.

Any similar experiences or thoughts you’d like to share on this one?