Off-The-Cuff Interview Notes – Don't Take the Risk

John Mehtam

John Mehtam

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Business owners have been warned that off-the-cuff interview notes could trip them up – no matter how innocent they may seem.

John Mehtam, Head of Employment at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, says "Anyone who has ever conducted job interviews would agree that it could be difficult to remember each individual candidate clearly at the end of the day. So it’s only natural that many interviewers like to make brief notes to remind themselves of anyone who stands out – but this can be a dangerous move.”

John warns that this has been clearly illustrated in a recent case of a company who faced an employment tribunal brought by the chief executive’s former personal assistant.

“She found a pile of CVs on her employer’s desk and flicking through them, she found some handwritten comments he had made about the applicants. On her own CV, she was shocked to find comments that referred to her physical appearance, including her tattoos – and on other people’s CVs, he had commented on their weight and the clothes they were wearing. At the time, she took no further action, but when she was unexpectedly sacked after just six months, she claimed sex discrimination. The tribunal agreed with her view that the notes made on her CV were unacceptable, and that the comments towards other women clearly showed a sexist working culture, so the employer was ordered to pay her £10,500.”

John says that although it is a warning, the ruling does not mean that employers cannot make handwritten notes or comments during an interview. But as an applicant is perfectly entitled to ask to see any information you may hold on them, which would include their original application form or CV, you must always take care with what you write down.

“It’s not just remarks about someone’s appearance that are risky – commenting on language skills, sexual orientation, disabilities or medical conditions are also a concern. So employers should exercise caution when making any written comments or observations on application forms or CVs, to ensure you’re not caught out in the future.”

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